HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >


Do you find Winterlicious a rip-off?? Or is it just me.

Have gone to 6 restaurants over the last 2 years during Winterlicious and have been decidedly underwhelmed on all occasions. Went to Tutti Matti last year - all 4 of us had terrible food - fish was overcooked, pasta & soup were both tasteless and the cake was as dry as the desert & inedible - topped off by indifferent service. Had eaten at Tutti Matti on 5 other times and enjoyed it.
Ate at Mildred's Temple - food was fine but the portions were miniscule to say the least. I believe we paid more for the Winterlicious menu than I would have from their regular menu.

It seems that the Winterlicious participants find ways to charge their usual prices and in some cases, more than their menu prices by offering small portions or assembly-line food. Some also have the audacity to tack on their gratuity charge. I am not in the habit of giving a tip when the service is poor.
Anybody else's experiences??

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I've been doing Winterlicious since it started. I would say it is defnitely hit and miss - and that you have a better chance of getting value at lunch. Some restaurants rise to the occasion (Canoe, Biffs, Boba, Corner House, Spice Room/ Manyata) while some definitely have been a rip-off (I once left the old Centro hungry and went for more food).

    I have scaled back my participation in the last couple of years because, in most cases, you don't get the same food that is on the regular menu.

    1. Went to Lai Toh Heen last year. Was OK, but it didn't blow me away. I will try some more this year and hope for hits.

      1. I had a good experience at Lai Toh Heen, both food and service fantastic. I can't recall what I paid but I remember feeling that it was good value.

        2 Replies
        1. re: JamieK

          My 'Licious lunch at Lai Toh Heen was one of the worst restaurant meals I'v had anywhere, anytime.

          1. re: evansl

            Further down you just posted about Lai Wah Heen serving you "inedible goo" for . Sorry I just have to check because I had such a good experience at my dinner at Lai Toh Heen --- was it at LWH or LTH that you had this worst meal ever anytime?

        2. I abandoned the 'licious events years ago for the reasons you stated: sub-par food and service in a chaotic environment. Too few places care enough to do it properly. The only positive that has come out of 'licious is that it has made other restaurants compete with their own value added menus. The experience at these places is usually better because the traffic they get is more manageable.

          1 Reply
          1. re: sloweater

            Can you give examples of these competing restos? thanks

          2. I find you have to be very very picky with Winterlicious selections.

            I go to Beerbistro almost every year and always have a great time. Good food, never rushed and at $25 for dinner, its a steal.

            1. Like any dining experience, some will be winners, some will not. Not surprisingly, Winterliscious is no different. As some have suggested, I carefully scrutinize restaurants participating, their menus, their reputation, etc. Generally, my experiences have been favourable... only a couple of misses. What I have difficulty fathoming is why a restaurant would participate in Winterliscious and deliver a mediocre experience. After all, the purpose of the event is create traffic, ultimately resulting in more butts in chairs through the rest of the year. I must admit that I have found some new favourites through Winterliscious.

              7 Replies
              1. re: cynalan

                winterlicious is generally terrible and the only reason it survives is because people want a "deal" on dining-out. if diners are on a budget, then they should choose more moderately-priced restaurants instead of going to places they can't afford, finding the cheapest thing on the menu and then not tipping.

                1. re: cynalan

                  I completely agree... In the past, I've had positive experiences with this event. I guess it's hit or miss or most people but either way, I like 'licious events. It's a great excuse to try some places I've been meaning to go to.

                  1. re: sarnya

                    The trouble is, that you are not really "trying them." You are trying some cheapened scaled down version of them.

                    1. re: evansl

                      What's wrong with that when I'm paying for a scaled down version? I don't go into North 44 expecting to get the most amazing meal ever when I'm paying $45 for 3 courses. I go there expecting to get a sample of the atmosphere and quality of food they offer knowing I'll be in and out in 1 hour...it's not a night out at Jacobs & Co. dropping $300 on steaks, wine and valet parking.

                      The thing with Winter or Summerlicious is that you should go into it with proper expectations and you won't be disappointed.

                      1. re: sarnya

                        You can lower expectations are you want, that still doesn't explain the 45 minutes I waited for my order to be taken at Pangea, the inedible goo that Loh Wah Heen foisted off, the ripe salmon served by Centro. Of the dozen or so 'Licious restaurants, only one has made me even consider returning for a meal a full price. If that's the point of the exercise, then they are failing miserably.

                        1. re: evansl

                          Which one made you consider returning?

