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Winterlicious menus are up

here we go again. winterlicious runs jan 25-feb sometime.


i know that not everyone on the board is a fan of this bi-annual event, but for kids on a budget like me, it's a great chance to hit some places that would normally be beyond our means.

the menu at Quince looks like a winner to me, for only $25, and Alize looks pretty good too. any others you'll be trying? or will we all be hiding for three week?

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  1. Pretty good line up this time around and the menus sound interesting. Thanks for posting LL!

    2 Replies
    1. re: millygirl

      yes, nice to see some new faces - GC's Spice Room and C5 among them. has Mistura been on in the past? the menu there looks good too.

      1. re: LemonLauren

        Yes I think Mistura participated last year although I've never been at that time.

    2. Quince 1000 times over Alize !

      1. This will be my first winterlicious, and I already have a list of the spots I want to make sure I get to. I was wondering, how far in advance are reservations needed for, if they are even allowed?

        1 Reply
        1. re: rindinella_k

          See http://www.toronto.ca/special_events/... to see when you can start calling for reservations. You can request for any time during the event.

          If Canoe in on your list, be prepared to dial 100 times before you get through, and be on hold for 20 minutes after that. And this is on the first day for AmEx card holders. See this thread http://www.chowhound.com/topics/412995

          1. re: Googs

            Oh, i just saw that.... where's my eraser, gotta change my xmas list.

            1. re: Googs

              Hey thanks Googs for pointing this one out!!! I probably wouldn't have noticed it until it was too late. We just booked Splendido. We've been to Toque and loved it so it's sure to be a spectacular night. Can't wait!

              1. re: millygirl

                Wow, without too much detail, just by the manner in which my reservation was taken I know that we're in for a great evening at Splendido. I can tell that these folks do their homework and I'm already very impressed! I suspect I'll want to update my Top 5 after February 5th.

            2. I know there are many comments about 'licious experiences on many other threads, but a succinct list of good and bad experiences would be convenient here.

              My personal bias is that I want to sample the restaurant's best cooking (allowing for price point adjustments - I don't expect lobster, foie gras, and caviar at $25 for three courses). If I'm going to get mingy portions, indifferent food, and/or condescending service, I'd rather not go.

              I've noticed that many places downgrade their 'licious menus, and aren't worth the hassle, even when they are good at other times. I've also noticed that some posted menus do not represent a place's "normal" food or do not offer better value than the "regular" menu at another time. But I'm also aware of exceptions.

              Our one positive 'licious experience has been Batifole, who delivered wonderful food, good service, and great value on multiple visits. I'm looking for other places that have provided this kind of experience. I can't see the point in bothering with Canoe (not worth the hassle) or Pangaea (too many bad reports), for example.

              Where should we go? Where should we avoid?

              6 Replies
              1. re: embee

                Good idea to start this discussion. As a 'licious vet, I have a few tales to tell...

                My best experience was at the now-defunct Square (the space is now Lai Toh Heen). The service and food were exactly the same as if we'd paid $300, but we paid $70!

                I've had great food in good sized portions at Five Doors North, with not-so-stunning service, but these places are always so busy that you can't bank on fabulous service during 'licious. You get what you pay for. But at Five Doors North we had really great food this summer and it was only a $25 dinner, definately worth it, for a couples or girls night out.

                I've had great food in a very crowded and busy atmosphere, at Corner House last winter. The food was stunning, lots of variety on the menu, and since I was with a large party I got to try lots of it, but the place was ridiculously busy. Still, worth the $35 I'd say.

                I had a meal at Across the Road in summer that was excellent. The service was great and everyone was very happy with their meals. Nice for a "with the in-laws" sort of meal.

                Entirely unmemorable (good food, nothing stunning) were Boiler House (okay, the space is lovely) Herbs and Lolo (now Simple).

                That's my run-down!

                1. re: embee

                  embee notes the numerous bad reports re: Pangaea and Winterlicious, and frankly, I just don't get it. I've been there twice now for Winterlicious (lunches, both) - including during the current promotion - and aside from scattered service (which, as someone else noted below, is expected during extrabusy times such as Winterlicious), the food (at $20) is well worth it.

                  The parsnip & lemon puree with parmesan and a truffle foam was excellent, as was the braised lamb shank (served on a lingot bean cassoulet with mire-poix of root vegetables, ginger, and horseradish). While my dessert was just okay, my dining partner quite enjoyed the maple roasted apples with katifi, crème fraiche, maple pecans, and snap cookie.

                  Give it a shot, I say (although if your experience sucks, please don't hold it againt me!).

