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Winterlicious - Majority terrible, why people still bother going?!!

Out of curiosity, I spend some time going through all the Winterlicious posts on this board. Based on my calculation, I would say over 90% of postings commented on how lousy and terrible the food or service was. The list of such establishments include L'atelier Thuet, Amaya, Bymark, Truffles, Toula, Edo, N44, .... to name a few. If the overall consensus are so negative, why do people still bother going?

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  1. My experience has been 50/50.

    I was not impressed with Pangea (dinner). $45 +++. Entire bill came out to $150 per person. Blamed it on the wine however. But even then, the food was just ok.

    I was ok with Auberge (lunch). $25 +tax/tip. Value was ok, food was quite good.

    I was very impressed with Oliver & Bonacini (lunch). $15, +tax + tip = $20 per person. For the price, very good value. True to the spirit of Winterlicious.

    I guess like all things, hit and miss. You have to watch your dollars and try to get value wherever you can.

    Last year for Winterlicious, loved Bymark , and hated Truffles.

    1. There are hundreds of restaurants and thousands of people partaking and you get posting from the same 10 people about 10 restaurants its not so bad.. I would say people like to bitch and if they are upset they will spread it around but most people enjoy the experience and just do not post about it..

      1 Reply
      1. re: OnDaGo

        One thing that CharlesYu is touching on is : what does "winterlicious" mean.

        I go because it is a reason to get out. I expect little, and I pay little. So I am satisfied. But when I pay full price, I expect (and are usually somewhat disappointed) by the experience.

        When I was in Palm Springs last year, a certain high end restaurant was advertising 1/2 price all wine on Thursdays. No restrictions at all. That was true value, because most of the wines were then sold to customers at close to cost.

        Perhaps many restaurants are somewhat abusing the intent of "winterlicious". Then again, we patrons have to be somewhat realistic. Most restaurants close down, and very few make serious money.

      2. I did three 'licious meals this year. Two (Trappers, Toula) were bad, and one, Oliver & Bonacini, was surprisingly excellent.

        With the low price of admission on these meals, I figure it's worth a try to socialize with my friends and maybe happen upon a happy accident.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Jacquilynne

          Yes - Toula wasn't good at all. Perhaps I just picked the wrong option. The lobster pasta was horrid. My SO had a stuffed ravioli which he said was not out of the ordinary, but it was nice and hot like he likes it. The appetizers were just okay as well. I had the cocktail shrimp and scallop, and SO had a veggie stuffed crepe with sauce. Dessert was like a 5cm by 5cm cut of cappuccino cheesecake and chocolate ganache. We could totally tell that they were skimping..

          Service was okay though. He wasn't quick to get us out of there either.. so we gave a decent tip. Toula was at the $35/person price point. They also had everything that we ate on the menu. So given what we had tried, we won't be returning.

        2. With $45 dinner and 18% tax+tip, I don't think I would even spend time to look at their menu ...well, that's just my thought.

          3 Replies
          1. re: skylineR33

            You mean it's not a good deal?
            If so, I agree. I stopped going to summer/licious because you end up paying close to the same amount you would on a normal night. Maybe less, I don't know. But not worth it to deal with the crowds, stressed servers (not a knock against them, just reality) and a low success ratio in terms of food quality.

            1. re: grandgourmand

              Yes, I mean it is not a good deal. I would rather spend $10, $20 or $30 more bucks go on a regular day to have choice on their full menu without dealing with the crowd and higher chance on disappointment with the low success ratio.

              1. re: skylineR33

                I'm with you skyline. I had a dish I didn't care for at Canoe. One of the things that upset me the most is wondering if the restaurant let its standards drop. $45 is still a lot to drop for a meal and I left unsettled. I'd rather pay a little more, eat what I want, and not worry about the authenticity of the event.

          2. To be honest Charles, probably because it is a deal to most people. I have seen your posts on where you eat and how often you eat. You obviously have a pretty good thing going money wise and restaurant wise. You can eat when you want and where you want at very nice restautants. Consider yourself lucky

            2 Replies
            1. re: rafer madness

              Yes, Charles is lucky that he can experience so many interesting restaurants and dining experiences. I glad that I am also lucky enough to have the opportunity to try many restaurants. Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't this a site for people who know about food to share their knowledge and experiences?

              However, I believe the discussion is about why people go to Winterlicious when the experiences have been questionable. I stopped going to Winterlicious a few years ago - not because I had bad food or service but because generally speaking, the food offered on the special menu is not representative of the actual food of the restaurant. I would look at the regular menu and compare it to the Winterlicious menu and find myself wanting several things from the regular menu and none of the offerings on the Winterlicious menu.

              The idea of Winterlicious is to give people a chance to experience some restaurants they would not ordinarily be able try. But if the regular menu offers a sous-vide duck breast with a variety of exotic garnishes prepared with the latest techniques and the Winterlicious menu offers chicken breast with some sort of salsa, then you aren't getting a true taste of the restaurant.

              By the way, I tried the dim sum at Yangs that Charles recommended and it was great!

              1. re: rafer madness

                I know what you mean, but I'd argue that winterlicious isn't really a great deal. It's more hit than miss, so money not well spent.

              2. Some of us have had good experiences at Winterlicous/Summer, but I am choosy as to the menu rather than the name of the place.

