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Jan 14, 2009 10:02 AM

Any Winterlicious standouts this year?

Soliciting opinions on which of the Winterlicious restaurants would be worth trying for dinner this year, and why?

Here's the list, with menus:

TIA to all CH's.

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  1. I'll be trying Zucca at some point and get back to y'all. Seems to be a worthwhile menu.

    20 Replies
    1. re: yaddayadda

      Hope you enjoy Zucca. I love their fresh semonlina hand-rolled pastas. Great textures.

      Not sure if you got to see the review:

      Another great meal I had last summer was Edo's Summerlicious menu. It was priced at $35 and I thought it was worth every penny and more. I went back a second time because I enjoyed it so much.
      Here is a picture set of the food I received during the meal:
      This season's menu seems comparable, though not as great a deal (they cut out a course, but the mains are better).

      Please note that I ordered the uni and spicy tuna separately.

      Cheers and hope you enjoy your licious meal!

      1. re: BokChoi

        Thanks -- appreciate the feedback.
        Do you think EDO is as good for Winterlicious?

        1. re: yaddayadda

          I browsed the menu a while back and found that the menu seemed very good value for the price. However, I have yet to try it this year so cannot say definitively whether or not it will live up to last season's fantastic meal. I went during their standard dinner service and was equally impressed with the quality and quantity of their fish.

          Here is a photoset of their regular menu items:

          I will not be participating in this year's licious meals because I have obligations out of the country - do report back on whichever meal you decide on!


        2. re: BokChoi

          I'm glad you have good things to say about your 'licious experience at EDO. I reserved our spot there a week ago and am looking forward to it. Most of the other menus didn't interest me but your photos look great. Now I'm really excited!

          1. re: foxymoron

            Do let us know how it turns out. I have been consistently impressed with the level of care and attention they deliver, even during the licious events.

          2. re: BokChoi

            i was at edo a year or so back and can't recall which licious it was though i think i was wearing a coat so let's go with winter... but it was thoroughly disappointing.

            my meal looked nothing like the one in your photo set which i could attribute to the time of year but what sounded tempting ended up discouraging. i believe they offer a kobe item each time and this may have been a steak cut that they deep fried, awful. i don't recall much more except for portion sizing seeming quite small and dishes having an air of staleness about them.

            1. re: pinstripeprincess

              That's sad to hear. I hope foxymoron has a good experience this time around. I did enjoy the Kobe sausage on the menu last time (and again on this menu). It was great as a sausage, not sure I can speak of whether or not the whole "Kobe" as a selling point was merited. Everything tasted exceptionally fresh when I was there. Maybe they turned it around in the summer. Let's hope they keep up the good work.

              1. re: BokChoi

                I'm sorry, BokChoi. We went to EDO on Sunday and unfortunately, I was underwhelmed.

                The menu is here: but please note it's slightly different at the restaurant. There are actually four courses + the salmon pizza amuse bouche. Sushi is not an appetizer option, but instead a second course.

                To start, my SO got the tuna carpacchio while I chose the corn chowder and kobe beef sausage. I should have followed her lead because the chowder was just OK. I know BokChoi enjoyed them, but I found the kobe beef sausages to be little more than glamourized hot dogs. Yummy, but when I think sausages, I think thick, textured links. The tuna was relatively good, but not as nice as similar dishes we've tried elsewhere.

                We chose both the non-vegetarian sushi plate and it was the highlight of the meal. On the dish: maguro, sake and spicy scallop + tobiko nigiri and a maki-like cold spring roll filled with avocado, tempura shrimp and asparagus.

                For the main course, I had the lamb chops while she had the black cod. Again, my SO made the better decision. While the online menu describes it as "lamb chops with seven flavour chili pepper," my chops were covered in a thick Japanese curry. They were nicely cooked, the sauce was too greasy-tasting and rich for me. I get a little suspicious when pungent flavours overpower a meat...(perhaps its the "air of staleness" that pinstripeprincess referred to above?


                Lastly, we ended with the yuzu cheesecake and black sesame panna cotta. The cheesecake was nice and light. The panna cotta was creamy but lacked a strong black sesame presence.

                Overall, it was a disappointment. We still had a nice time, but EDO wow us. I'd visit again if I was in the neighbourhood, but it's not somewhere I'd go out of the way for. If I do go, I'll stick to the sushi bar offerings.