                  1. re: 2 cents

                    I tried Pangea this winterlicious for dinner. I thought the food was pretty good and would recommend it. Service was good in that they came around the tables at the right times but the waiter was a bit rude.

                    1. re: 2 cents

                      To be clear, I've had many bad reports from friends in addition to seeing bad reviews. I've not been there myself. A few people who ordinarily like the place have told me to stay away.

                      1. re: embee

                        I also have bad experience with Pangea before, don't want to go to detail again, but we left the restaurant even before the food come.

                        1. re: skylineR33

                          I remember having a lunch there during Winterlicious. Never experienced such outright arrogance on part of the wait staff, adequate (but unremarkable) food and the bill brought far too prematurely without being asked.

                  2. Just bumping up this topic:

                    If you've had any 'licious experiences that were especially good or especially bad, could you please report.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: embee

                      Good experiences for past 'licious events:

                      - Batifole: it was busy but service and food were great
                      - Celestin: good food & service (I know not everyone would agree, but I've never had a problem there so far). Still, I prefer the regular atmosphere (non-'licious) when it feels more relaxed. Can be difficult to get through to make a reservation.
                      - Centro

                      The only truly bad experience I've had with 'licious was at (now defunct) Pony, but I'll spare the story and let Pony R.I.P.

                      Where I'm going for this Winterlicious:
                      - Lai Toh Heen: for both lunch and dinner. I know it's wonderful there normally, so if 'licious is not so good I won't hold it against them :)
                      - Batifole. Mmmmm.
                      - maybe Celestin: if I can get through to actually make a reservation

                      1. re: embee

                        Batifole: Great. Got me hooked on this place.
                        Le Trou Normand: Not awful, but not good, either. I wouldn't go back. I had a great evening there, but largely because my dinner companion and I found humour in the food preparation and portion sizes.

                        This year I'm going to Alize... I know the reviews here haven't been stellar, but the menu really called to me and for $25 I figured I didn't have much to lose even if it went terribly.

                        1. re: vorpal

                          So I went to Alize tonight, and I really enjoyed myself. I chose the french onion soup, the beef tenderloin with vegetables and potatoes in jus, and the cherry bread pudding. Given what I'd heard about the place, my previous Winterlicious experience, and the fact that the price was only $25, I went in with low expectations and was pleasantly surprised. The portions were a little on the small side, but large enough to be satisfying to someone with a moderate appetite, and the food all around was great. Service was neither particularly attentive nor inattentive, but happily, my water glass never went more than a minute or two without being filled.

                          I would probably go back for their regular menu during the year.

                      2. Just a little heads-up: Centro is offering its Winterlicious menu to the end of February, except Valentine's Day.

                        1. i've never actually been to winterlicious before, but thought i'd check it out this year since most of my friends are still students and thus can't afford to go to these places at regular prices *sigh* it does mean i don't normally get to try the places i'd like to but the company does have to factor in and at least this way we can get a bigger group of us going

                          so we have two reservations...one for this Saturday at...brace yourself...Lobby (not a place that typically jumps to mind for food) - i have had to go to a bday dinner there before though and i found the food to be ok, nothing exceptional but alright...one of our friends reallly wanted to go here, so that's why we chose it, plus we left our reservations rather late and all the places at the top of my list were already booked...the menu seems conservative and i'm fine with that, no great expectations but maybe that's better when you're going to winterlicious (from the sounds of all the negative posts) and if we can get fairly competent service and a decent meal, i'll say it's worth $35...and if we get anything better then i'll be pleasantly surprised

                          our second reservation is at one i've really wanted to try but that hasn't really gotten the best reviews, i still do want to check it out for myself though if for nothing else but the molten chocolate chipotle infused cake (i've been dreaming about such chocolate combos since reading about Vosges on the forums and have already convinced my dad to find me some when he next goes to the States on business)...but we'll see how it is, definitely looks better than Lobby but i'm going into this with an open mind and hopefully it'll be fabulous!

                          i'll try and post reviews here after dinner...wish me luck!

                          Spice Room
                          55 Avenue Road, Unit #127, Toronto, ON M5R 3L2, CA

                          192 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M5S1T8, CA

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: apple_pie

                            Hey apple pie, you can get Vosges chocolate bars at a few places around the GTA. Summerhill Market carries almost all of the flavours.

                            1. re: TorontoJo

                              Thanks!! i'm going to have to check them out!

                          2. Tried La Bruschetta, was very good.
                            Others tried Pangaea (really good) and Provence Delices (not so good)
                            the full postings, and pics and all that jazz are on the blog.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Suresh

                              Pangaea was Horrible had the Venison, was average. The only good thing was the Beet Salad. Stay Away!