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Winterlicious 2008 - good and the ugly

With Winterlicious 2008 coming to an end, I just want to share some of the good and ugly moments I've experienced for the past 2.5 weeks.

I actually got to try 4 licious places (2 lunches & 2 dinners). i know it might sound a lot, but with the crazy discounted price tag on a 3-course menu, I just couldn't pass the opportunity. My SO and I mainly tried to book higher end places for previous -licious events. But this year, we decided to hit less popular and more local restaurants. Here are our reviews on them

Souther Accent ($25/person, dinner) - restaurant prepared hummus to go wtih the bread, good idea but it failed miserably. Hummus was bland and watery, it kept on dripping off the baguette slice. Soup with hush puppies were good, but not great~ Soup was slightly warmer than room temperature and the hush puppies were stale. the 2nd app smoked salmon wtih crostini was unmemorable. Mains were suffering the same fate as the soup, warm, not hot~ On the bright note, jambalaya did packed some heavy punch with the creole spice. The kitchen had obviously pre-made most of the orders already. Pecan pie was slightly warm, again, like all of the food that night. Verdict: will not return even for regular menu, I hope the in-house psychic predicted that one coming

5th element ($15/person, lunch) - apps chosen were blackened shrimp & scallops and baked french lentils. Great use of the spices, enjoyed both very much. The crust for the baked french lentils were a bit soft and stale, you know it's been placed under the heat lamp for awhile. Grilled bengali salmon and tandoori chicken were done perfectly. Desserts were decent but not great. Verdict: one of the best -licious deal ever, i believe. will definitely return for regular menu.

Oliver & Bonacini Cafe Grill ($15/person, lunch) - apps were Grilled calamari and Creamy potato & leek soup. Also ordered the mushroom soup on top. The mushroom soup was WAY better than the grilled calamari and the potato soup, which was just potato and leek swimming in excessive amount butter and cream. The salmon for main was great, but the turkey meatloaf was oversalted with the gravy. sticky toffee pave was the highilght of the lunch. chocolate torte tasted worse than the 2-bite brownie from Loblaw's. Verdict: will return to sample regular menu items, but need to be impressed for the 2nd return.

Greg Couillard's Spice Room & Chutney Bar ($35/person, dinner) - apps were Jamaican jump soup and the salad. Amazing soup, but the following main and the dessert couldn't surpass the soup. mains were Chicken Bangkok & Osso buco. coconut rice was overcooked but the chicken was super tender. Fettuccini in osso buco was way undercooked and veal shank was tough to cut. For the dessert, couldn't really taste the chipotle spice, the complimentary banana pudding put the chocolate cake in shame. Verdict: if the jump soup is from the regular menu, i expect great things from the regular menu, will return.

Any other positive or negative experiences for this year's winterlicoius?

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  1. Nice reviews. I tried the Spice Room as well. The Jump-Up soup is definitely the same as the regular menu, in fact very similar to one he's made over the years. Truly a classic.
    I went for the tandoori salmon istead of what you had, and found it to be a regular menu sized portion that was fantastic. Great flavours, perfectly cooked. One of the few places that actually served meal portions, rather than pretty little plates.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Snarf

      I went to Quince this week, and was very happy with my meal. My SO and I share everything, so I was lucky enough to try six courses. We had the smoked trout salad and duck liver parfait to start, followed by the lamb gnocchi and salmon mains, with the chocolate pot au crème and white chocolate & yoghurt mousse mille-feuille for dessert. The best of each course were the parfait, the gnocchi, and the white chocolate mille-feuille. The gnocchi with braised lamb was easily the best dish of the night. The potato was like gooey pillows and the lamb melted in your mouth, while pine nuts added a wonderful crunch. The biggest disappointment was the salmon, which lacked flavour and was a bit on the rubbery side, despite being roasted in their wood oven. The service was very courteous and attentive. We asked our waiter to pair each dish with a 3oz. glass of wine, with which he did a great job, not to mention his heavier pours. This was probably my best winterlicious experience at the $25 price point, and will definitely be returning to Quince in the near future.