                Some of the big name restaurants tend to be too crowded, where I would rather try one or two of the "lesser" knowns and give them a chance. What I had on the winterlicious menu was part of thier regular menu at Cafe Califorina -- and for a 25 price point it was economical.

                When picking my desitnations, I review the menus, send the ones I am interested in to my dinner companion, and then he reviews and we narrow the choices based soley on the offerings and not the name of the spot. I think this is a reason I tend to have a better expereience -- I am looking for what IWant to eat rather than where. I will save the popular places for a less crowded time.

                1. In this tough time, a $45 dinner + beverages + 18% tips + tax is still a lot of money! If the probability of getting a satisfying meal ( food + service ) is less than 50/50, I don't care how 'high end' or beautifully decorated and posh the place is, Its not worth taking the risk! Like skylineR33 eluded to, I would prefer paying a bit more for more choices, better food and most importanly avoid being treated as second class citizens by the wait staff whose priority during these few weeks is to turn table at record speed to make up for the loss in revenue!

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Charles Yu

                    I've never understood why people would want to do 'licious. It comes to the same price as a regular meal would, worse service, hard to get a table...

                    I'm not able to plan far enough ahead to get a decent licious reservation. Licious comes at times of the year where I'm busy and leaving to get to a 6PM reservation is a good way to have more time on my hands than I would want. I'll stick to walking in/last minute reservations during regular service.

                    When I'm out I sometimes will get a salad or appetizer and never get dessert. The prix fixe is now a $45 entree - that gets you pretty much everywhere (sometimes 2 courses, sometimes even wine). With a bottle of wine, tax, and 18%, 2 people are now having a $200-300 dinner. That's Bymark on a regular night, not a "deal". A regular night at Spuntini/Unita/... for $150 is a true deal.

                    Licious drags people out of their homes and is for people that don't eat out regularly. It's just like New Year's/Valentine's Day/Mother's Day - amateur night and not a true restaurant experience. The sad thing is that the people who struggle to fit restaurants into their schedule/budget use their 'licious experiences as a baseline. It really hurts the restaurants since even the best restaurants in the city are more attentive, friendlier, accessible, and cheaper than they seem during licious. I know that most nights I can walk in to the best restaurant, get a table for two, and have a wonderful experience for not too much money (definitely within the licious budget). If only restaurants could get that across to more of their bubble customers they'd be in better shape.

                    1. re: preppycuisine

                      Well said!!

                      1. re: preppycuisine

                        I agree, for the most part, but, and it sounds like I'm a broken record here, I found the 'licious menus at Bymark (in the past) to be great. Since I regularly go there for dinner anyways, $35 for the burger plus an appetizer and dessert was a great deal for something that I would have ordered anyways. Considering it was the same size, same quality, it was like a bonus to add on the appetizers (which were the same as the appetizer on the actual menu would be, but basically free), and a generic dessert not worth a mention.

                        But yes, this year I am not doing them, mostly because it's boring and not worth my time and patience. I'd rather go during normal business times and get better food and service.

                        I definitely agree, looking at the board, that people seeking a "budget" experience (which isn't actually a budget experience) are complaining constantly. Yes, people may not have the budget to eat out often, but if you frequent Chowhound, you know that the restaurants are not operating at their peak, shortcuts are taken, and service is going to be sloppy. Those are the risks anyone seeking Winterlicious reservations should be willing to take.

                        The other thing that irritates me a bit is people commenting on 'licious service. The servers are being run ragged, and yes, they aren't getting the kind of tips and stuff they'd normally expect to be making. I can sympathize to an extent, but I'm not a server, and if I were to receive bad service, I'd be upset. But expecting service in Toronto, where service is pretty bad anyways, to be top notch -- especially during 'licious -- is ridiculous! If you come on CH after having a decent meal at a restaurant, rag on service and say you'll never go back... I don't think I can take your posts seriously. If the food at 'licious was good, you're already lucky.

                    2. If you choose carefully, you can have a good experience. The keys are the menus and the seatings. If a restaurat is trying to cram as many seatings in as possible, you can bet that the service will be hurried. And if the $45 menu includes low cost items, you certainly won't get value.

                      This time out, I tried Zucca on a Thursday night, not realizing they were doing 'licious until I made the reservation. When I shyed away after hearing that they were involved, the manager explained that they were closed the previous Mondays and Tuesdays this year, as the number of requested reservations didn't justify opening, but with 'licious, they were now full for those nights. For the evenings the regulars usually show up, they were offering the 'licious menu and also the regular menu, and not trying to push through multiple seatings. We were offered a 7:30 reservation, told that there was no sunset time, and afforded the same amuse, bread and oil, that are provided during non-licious times. As the 'licious menu was actually fairly intriguing, we ordered that, and service remained attentive, polite and efficient.