                484 Eglinton Ave W, Toronto, ON M5N1A5, CA

                1. re: foxymoron

                  That's too bad foxymoron. It's a shame that it just wasn't up to snuff. Just as a note, I thought the hot dogs were fun and kind of tongue in cheek - I didn't actually think the kobe did anything for the actual hot dog. I usually get one of everything on the menu when dining out just so that I can try everything on the menu. You never know right? The non-vegetarian sushi plates were my favourite as well. The mains are just satisfying - nothing blow your mind. The sushi is where I find they shine (hence my return visit to sample more of their sashimi and sushi)

                  I enjoyed it during summerlicious due to the price and the variety (I think they dropped a course this year from the menu). Let me know if you find anything else during the licious festival of note. Too bad I won't be able to participate this year, but seems like I didn't miss out on EDO at least.

                  Thanks for the report foxymoron.

                2. re: BokChoi

                  Hey BokChoi...

                  Was there last night and the Kobe hot dog was ridiculous. Talk about hitting a bad note in an otherwise good meal.

                  For those who haven't had the pleasure... the 'sausage' is just like a Baldwin St. dog... actually 2 of them, sliced in half, nestled beside the bowl of corn chowder. The lotus root chips on the side were a nice touch, but I kept looking around for the candid camera crews. I mean spam sushi in Hawaii is one thing, but Hot Dog Yakitori in Toronto?! I don't mean to sound like a total food snob here, but it's just such a shocking choice. Really. ;-)

                  Order the tuna.

                  The rest of the meal was really enjoyable, including the black sesame and vanilla bean pannacotta. The seared salmon sushi was incredible. Lamb was perfectly cooked and nicely seasoned. Unbelievably tender. Service attentive and friendly.

                  But give the hot dogs a miss.

                  Shiro Miso

                  1. re: shiro miso

                    Shiro, was your lamb covered in a thick curry too?

                    1. re: foxymoron

                      Hey foxy...

                      Not covered in, but sitting upon. Traditional (but nice) Japanese curry with a balsamic reduction on the edge of the plate. (!) My lamb was impeccably prepared.

                      I find EDO frustrating because IMO they get so many things right (ingredient quality, cooking techniques, presentation) but muddy the waters with compound mayos, odd fusion pairings, and long explanations when plates are delivered.

                      Maybe it's just me, but after reading a detailed menu, selecting items, anticipating the meal... the last thing I want is a lecture on what is on the plate. I KNOW. I ordered it! And when everyone at the table orders different things... oy.

                      (getting off my soapbox now)


                    2. re: shiro miso

                      shiro miso - I have never had a Baldwin St Dog, but I see what you mean. Kobe is nice to try when your DC has already ordered the other dish and you just want to sample something different. I had seen the Kobe dogs being marketed a few weeks before my Summerlicious visit to EDO during the Street Festival up at Metro Square. Wanted to give them a try when I spotted them on the menu (they were being sold at $5 a pop at the festival). I guess you just have to know what you're getting when you're ordering a kobe beef dog and not expect something out of this world. Keep expectations in check and it's a fun little snack.

                      Glad you enjoyed the rest of the meal though shiro miso. Thanks for the report!

                      1. re: BokChoi

                        I guess to keep expectations in check the first thing you should assume is that it isn't real Kobe beef :-)

                        1. re: tjr

                          LOL. It could be... just the unmentionable parts of the Kobe cows that make their way into hot dogs...


                          1. re: shiro miso

                            I'm sure it's probably Canadian or American wagyu; Kobe scraps wouldn't be worth the cost to ship over, and you wouldn't really be able to tell the difference anyways.

                          2. re: tjr

                            Yes I figured it wasn't. I just thought it was a cute little bite to try. That's the essence of the licious events, is it not? It was quite juicy. I wouldn't order it again, but I was happy to have tried it.

                3. re: yaddayadda

                  Went to Zucca last Thursday. Didn't know that they were doing winterlicious until I made the reservation, and then became wary as I've seen many restaurants try and force as many seatings as possible out of the evening. The manager assured me that they were not trying to maximize turnover, but rather fill up the traditionally slow nights. There was no hesitation in accomodating a 7:30 reservation, and from the time of arrival, the service was quick and efficient, but not rushed. We were encouraged to linger and enjoy a conversation. I noticed that while the restaurant was full, the same experience appeared to apply for the other diners.