      1. re: Late Blooming Onion

        i love quince always!

        here's my notes on bodega, plus some other reviews:
        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/480916

        1. re: Late Blooming Onion

          Went to Oliver & Bonacini for lunch as well. We liked the grilled calamari and the soup. The salmon entree was the best deal. Did not finish the turkey meatloaf as it really was too salty.

          Loved the sticky toffee pudding for dessert and the almond ice cream was yummy. Did not touch the chocolate chocolate chocolate torte. Too rich. Overall service was attentive and we did not feel rushed. Good value for $15.

          1. re: Late Blooming Onion

            We did dinner at Quince too. We had the green salad to start...simple but good. And then the salmon...I totally agree with Late Blooming Onion. It was bland. For dessert, I had the chocolate pot...very creamy and tasty! My dinnermate had the pear/apple tart, also good. Portions were a good size for Winterlicous. We would check out Quince again.

        2. I have been with the Winter/Summerlicious programs since the beginning, usually going to 5 or 6 or more per season. Overall, I have had the best meals at the hotels (King Eddie, Royal York, St.Germain, Park Hyatt, 4 Seasons, Windsor Arms) and superb service, tablecloths, etc etc. House made breads and desserts. They are usually open on Sundays and Mondays, and always for lunches...

          1. I did two -liciouses, lunches at Ouzeri and Auberge de Pommier.

            I was impressed by Ouzeri where I didn't really expect to be. The dips were really intensely flavoured and wonderful, and the lamb pie, while a little greasy, was very very good. Rice was good and the potatoes were superb. The dessert was kind of eh, but I was incredibly stuffed by then, anyway.

            Auberge was lovely for lunch. The service was impeccable and the portions surprisingly generous -- my slice of quiche was massive. The flavour in the soup was outstanding -- rich and intense with just a hint of sweetness in it. The bread pudding dessert was good, and I certainly would have been quite content with it, had I not also tried the chocolate cake, which made me question my decision to stop ordering chocolate desserts. It had none of the sickly sweetness that mars so many chocolate confections these days and instead had a bitter, intense chocolateness.

            1. After today's final lunch (at Bodega), our Winterlicious total comes to 12. It's been a very positive and exhaustive experience.

              Last night's dinner at Thuet was a very nice way to end the rush of the festival.

              I'll try to come back to this thread during the weekend, but as of now my most memorable experiences were at Thuet, Chutney Bar, Cafe Moroc, La Bruschetta, Opal (all the good stuff is on the blog)

              Only one terrible experience (Sopra)

              2 Replies
              1. re: Suresh

                Curious to hear what happened at Sopra Suresh?

                1. re: millygirl

                  The full story is blogged here;
                  http://www.spotlighttoronto.com/musin...

                  I tried to be very fair about my experience at Sopra. Some of the food did taste very good, but then there were many negatives about the night. Okay sure I was bumped by a few drunks for abou a half hour (I had a bad seat).

                  We were ignored for about 20 minutes at the beginning, no water, no menus even.
                  Then food started to arrive, without cutlery, cutlery arrived as much as 5 minutes later.

                  The mains were over salted (you could see the salt on the meat). I barely had 2 bites. When complained, the waiter just shook his head and did nothing.

                  The part I left out; I made a mistake on the bill when i was paying. I believe the bill was $92, and Intended to leave $120, but I had made a silly mistake and left $105. (a $5 instead of the 6th $20), the waitress seemed to be very annoyed about that, okay sure. But when i realized, caller her over, sincerely apologized, AND added the $20, she just nodded and had this really angry look on her face. wtf?

                  Anyway, 1 bad experience out of 12, I'm glad i got the bad taste out of my mouth.

              2. You hit the nail on the head - sort of. The only good winterlicious places I've experienced are the ones that basically serve you the regular menu and call it a deal by throwing in desert for free. Like Tutti Matti.

                1 Reply
                1. re: wordsworth

                  Annona at Park Hyatt does that too...Great deal

                2. La Maquette ($35/person, Dinner) I had the soup of the day that was squash which was edible but not imaginitive or unique. The main course of scallops was over cooked and left under the heat lamps too long. Probably due to a full house during Winterlicious and the restaurant was dealing with service issues. I am sure the restaurant is good and deserves a second chance since the place has been there as long as I could remember.