                      1. alright, i will say that the licious are amateur nights to be sure, but i have also discovered a lot of places courtesy of the licious that i would not have otherwise and have taken people places they wouldn't have tried otherwise, and have eaten some great food and some mediocre. it's a reason to go out on a tuesday for an impromptu girls night or meet up, a reason to bring my kid brother to fancy resto, and if you read the menus like i do, to find a salad, main and dessert that meet your specific picky favourite needs. my SO and I make a game out of finding somewhere where we can find a goat cheese app and steak for him and a beet salad and a salmon or chicken for me. for value, 93 Harbord at $25 cannot be beat, while 5 Doors North at $25 was pointless for the lukewarm service we got. that being said, and even if i do have to rub elbows with non-chowhounders, i will always do licious and hope others will too.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: LemonLauren

                          I think that it does really depend on the restaurant. Some are a great value and providing wonderful food. Although I haven't been to tons of "licious" I have never felt rushed or treated poorly (Auberge and Quince come to mind). For those who think it isn't a good deal, they obviously have never been in the service industry before. For $25-$45 for a three course meal, it is a bargain. The portions might be smaller and you may not be offerred Lobster but there is a lot of innovative dishes being put out there. People whether wealthy or not so much for the most part find it fun to sample these menus. I like many, can't afford to drop $200 on a meal so I hit up as many "licious'" as I can afford. I can understand how those who can afford upscale fancier restaurants could think that the promotion sucks because they are comparing it to the regular menu's which ofcourse are going to be perfected. Don't sweat the small stuff and have fun and eat...that's what it's all about right? Toronto is generally a fairly boring city for being so metropolitan so I appreciate the effort to get us out and explore food.

                        2. My foremost objection to winterlicious is the service. I deplore the way many of even the "better" establishments make me feel like a total rube with rushed, compromised, and even rude "hospitality."

                          In spirit, I love Lauren's attitude that (even veteran) TO diners might appropriate 'licious to explore and discover some new offerings, but I don't think that the event lets restos put their best foot forward, and I've sometimes found that 'licious experiences would repel rather than reinforce my future patronage.

                          The savings isn't considerable to me (even while noting chefhound's patently just comments on the perceived value of winterlicious), and I will be actively discouraged from visiting those establishments that continue their wintericious menus during the next few weeks.

                          Sooo, am I crazy hypocrite for being slightly allured by the Cross Town Kitchens event - http://www.crosstownkitchens.com/miss... ??

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Rabbit

                            "I would say over 90% of postings commented on how lousy and terrible the food or service was"

                            Is that not Chowhound all over these days? (joke... well, sort-of)

                            Two weeks ago the notorious Ivy Knight wrote a dirty wee bit for the Toronto Star regarding Winterlicious which seemed to stir up some rather testy emotions:

                            http://www.thestar.com/article/581814

                            Being part of the industry myself, I have to be quite honest, and tell you that I have never worked a Winterlicious/Summerlicious event ,and therefore have nothing to say about it from an insider perspective.

                            ...however, I do appreciate the genuine business sentiments behind the 'Licious concept(s).

                            And I will say that all of these comments give me much food for thought...

                            As does almost everything posted on here.

                            Thank you.

                            1. re: Non Doctor

                              ""I would say over 90% of postings commented on how lousy and terrible the food or service was"

                              Is that not Chowhound all over these days? (joke... well, sort-of)"

                              My thoughts exactly.

                          2. Sometimes I honestly wonder if people go precisely so they can get all huffy on chowhound about how they were treated badly and ate poorly at X "fancy" restaurant.

                            1. I'd rather go out for Indian if I don't feel like splurging and again, I've said this many times here on this site, why, oh why do we make an event out of a prix fixe? Why do people still bother going? Charles, I can't wait for this whole thing to be over then I'll start going out again. Valentines Day, Winter/Summerlicious and New Years Eve = the worst times to go out to eat.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: chef_vegabond

                                Maybe its just me but given the economy is in the shitter, don't restaurants have a vested interest in upping the anti? Most of these places are a lot more full than they would be in Licious wasn't on.

                                I hardly think people choose Licious expecting bad service or wanting to rant and rave about it.

                                The fact is, with the economy in the dumps, a lot of these places are at a very high risk of going out of business and bad service for a lot of diners is the last straw.

                                1. re: sydandsys

                                  Agreed.

                                  I am a Shitilicious hater myself and often can't wait for it to be over so I can go out and dine again but at the same time its an opportunity for restos to make (some) money during tough times. Why shoot yourselves in the foot? If you are not going to do it well then why participate and then bitch about it? Isn't THAT similar to the customer bitching here? Can't we just all get along and treat each other with respect? Its really not all that difficult a task no?

                                  SWS

                                  1. re: sydandsys

                                    I was talking to a guy who is a waiter at a Winterlicious restaurant and he said that last friday they had 22 no shows and Saturday they had 17. These people had reservations but did not show up or bother calling. He said it happens every year.. one was a table of 8 where they had the table set up and waiting for two hours while other people had to wait for a seat..

                                    He told me that is why a lot of restaurants over book, they take the licious reservations a month ahead and by the time the day comes they have no idea who will show up. He said there is also a trend of people showing up and raising a stink saying they made a reservation and it is not in the book, even though they never made one. He once asked "do you have your confirmation number" and the guy said he left it at home.. the thing is that they never give confirmation numbers so he knew the guy was scamming but had to seat him anyway... customer is always right you know.....

                                    1. re: OnDaGo

                                      Weren't there a couple places taking credit card numbers on reservations before?