                  The food was up to the usual standards and the portions didn't appear to be scaled down, nor did they skimp on the amuse or the bread. More about the food later.

                  1. re: Snarf

                    Glad that they're not caving into the sub-quality standard that has otherwise infected the licious event, Snarf. Thanks for the report. Love Zucca and it's my go-to place for a nice, relaxing, cozy meal.

                4. i am really pleased that 93 harbord (my FAVE resto in the city) and amaya(s) and five doors north and quince are on it, i'm bringing a group to 93 since they'll only go under these "Affordable" circumstances, and i'm bringing a girlfriend to 5 doors north for an impromptu girls night. i don't normally order dessert, so it's not necessarily a savings for me, but $25 is still pretty pretty good for a dinner.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: LemonLauren

                    LemonLauren -- anything in particular you would recommend at 93 Harbord?

                    1. re: Yum2MyTum

                      if you are a lamb person, the shiraz lamb and fig tagine is glorious, moist, complex flavours. otherwise, the chicken is very nicely balanced and fruity.

                  2. Great - globe bistro
                    Terrible - Bymark.

                    Globe didn't add extra tables (Corner House), didn't skimp on the portions or change their menu to cheaper items (Bymark), didn't skimp on the service (Corner House) and didn't rush us through the door (Corner House)

                    So Globe did what I read it does in all the non-licious reviews - good food, good service, great ambiance. And for $35 for dinner!

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: eatereater123

                      That's a big change from last year's, I guess. Bymark this year has some regular menu items on their menu (the shortribs and the coq au vin at the very least), and in previous years the food has been pretty much exactly the same as what they served on their regular menu (for example, the burger served was the exact same as the burger on their regular menu). When I've eaten there at licious compared to a regular night, the only differences I've seen are the dishes they add on: boring salmon, boring "plain" salad, etc.

                      Even if the restaurateur hates the event, I'd be surprised if they started cutting portions and changed their menu wildly.

                      1. re: tjr

                        I went to Bymark the other day for lunch and thought it was fantastic. Very generous portions for lunch, to the point where we couldn't finish our mains even though we thoroughly enjoyed them. We started with the tuna tartar (very good, however I prefer the version from Jump as I find it more flavourful) and I had the daily soup which was butternut squash with pumpkin seeds and pancetta. It was DELICIOUS. And a huge bowl of it. Then we had the macaroni and cheese (very good, but not spectacular) and the halbiut which was also delcious. Baked in a banana leaf, had great, strong flavor. We finished with the carrot cake and ice cream (can't rememember the flavor) that was filling and satisfying. And the pear strudel with a peacan crusted truffle, which in my opinion was a little small, but I was so full at the time, I didn't even care. All in all, a delcious meal, great service, and we both said we'd go back for the regular menu!

                        1. re: tjr

                          I went to Bymark for Summerlicious 08, and the burger was as described, same as the regular menu version. I have been to Bymark previously with the regular menu, I felt no discernable slip in food quality.

                          Not sure if anyone read the piece on Licious in The Star from the service industry's POV. The comments are a great read...


                          1. re: aser

                            One comment I didn't like was right up at the top about ordering alcohol. I drink alcohol and enjoy beer and wine when i go out on occaision but I do NOT want alcohol foisted upon me nor do I want to be treated like a second class citizen if I don't order alcohol.

                            What if I'm eating out on a budget and the food is all I can afford? If you want me to order alcohol that badly I'll take it out of the tip and buy my alcohol with that!

                            I appreciate that restaurants make their margins on alcohol but no restaurant or server should look down on a customer who doesn't order alcohol. What about those customers who can't drink because of religious reasons or because they're a reformed alcoholic? Should they stop going out to eat?

                            1. re: aser

                              Crank out the food? Cannot be "creative" for a week and a half? Cry me a river.

                              If these yahoos saw this for what it is -- a decent marketing event -- they should not hesitate to use it to their advantage. That is: showcase what you can do and how well you can do it, and thus win over a whole new cohort of clients for those other-than-slow-times.

