It’s that time of year again… from January 25th to February 7th, 191 of Toronto’s top (and not so top) restaurants will be featuring fixed price three-course lunch and dinner menus at accessible prices. I have mixed feelings about Toronto’s ‘Licious events. On the one hand, it’s a fantastic opportunity to check out new restaurants (some of which would ordinarily be out of my price range) and a great excuse to sample multiple courses; on the other, I have found that both quality and service are sometimes compromised, particularly among the higher-end establishments. All that said, my love of food (and excuses to go out to eat it) nearly always beats that pesky little voice in the back of my head that reminds me that Winterlicious isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. This year is no exception. I’ve perused the long list of menus, flagged my top choices, and used my American Express cardholder status to make a couple of select advanced reservations.
If you’re new to the Winterlicious scene, or just plain overwhelmed by the number of choices out there, I’m here to help. I’ve compiled a list of restaurants that either (a) have menus that sound amazing* or (b) have had great ‘licious reviews in the past and/or are being hyped for 2013. Reservations start today, so get your dialing finger ready!
*Amazing = unique and interesting sounding menu items that go beyond the boring fish/beef/vegetarian options for mains. Bonus points for anything that includes the words “caramelized”, “tartare”, “braised”, “burrata”, “fig”, or “truffle”.
C5 – located at the top of the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal at the Royal Ontario Museum, C5 is a unique dining destination with stunning rooftop views and a casual yet elegant ambiance. C5’s lunch menu sounds amazing and the value can’t be beat. Start with lobster arancini, followed by the braised beef shepherds pie, and finish with the ginger crème brulee, all for only $25.
If you work in the financial district and can’t travel far for lunch, Canoe ($25 lunch, features items both braised and caramelized with slow cooked brisket as an entrée option) is always a treat and Jump ($20 lunch with a diverse menu including gnocchi, pulled pork, and korma masala) has never disappointed. Robyn has had fantastic ‘licious lunches at Far Niente and if you can wander a little farther, Rosewater Supper Club is serving up a grilled cheese with pulled short rib and pickled red onion on sour dough, which if you ask me, is reason enough to make the trek.
Drake – a Queen west institution, there’s nothing new or particularly exciting about the Drake, but that’s what makes it a safe bet – the food is consistently great. For a mere $20, the lunch menu is almost identical to the dinner menu – great for a late lunch after a day of shopping.
The ‘Licious events are also a great time to make an excuse to pay a visit to Yorkville’s Sassafraz. We had lunch here with the ladies during Summerlicious and it made for a lovely and special afternoon. Plus, who doesn’t like cheese for dessert?
As one of the top restaurants in the city, Splendido has been getting a lot of hype as a recent addition to the Winterlicious list. If you’ve been wanting to try it out, now is the time, but start calling now – no doubt they’ll be a popular choice. The dinner menu, is, unsurprisingly, one of the $45 meals, but if the standard quality of their food and service is any indication of what their Winterlicious menu will be like, it will be well worth it.
Grace is making my list simply because I live close by and have often gazed longingly through the windows wanting to join the classy looking crowd inside. That and because I can’t say no to beef cheeks . $35 dinner.
Mildred’s Temple Kitchen is another place I’ve been wanting to try, which sold me on their Winterlicious menu by starting with cheddar thyme biscuits and offering a selection of sustainable seafood options. As an added bonus, their profiteroles are apparently ‘known throughout the land’. $35 dinner.
L’unita‘s rustic farmhouse décor is well matched to its menu – authentic Italian with a Canadian twist. The $35 Winterlicious dinner menu features burrata, duck ragout, and mascarpone cannoli. Definitely worth checking out.
Bloke & 4th was our first Winterlicious reservation, due in no small part to the drool-worthy menu. I’m already salivating in anticipation for the spicy tartare with BC albacore tuna and wild salmon with yuzu, the ultra gourmet mac n’ cheese with spicy marzano sauce and lemon panko, and the PB&J bombs – deep fried peanut butter and Cherryvale berry jam covered in a cornflakes batter.
The menu at Nyood speaks for itself: truffled pierogies, hoisin ginger short ribs, and Valrohna chocolate cake with chantilly cream. Done and done.
I’m a sucker for a gastropub and the Prohibition Gastrohouse in Leslieville speaks to my inner glutton – mac n’ cheese with black truffles and cave aged gruyere? I’ll be there.