                                      1. re: tjr

                                        It is a dicey situaton as credit card companies will not honour the charge if the person complaines.. plus it looks bad on the restaurant.. who knows maybe someone had a death in the family or some other valid excuse...

                                        1. re: OnDaGo

                                          I don't agree with the practice, but I think I heard something about it at some point.

                                  2. re: chef_vegabond

                                    You forgot Mother's Day.

                                    1. re: ChalkBoy

                                      Thank you, yes, Mothers Day is another good one, I always cook for my Mum be it any time of the year

                                  3. Keep in mind that people generally go out expecting a good experience. So when it's good, it meets expectations and they carry on. When it's bad people like to bitch so they'll make sure everyone hears about it, so generally not a fair sampling of the 'licious expereience. Also you'll notice on these boards it's "cool" to bitch about 'licious. :) There's several posts about how people go out regularly simply can't be bothered with with it blah blah blah.

                                    We usually check out one or two 'licious meals when the event is happening and have always had fairly positive experiences. The key is to not go on a Friday or Saturday night and to choose your menu wisely. This was actually advice taken from a friend who's been a server at various restos downtown and it's served us well!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: abigllama

                                      Well this whole thread is dedicated to bitching about the 'licous, not because it's cool, just to question its existence.

                                    2. If one knows where to go they can get a good meal/experience/time.

                                      I frequent beerbistro during Winterlicious and have never once had a bad experience. Have never been rushed, always good service and for $25 dinner, its a steal.

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: radiopolitic

                                        The secret is ' knowing where to go'!!! But how?!! For someone who is not familiar with TO's dining scene, the inconsistency amongst restaurants, even highly reputed ones, which often resulted in a 50/50 gamble is unfair to patrons who expect a fair deal from their hard earned money.

                                        1. re: Charles Yu

                                          I'll agree with that for sure but for a local resident foodie or someone willing to do some research on a board like this, there is still a good deal 'n meal to be had. Though, it is sweet success for me and my beer aficionado friends. And I'll run with that.

                                        2. re: radiopolitic

                                          I went to beerbistro during a 'licious session a few years back ..First and last time..Great, excellent food, terrific service, cheap bill, good beer, lovely decor...BUT THE NOISE WAS UNBELIEVABLY LOUD THAT NIGHT. This was people chatter, not music...It was the loudest resto I have ever been in. I could NOT hear the waitstaff, nor could I hear my spouse. We ate in "silence" between us, and "talked" in sign language. We ordered by pointing to the menu items. I complained to the management, never heard back...

                                          I'm a food and wine writer, been to tons of restos in this town on my own nickel...never been to a place so noisy.

                                          1. re: Dean Tudor

                                            did you go on a weeknight? It's a Bay st suit hangout after 5pm, it's their main clientele.

                                            If you want a quieter dinner, go on a weekend.

                                            1. re: aser

                                              It was a Wed night, so maybe I'll try again off their regular menu on a Sat night..Thx aser

                                            2. re: Dean Tudor

                                              That's unfortunate, I'm sorry you had that experience. While it can get loud, I've never had it get that loud any time I've been there. I side with aser's recommendation.

                                            3. re: radiopolitic

                                              Thanks for the rec on beerbistro. We had a really good meal tonight before heading to a movie. Went for Winterlicious but ended up ordering on regular menu. Prices there are reasonable so wasn't much of a stretch on getting a deal. It was about 3/4 full, excellent service and comfortable sound level. It was a really positive experience and enjoyed that some extra thought was put into the presentation as well. Technically not a 'licious experience since we didn't order off the 'licious menu I guess!

                                            4. Ok. I can give you all the 411. I am a restaurant owner, former watier, and frequent diner. I have all the scoop. Don't ask me to tell you which restaurant I own, because I wont tell. I am not going to name names here good or bad. I am going to talk about my w/s/licious experiences.

                                              There are two conflicting definitions of what the purpose of licous is. The organisers and diners want it to be a chance to go out and try something amazing that is normally a bit expensive. Also, in the case of winter, it's after christmas so it's a good way to pass value to the guests who have spent too much money on their bratty kids.

                                              For the restaurant, however, it's a chance to fill up during slow times.

                                              These two things don't work together for the simple reason that these differing goals are going to mean that no one is happy. The Licous people choose what price point you are. They look at your menu, and price it. You MUST by the rules of the organisation offer similar things to your regular menu, but in practice this rarely happens. At the restaurant I worked at for my licious experiences, crappy pastas and lousy salmons would replace their wonderous cousins. We routinly overcooked the salmons to stop over 45 coming back during lunch with horrified seldom-diners thinking they were going to get sick from a medium salmon, and the desserts were often store bought ice cream with espresso and cookies.

                                              People don't show up all the time for licious events. it's not a 'death in the family' it's a 'we made 4 reservations and didn't go to 3'. And I'll tell you, as an owner, I can make or lose money one night based on one table of 6 not showing. I've turned away dozens in a night just becuase someone didn't fell like calling. And I confirm 90% of my reservations for that reason. do you know how many times i've heard "oh i was about to call' Liscious, however, usually just don't call back.

                                              The customers are rammed in because this is the only way they can make any money with the deflated prices, even with the crappy food, and are given bad service because for the waiters to even make normal money they have to serve 3x the people. Yes they are cranky and the service is bad, but more often than not the customers who do not know how to dine out are the cause of this bad service. A party of eight ordering drinks one at a time? Lord.

