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Restaurants

Carmen

Posted by Liora Ipsum / Profiled on April 18, 2013 / review policy

Carmen TorontoCarmen, the new sister restaurant to Kensington Market's Torito is now open on Queen West in the space formerly occupied by Caju. Chef Luis Valenzuela and Veronica Carmen Laudes celebrate the boisterous spirit of tapas dining with traditional small plates, Iberian inspired entrees and shareable paellas, not to mention a well curated list of native wines.

Carmen TorontoPerched at the bar, I take in the lovely room that mingles curvy modern lines (a la Antoni Gaudi) with warm woods and cool stone finishes. Black and white flamenco inspired photos, Royal Doulton figurines add playful touches, while extra wide red tufted stools and long banquet tables accommodate a multitude of plates without ever feeling cramped.

Carmen TorontoOn the menu, The main attraction is the selection of tapas from which I try the flash fried Padron Peppers ($10) and ethereal sheets of Jamón Serrano ($10) simply drizzled with olive oil, which displays the utmost confidence in the product.

Carmen TorontoAdding to the spread, the Gambas al Ajillo al "Estilo Carmen" ($12), a plate of slightly charred, garlic chili shrimp that are appreciatively served heads-on for maximized flavour. The playfully plated (it's served in a sardine can), Mejillones en Escabeche ($7) packed with mussels and brunoise veggies preserved in sherry vinegar and chili oil.

Carmen TorontoOf course salty, spicy fare like this needs refreshments, but I experience a little sticker-shock eyeing the $14 (12 oz) glasses of sangria (pitchers are not on the menu) and opt instead for the citrusy house cocktail, Carmen ($12). The wine list boasts a dozen Spanish and Argentinean wines (Cava? Tempranillo? check), as well as sherries by the glass ($5-8).

Carmen TorontoThe Paella de Montaña ($30) is flecked with mushrooms crusted to the pan and topped with artichoke, snails and rabbit. Recommended for two, its about two thirds the price of the similar rice dish at Patria and I like it better here too, it's less salty, more earthy.

Carmen is currently open for dinner and late night nibbling, but daytime hours can be expected in the coming weeks.

Carmen TorontoCarmen TorontoPhotos by Morris Lum

Discussion

5 Comments

MSigs / April 18, 2013 at 08:19 am
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Charles open Patria on King W. Porzia serves Italian in Parkdale.
alex / April 22, 2013 at 11:10 am
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Toronto needs more spanish restaurants, hopefully this place is good
Nibs / May 23, 2013 at 10:30 am
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We enjoyed every dish - especially the grilled shrimp and fried artichokes. Everything was very fresh and tasty, and it was nice that they had all the traditional tapas as well as their spin on some new ones. Amazing service - friendly and attentive. Will visit again soon!

LC / June 20, 2013 at 03:11 pm
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Loved this place!!! Shared 5 tapas and the house paella between 4 people and everything was delicious and lovingly prepared/served. Friendly service too. Keep up the good job guys
Brandon / July 15, 2014 at 11:50 am
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Went to Carmen last night, and it was fantastic. Usually I'm not a big fan of tapas, but with the promise of a nice hearty dish of paella on the way, I was happy to know I didn't need to try and fill up on small plates. My gf and I shared the ceviche lettuce tacos, blood sausage stuffed peppers, and beef tartare to start, and then had the "standard" seafood paella. All the tapas were incredible, and the paella was delicious as well. You can tell everything is fresh and homemade. For dessert we had the strawberries and cream, which included strawberry sorbet, fresh berries, strawberry pop rocks and a light cream. Very refreshing. The staff and service were also both excellent. I'd highly recommend this place!

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