It’s been awhile since we have eaten out locally in Guelph, but Friday night we were excited to go out to 39 Carden Street. It’s long been a favourite, but this night there was a little trepidation. Long time chef, Rebecca Hood has moved on, as have two long term servers, Darryl and Morgan who have gone East. Darryl was such a sweetheart, always willing to make the perfect cocktail, and Morgan was always knowledgeable about the menu. Going to 39 Carden, we were always guaranteed of a great dinner.
So armed with the knowledge that friends of ours had a less than stellar experience on Valentine’s Day (an admittedly difficult day), off we went.
And honestly, overall, we were anything but disappointed.
Gone is the chalk board menu – something I personally welcome, although our server mentioned that most people missed it. Myself, I found it hard to read and was always uncomfortable standing over tables. It’s a cool concept, but I’m not sure it works in the small space. Regardless, it’s gone and hardly the most important thing about the place.
Our server was really great. He was knowledgeable about the wines, also willing to make any contact we liked, and just the right level of friendly and attentive.
The menu is completely different and shows a heavy Korean influence, and overall everything was very good. Much of it is served tapas style, something I believe we are sorely missing in here in Guelph. (Oh to have a Public Kitchen or Gilt!). We started off with a kimchi-brussel sprouts dish. It was fantastic, and apparently their most popular dish. It was sweetened very lightly with a tamarind vinaigrette.
This was followed by Shrimp Dumplings which were delicious. We were broken hearted to learn they were out of pork belly for the steam buns, but our server talked us into the Big Mac steam buns. We never would have ordered them, but they were actually really good. Faithful to a Big Mac, but of course, far superior ingredients. They were fun.
Last to arrive from our initial order was the Beef Tartare, and here I felt was the only thing lacking. In my opinion, up until now 39 Carden St made the best Beef Tartare I’ve had. We found the herb aioli too heavy and did not enjoy the dish as much as we once did.
After a glass of wine and another beer for my partner, he decided to try the Korean Fried Chicken. It arrived quickly and we both tried a piece. It was well done, and again we enjoyed it. We were far too full to finish it, so teenaged son was the beneficiary of our doggie bag. We finished with a pretzel chocolate tart – the ganache was excellent. I think the only thing I might do different (if it would work) would be to make the pretzel pieces smaller and incorporate them into the tart as opposed to sprinkling them on top.
Another difference is that since we are having smaller plates, the cost is lower. Price for two beers, a 9 oz glass of wine, a 500 mL Cider, an espresso, and food was just over $100.