                                              Now, I'm not attacking everyone here, the restaurant decided to take place, so, when I was a waiter I dutifully went out everday with a good attitude. No problem. But as an owner now, I decided NOT to take part. And let me tell you, we slowed down in the summer a bit, but this winter we did great numbers, full most nights, with many of our guests personally thanking us for not taking part. That and the fact that we would have to raise our Prix Fixe price to even enter.

                                              It's so silly. Why would you want to go to Canoe if you can't really go to Canoe. (I use Canoe as an example---i've eaten there but never during licous...it's great) But also, why would a restaurant worth anything want to get into something so awful? Why not do a great job all the time with affordable prices and then you'll be full all the time...

                                              All said and done, it's part of the game to have some amature nights. Tonight someone stole our $30 automatic soap dispenser from the ladies room and some 17 year old kid covered our floor in rose petals in order to get laid. But why anyone, restauranter or diner, would want to partake in such sillyness is well beyond me. I go out and ENJOY myself within my means (which does not mean dinner at Harbor60)

                                              HM

                                              7 Replies
                                              1. re: Horace Mayweather

                                                Thank You!!!!
                                                All the best to you!

                                                1. re: Horace Mayweather

                                                  Thanks so much for this insightful commentary on the Licious event. It was a pleasure to read and very hilarious at times! I love how you ended it off with the anecdotes about the soap dispenser and flower petals. You made my day. Thanks Horace Mayweather.

                                                  1. re: Horace Mayweather

                                                    As I suspected.

                                                    Winter/Summer 'Licious has devolved into little more than a brawl. It was wonderful the first year of its existence, when it was a novelty - a copy of a similar program in New York - and restaurants were truly trying, hoping to lure new regular clientele into their joints. It was a little less so the second year, when the idea started to catch on mightily with diners-out across Toronto and many participating restos began routinely grinding it out. But though some 'Licious restos are still gamely putting out a decent, inventive prix fixe, 'Licious has mostly become an idea that has pooped out from overexposure. Oh, it'll limp along for a few years yet, I suppose (restos have to fill their seats as best they can), but eventually most diners will realize it's just a noisy, uncomfortable free-for-all of no particular value. I've avoided 'Licious for the past couple of years, instead enjoying civilized noshes at non-participants at all price levels for not much more than prix fixe prices (and even somewhat less). Can't wait till it's over at the end of the month so I can get back to some of my favorites without being elbowed in the ribs and having my eardrums assaulted. In my view, 'Licious is dining-out hell. I'll gladly leave it to those who think it's still something wonderful.

                                                    1. re: juno

                                                      Hilariously enough, it's the same story with Restaurant Week in New York.

                                                    2. re: Horace Mayweather

                                                      "These two things don't work together for the simple reason that these differing goals are going to mean that no one is happy."
                                                      Exactly!

                                                      1. re: Horace Mayweather

                                                        Horace Mayweather~~~
                                                        As in everything ......2 sides to every story
                                                        Nicely written

                                                        As for Moi
                                                        I would never go to Winterlicious nor do a New Years dinner
                                                        Too conveyor-belt for me

                                                        I prefer to pay FULL price and go when things are not as crazy

                                                        1. re: Horace Mayweather

                                                          Thanks, HM. You gave me closure on a bad 'licious experience.

                                                          I don't like to admit it, but winterlicious made me feel a cheapskate/ poor relation. From now on I'm either splurging or staying home.

                                                        2. Some discussion about tipping for 'licious-type events has been split over to our Not About Food board: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5963...

                                                          1. My friends and I tried out three Winterlicious menus: Ouzeri, Amaya, and 1055 Plakutta. Out of all 3, I only liked the food from Amaya. Maybe my expectations were a little too high, who knows.

                                                            I just got back from 1055 so the experience is still fresh in my mind. I had the vegetable spring rolls to start, a honey mustard glazed atlantic salmon filet for my main dish, and a warm apple strudel with vanilla ice cream for dessert. The spring rolls was pretty good - both with and without the Thai dipping sauce. The mixed greens that came with it tasted like it was soaked in alcohol. The salmon was kind of bland and overcooked. The apple strudel wasn't warm as was expected based on its name listed on the menu.

                                                            My friend had the pear and walnut salad to start, wild mushroom risotto for main, and strawberry cheese dumpling for dessert. The salad had about 4 slices of pear, 1 walnut, and the pear slices tasted like they were also soaked in alcohol. The risotto was what one would expect from a risotto. My friend didn't like the texture of the strawberry cheese dumpling - mushy and kind of like a rice pudding.

                                                            Pics posted are:
                                                            (1) Vegetable Spring Rolls;
                                                            (2) Pear and Walnut Salad;
                                                            (3) Honey Mustard glazed Atlantic Salmon filet;
                                                            (4) Wild mushroom risotto

                                                            Pics of dessert to follow in next post.