                              (T.O. restauranteurs are beginning to remind me of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment -- i.e. making money the easy way, delivering an inferior product to clients they think will show up anyway.)

                          2. re: eatereater123

                            Funny, I was at Globe Bistro last night and the waiter tried to clear our plates before we finished, rushed us through dessert, then stood smiling at us until he had our attention, then announced "well, if you don't need anything further,I don't mean to rush you, but we're very busy tonight and would appreciate the table." So we awkwardly got up, mid-conversation and left. To her credit, when the hostess asked how dinner was, she noted my tight smile as I said "Okay" and asked if there had been any issues. I told her we felt rushed out, and she said she would notify the manager and have him follow up with a phone call. Which was nice, but our nice evening out ended before 8:30pm!! As for the food, it was good, decent portion size, but not that memorable.

                          3. Pizza Libretto is running an unofficial Winterlicious prix fixe menu at $25. I went last night and it was fantastic. Runs til the 12th:

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: foxymoron

                              I second this! Although what was going through our heads when we went last Saturday at 8pm, i have no idea. We had to line up for 90 minutes, however the good was really, really good much better than the first time I went. The prix fixe for $25 is great value.

                              Amaya's winterlicious was great but I found Mildred Pierce Temple Kitchen boring and we went to Atelier Thuet on Wednesday, they had no table for us and again we had to wait over an hour. The food was delicious but the portions were tiny, we had to load ourselves up on the delicious bread to feel full

                              1. re: LissyDee

                                We went to Atelier Thuet on Friday at lunch. A reservation had been made at least three weeks beforehand but when we arrived, all the tables were taken in the dining room. The friendly server offered us a table in the cafe area which we accepted. It was a bit chilly in there as it was very close to the front door. I ordered the lentil soup, the fish and chips and the souffle. Lentil soup and fish and chips were delicious...good portions but the souffle dessert wasn't great. It was filled with some thick, disgusting boozy flavoured custard but the toasted marshmellow garnish was awesome! Over all, it was a good lunch that took almost too long. Our server did offer us a loaf of bread each to take home as our mains took so long to get to us. Would I go back for a regular meal? Probably not. It was good, but not THAT good.

                            2. Zucca went quite well.

                              Fresh bread with aromatic olive oil and the amuse bouche were a nice touch.

                              The "scalcione di verdure" starter was well executed, if small. A little too "raw" tasting for my palette, but I understand it is often made that way. The "paillarda di salmone in carpione con polenta" main was perfectly cooked and the sauce was a nice accompaniment -- especially appreciated the anise/fennel. The polenta was on the bland side, but that's probably a good thing, in that it didn't compete with the fish.

                              The SO had the "carpaccio di vitello ai noci" starter, and for someone who doesn't usually order raw beef, enjoyed it nonetheless. The "ravioli di ricotta di capra ai funghi porcini" main was licked clean -- a very well executed ravioli, I must say, and the fresh porcini were a plus.

                              The persimmon cream mousse for dessert was pleasant. Wouldn't mind having that again some time. Coffee was fresh, thick and strong -- nice.

                              (Side note: I was surprised by the number of patrons around us going for the braised beef shank. A simple thing that we often make at home, I don't bother with it at restaurants where I prefer meals that I can't do myself. I can only guess it must be popular because it was so well done. Either that, or Torontonians are still into that "going out for beef' thing, and rather timid about trying other things. Who knows. *** Don't flame me for this one; I know plenty of people who only, and I mean ONLY, have beef / steak when they go out -- it's what "dining out" means to them. Admit it, you know people like that.)

                              Service was quick and efficient, but we did not necessarily feel rushed. If it's always this good and straightforward, I am impressed and will gladly go back for it (the service, I mean). Wait staff were helpful and friendly -- a good job all around.

                              If I had a qualm, it's with the overpriced wine list. I think they could do with a few more selections in the low end -- at least for us value-conscious tipplers. Otherwise the selection was extensive.

                              All in all, a good dining night out. Glad we did it.

                              Looking forward to Summerlicious...

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: yaddayadda

                                Thanks for the review yaddayadda. Love Zucca. Such a great little restaurant. Quality ingredients. Good service. Glad to hear you enjoyed yourself. I'm salivating over here reading what you guys had.