                                                             
                                                             
                                                             
                                                             
                                                            1. Pics of dessert and the bread that came after we ordered.

                                                              (1) Strawberry Cheese Dumpling;
                                                              (2) Warm Apple Strudel with vanilla ice cream;
                                                              (3) the bread;
                                                              (4) our drinks: iced tea and chardonnay

                                                               
                                                               
                                                               
                                                               
                                                              1. I believe Winterlicious is more for people that aren't foodies. They like saying they went to such and such place more than saying they had spectacular food

                                                                1. Are restaurants just as profitable during the winter/summer licious events?

                                                                  What if the higher-quality, higher-end restaurants (such as Truffles and the ones in Mark McEwan's empire) did not partake in the program? Would they still be as profitable with the regular menu, quality, and service? Does it hurt their image if they do or don't involve themselves in the festival?

                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Eastwind

                                                                    It is a very slow time of year... so any added customers is a bonus.. if the programme can fill your restaurant everynight for 2 weeks straight then you will make money. whereas if they only had four or five tables on a Tuesday of course they would make less money.

                                                                    1. re: OnDaGo

                                                                      Are restaurants forced to be part of it? The reason I ask is this article:

                                                                      "We heard a story about one chef who was so angry when told his restaurant would be taking part in Summerlicious (Winter’s warmer partner) that he punched a hole through the restaurant’s plaster wall."

                                                                      http://torontoist.com/2009/01/winterl...

                                                                      1. re: Eastwind

                                                                        No restaurants are not forced... BUT the owner of the restaurant probably made them take part and the chef did not have much choice... either take part or quit...

                                                                    2. re: Eastwind

                                                                      Hi, Eastwind, many neighbourhood based restaurants are busiest during the dead of winter and choose not to participate because it just takes away seats from customers who would otherwise spend money. Also judging from the many responses, a lot of chowhounders seek out restaurants that do not participate.

                                                                      1. re: chef_vegabond

                                                                        Smart decision I think.

                                                                        I would be annoyed that the "wannabe"-crowd at the higher-priced, higher-rep places.

                                                                    3. I went to 2 Winterlicious, one lunch and one dinner. I had a good time and good food at both. I based my choices on the menu's and not the name of the places. I went with the expectation of having a decent meal with some good company in a restaurant I had wanted to try but never got around to it. Winterlicious can be a good experience, just do your homework, decide from the menu and not the name of the place.

                                                                      1. For me it's Lunch only....had good tastey food at Signatures in Intercontinental,Coppi,Bar Italia ,The Drake and Veritas ...I had bad luck with Dinner for years this is a great solution ....Miranda

                                                                        1. I agree -- I just find the whole "Licious" thing completely lame -- it's such an uninteresting moniker lazily tacked onto a slow season (Fall-Licious, Spring-Licious) to try and drum up business for a few restaurants. What's next -- "Recession-licious"? Credit-Crisis-Licious?

                                                                          1. I apologize for raising the dead thread. I was just looking at the winterlicious 2011 menus and thought to do a bit of research from last year's reviews.

                                                                            As an university student who just can't afford to test out at all of the nice establishments that have a good reputation at full price, the licious events are a great way for me to try something I've never tried before.

                                                                            I come on Chowhound regularly, and usually only browse things that are within my budget range, like the newest fried chicken and burger joint. But I appreciate the knowledge of the posters who have the fortune of eating out all the time when I need to make my "once a year important dinner" decision. And to me, that's also what licious is supposed to be about, somewhere I can go without a huge cost to myself to learn about restaurants so I can base my future decision. It's unfortunate to hear that the quality and service isn't representative of their full price menus and regular hours.

                                                                            I can appreciate how regular diners are disgruntled, but I don't see the need to insult the other licious diners by calling them wannabe's. Eating, cooking and foods are a hobby of mine. I'd love to go full price and enjoy everything, but I'm just trying to work out the best way to satisfy my hobby while paying tuition.

                                                                            18 Replies
                                                                            1. re: marshies

                                                                              It could be argued, though, that you'd be better served saving the money you'd spend on two 'Licious meals - when the chef de cuisine is in Aruba and the kitchen is pumping out stuff they can make ahead of time using cheap ingredients - and instead use that money on one meal at a great restaurant in prime time when all hands are on deck and they're cooking the full menu, daily specials, etc.

                                                                              Also, most of these 'Licious "savings" when you get right down to it amount to this: dessert is free. In 90% of the restaurants listed, you can eat an app and a main for very close to the same price. Since I'm not a big dessert guy, I've always noticed this quirk. Obviously a spot like Canoe is an exception, which is why that's always the first place people call.

                                                                              1. re: childofthestorm

                                                                                I do save for my one meal. But, like everyone else, I enjoy eating out and trying new things. So the licious does give me that opportunity to try. It's unfortunate that the quality I'm sampling isn't the regular quality. You'd think that with a standardized menu, their reduced inventory costs on ingredients would translate into savings that could maintain the raw ingredients cost at 30% and sustain a profit on these meals.

                                                                                I do try to do my research and go to the well-reviewed places, like the ones in the OB family.

                                                                                And really, I LOVE dessert. So a free dessert at a restaurant with a meal I would've otherwise been happy for, great.

                                                                                1. re: marshies

                                                                                  Don't let the naysayers get you down. As long as you do your research, you can still get a good, if not great, Winterlicious meal and experience. I say this as someone who has had their share of utter disappointments, but there are always diamonds in the rough! Also, the savings is NOT always the equivalent of a free dessert, e.g. a few years back the $38 Bymark burger was on a $35 Summerlicious dinner menu. I hope you enjoy your experience this winter!

                                                                                  -----
                                                                                  Bymark
                                                                                  66 Wellington St. W, Toronto, ON M5K 1J3, CA

                                                                                  1. re: LTL

                                                                                    There are two kind strategies apparently used by 'Licious restaurants:

                                                                                    1. A regular meal with the dessert thrown in free.

                                                                                    2. A special menu using cheap ingredients in cheaper dishes.

                                                                                    Over all, my experiences have been far better with "licious type 1. At least you are getting the regular food, even if the deal isn't that great. You can't fool Mother Nature. There is no free lunch. In fact, you are lucky to get a slightly discounted lunch.

                                                                                    BTW: Anyone charging $35 for a hamburger is gouging the customer so badly that they can afford to give away a few side dishes

                                                                                    1. re: LTL

                                                                                      Bymark charges $38 for its' burger ?! I had the foie gras burger at L'atelier de Robuchon and it costs less ! It is not a good deal to me.

                                                                                      1. re: skylineR33

                                                                                        $35 to be exact. it is indeed not a good deal, neither is the Nota Bene Wagyu Burger

                                                                                        -----
                                                                                        Nota Bene
                                                                                        180 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 2A1, CA

                                                                                        1. re: skylineR33

                                                                                          I always find Bymark over-rated. Food was never impressive.
                                                                                          Going back to Burger. The Daniel Boulud - DB Moderne burger at US $27 is the best tasting and value 'exotic burger' IMO. Love the way they add some braised short ribs to it to enhance the taste.

                                                                                          -----
                                                                                          Bymark
                                                                                          66 Wellington St. W, Toronto, ON M5K 1J3, CA

                                                                                          1. re: Charles Yu

                                                                                            I actually prefer the Bymark burger to the DB burger; the braised short rib takes away from the qualities that make a burger appealing to me. The best part about the Bymark burger is that it isn't an "exotic" burger. It's a cheeseburger with mushrooms. It tastes like a burger. A really good burger.

                                                                                            It's also made of ground USDA Prime NY strip, which they'll cook as bloody as you want, and is sided with pretty incredible fries (if you ask; the onion rings are usually pretty bad). The brie de Meaux complements the scent of the truffles well (though I don't think it's a very effective burger cheese), the mushrooms add to the earthiness, and the rest of the toppings are non-descript (the lettuce sometimes ends up being wilted by the time you're finished your burger). It's also a pretty huge thing of meat.

                                                                                            I've also had the one at AdJR, and didn't find it that great. The beef wasn't as good as the one at Bymark, the foie gras added very little flavour to the burger, and the whole thing was kind of greasy. However, I have had some pretty sweet foie gras burgers at other places, but burgers in France don't have the same patty texture as a North American hamburger due to the grind of the meat, and, at times, the fat content.

                                                                                            The Bymark burger isn't a fast food burger, but it's thought-out fairly well, the meat itself is excellent, it's super juicy, flavourful, everything you want in a burger. Considering how much you'd spend on the steak itself at a restaurant (yes, I realize it isn't the equivalent of a steak), it's not that much of a stretch. There are a lot of miss dishes at Bymark, but the Bymark burger and the lobster poutine are probably two of my favourite dishes in Toronto.

                                                                                            $38 certainly isn't "reasonable" or a "deal" (though the 'licious menu including it would be a "deal" by definition), but I haven't had a better burger in Toronto that wasn't made by me.

                                                                                            1. re: tjr

                                                                                              Not sure what foie gras burger you had at l'atelier, but I don't find the one I had at l'atelier greasy at all, it works so good with the caramelized onions and red pepper. I had meal at Bymark and l'atelier, in general, not comparable. But yeah, to each her/her own.

                                                                                              1. re: skylineR33

                                                                                                I like Atelier quite a bit (it is, of course, not comparable to Bymark in any way), and have eaten at several of the various incarnations, including multiple times in both Paris and Tokyo. I just didn't find the burger to be very appealing (I've only had it once though). The fries were terrible, which made no sense, since I've had killer fries at Atelier before (they were like McCain freezer fries). The burgers are also tiny (if cost comparison is a factor; sure, they're $27, but it definitely take more than 2 orders to make an equivalent-sized burger). I don't find Atelier to be a place that is "off," but you never know, perhaps I got something that shouldn't have gone out!

                                                                                                I guess for me, if I'm not making a burger myself, I could justify paying 3x the price of a regular restaurant burger to eat the Bymark burger. I like burgers though. I also like sushi, which is why I'd pay 3x the price to eat at Zen instead of eating at some vile AYCE place in the Annex.

                                                                                                Can you get a better burger at a restaurant in Toronto? Perhaps, but after trying all the usual suspects and the oft-touted places on Chowhound and other boards, I still haven't found one.

                                                                                                1. re: tjr

                                                                                                  I do not dispute the quality of the Bymark Burger. My meal of a burger with a lobster poutine was indeed very good. however, I think it is not a good deal or even something I would ever order again(except for the poutine, I will keep going to Bymark just for that thing of beauty), because the burger is not 3 times or even twice as good as Great Burger Kitchen or Burger's Priest.
                                                                                                  A few years ago, before all these new and at times awesome gourmet burger joints mushroomed on the scene, the Bymark burger might have been the only place you could get a great burger in Toronto. This is no longer the case, so Bymark has lost its distinctiveness.

                                                                                                  -----
                                                                                                  Bymark
                                                                                                  66 Wellington St. W, Toronto, ON M5K 1J3, CA

                                                                                                  Great Burger Kitchen
                                                                                                  1056 Gerrard St E, Toronto, ON M4M 1Z8, CA

                                                                                                  1. re: tjr

                                                                                                    I have not tried all the burger joints in town so don't know who makes a better burger than Bymark in Toronto. But if Bymark is charging $35 for a "very good cheese burger with mushroom", they better make a real good one, which I have no question about, but just cannot justify to shell out this kind of money for a cheese burger.

                                                                                                    1. re: skylineR33

                                                                                                      I certainly understand; some people shell out the cash for a poulet de Bresse, others prefer the market rotisserie chicken because they can't justify the cost for a chicken. I hadn't pegged you for a burger guy anyway, skylineR33 ;-)

                                                                                                2. re: tjr

                                                                                                  bymark's menu is boring, but it's aimed dead centre at its intended market.

                                                                                                  Their burger is damn good, better than all these foie/gold flake steroid burgers.

                                                                                          2. re: marshies

                                                                                            as LTL says, there are a few diamonds in the rough but i find them pretty far and few between when it comes to 'licious. i think you're also missing the fact that many of the restaurants arrange reservations to maximize turn over and therefore pump out meals at a similar rate. a standard menu means it will be uncomplicated to accomplish and serve... therefore likely not their best work. for most restaurants it will be a standardized low-level competency meal with rushed service... doesn't sound ideal.

                                                                                            i think though, if you want to make the most of your money, you would be better served by going to the small little restos that don't participate in any 'licious events that have specials or prix fixes run by well-respected chefs with friendly personal service. do more research and you can certainly stretch your dollar. one perfect example is the happy hour at beast. no you can't say you ate at canoe but i can tell you what i had at a 'licious there was leagues below what the regular diners were getting and while service wasn't awful it really wasn't up to the standards that it should have been.

                                                                                        2. re: marshies

                                                                                          Marshies, I was in your shoes when Summerlicious first came out, and I certainly remember how exciting it was to visit places that were otherwise out of my league. However, the restaurants involved were still somewhat interested in the novelty at the time.

                                                                                          For some Chowhounders, the focus is on quality dining, and I don't feel that Winterlicious satisfies that anymore (which is why you see so many negative posts). For posters like myself, restaurants and quality dining are a smaller part of my food hobby. My strategy now is to read through the menus for interesting ideas, and then to make the meals at home (better and cheaper). Very few 'licious dishes at this point require special ingredients, techniques, or even a trained chef to prepare. I'd like to suggest that might be a good path for you too if you love cooking, since it's a pretty satisfying way to expand your culinary lexicon.

                                                                                          For places I visit regularly anyways, I've found the 'Licious doesn't really offer me anything new. After some trial and error, my wife and I have realized that wine, a shared app, two mains and a shared dessert at Bistro 990 fills us up and leaves us satisfied. It's cheaper than ordering two 'licious dinners and I get to order what I like. Don't let these deals fool you into believing that they're all offering great value. Some truly are, but most are just leaving a wake of servers disgruntled at their discounted tips.

                                                                                          That said, I've had more success with cheaper -licious lunches than I have at higher end places. The food is usually simple, but I still feel like I'm getting both taste and value for my $15. If you want to sample restaurants, but know you're not going to get their A-game dinner, I'd recommend stretching your money further by going this route.

                                                                                          1. re: Underdog Rally

                                                                                            Thanks for the really thorough post. I've had a chance to look at this year's menu, and nothing has caught my eye yet. The more expensive restaurants didn't have ingredients or preparation methods that I was too interested in. And the $15 dollar lunches seemed to be affairs that I could manage outside of winterlicious anyways.

                                                                                            I'd eventually like to take up your strategy of cooking what I like at home. But living in a university town for about 7 months of the year places limitations on the spices and equipment that can be moved here. My current strategy is just telling my dad what I like, and have him figure out how to make it.

                                                                                            Thanks again for your reply.

                                                                                            1. re: marshies

                                                                                              I totally agree. Not all of us can afford $300.00 meals. A reasonable lunch would give us a chance to try some upscale restos and maybe return for dinner on a special location. For a place to cut corners and quality is a shame. They should not be in it. I also cook, so when i go out i like to have things i cannot cook well.

                                                                                              Just my oppinion

                                                                                        3. I can summarize this whole thread this way:

                                                                                          Going to Licious is like going to a Toronto Maple Leafs game but you had the cheapest, worst seat in the Air Canada Centre, way up in the nosebleeds with an obstructed view. Sure, you can say you went to the game, but there's no way you could say you enjoyed it as much as the expense-account bunch down in the Platinum Club, even if the team actually won (which is rare).... You'd be happier watching it on TV at home (like some of the posters here saying they can cook those dishes themselves.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: TexSquared

                                                                                            Well said! Great analogy!