                      2. re: evansl

                        It depends on the restaurant. In previous years, Bymark, for example, had their burger on the menu, which was exactly the same as their regular menu burger, plus a starter and dessert for less than the burger is normally on their menu.

                        And, having had the burger eight zillion times, it was the exact same. Service was fine, and some of the appetizers were quite good. The desserts were lame.

                  2. Too bad about Tutti Matti. We used to go regularly. Their 'Licious menu was basically a subset of the regular menu and it was the only really good 'Licious meals I've had,

                    1. Last year I went to 4 restaurants (2 summer, 2 winter) and enjoyed them all for the most part.

                      Auberge du Pommier - great service and a great meal, no complaints at all. Staff was polite and knowledgeable, top notch service and food (as expected from this restaurant)

                      Amaya The Indian Room - great food, very good portions sizes for sharing especially for a 'licious' menu and @ $25 a person great value.
                      Here are some pics http://www.flickr.com/photos/lricharz...

                      Pangaea (lunch) - Great service, great value for $25. This restaurant was went above my expectations, definitely recommend
                      Here are some pics http://www.flickr.com/photos/lricharz...

                      Lastly Quince (not participating this year)
                      Was great value for $25 but the service was not that great, and the food average. Still I would recommend this restaurant to some who is looking for a nice restaurant that won't hurt the wallet that much.

                      As for this winter, I have not idea where I am going to try and go, but I am defiantly looking for more lunch options as the seem to be a better value for the higher $ restaurants.

                      1. Tutti Matti was one of my better 'licious experiences... I think it probably just depends on how smoothly the factory is running that night.

                        Generally speaking, I avoid Winterlicious. I think it's probably among the worst times to experiment with a new restaurant because it is almost guaranteed that food and service will be subpar.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Rabbit

                          I agree. I have scaled back over the years. I believe I have been going for five years now ..both in the winter and summer. Use to book 2-3 restaurants...lately its just been one restaurant.
                          The menus dont always appeal to me and sometimes the restaurants themselves dont appeal to me either.

                        2. Six of us went to Bangkok Garden last year for Winterlicious. We were treated like second-class citizens by an officious hostess and given the worst table in the place. Most disappointingly, the food was terrible. For less money we could have eaten better off the regular menu.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: trumpler

                            At the best of times Bangkok Garden is bad so I am not the least bit surprised to hear this. Many years ago the food there was very good, but again, that was many years ago.

                            I attended a business function there about a month ago and was amazed at the crap they were serving. PC frozens apps were better than this stuff they were passing around.

                          2. Right, I keep meaning to post my rant ( http://bit.ly/7OT6Ee ). Thanks to Pagogo for starting the thread. It lets me know that I'm not the only one who thinks this way...!

                            Toronto’s Winterlicious and Summerlicious events are the two times of the year where I strategically plan to not eat out. At least, not at any participating restaurant. While I’m not averse to a good deal, I find it hard to stomach the giant list of mediocrity that is offered up as prix-fixe. To save a few dollars, you give up a lot. Small portions. Banquet food. Stressed service. How is this a good deal?

                            Since Winterlicious reservations began last week, it stirred up chatter on various boards and heralded my imminent two-week restaurant blackout. Now, the concept of ‘licious is good. Restaurants offer their fixed-price menus during a slow time to lure new and old diners through their doors, the city blankets Toronto advertising the event, and the masses gets a break on the price of their dinner. Everyone wins!

                            But no, unless the restaurant is inclined to give it their all instead of the banquet-style feed that is usually on offer, everyone loses out. Potential patrons are turned off – because the food is lacklustre, service is poor (sometimes due to the high volume… sometimes not), or maybe it’s the high-turnover atmosphere that many restaurants adopt during this period. Whatever the case is, it’s not a situation that will bring people back after the prices bounce back up and it certainly doesn’t show the restaurant at its best, unfortunately.

                            Given my current stance of dining-blackout during these times, I’ve clearly had my share of dismal experiences. But it’s not all bad. There are those restaurants that rise to the occasion and offer everything they would on a regular night, despite the piles of diners that tromp in and out for ‘licious events. In particular, I remember the wonderful panna cotta served at Truffles at the Four Seasons and a lovely seared duck at Focaccia. I also hear Canoe and Bymark have decent reviews. Mind you, the “good places” tend to book up quickly. It’s likely too late for this round, but make use of your American Express front-of-the-line next time. If you’re going to bother hitting ‘licious.

                            What I do like about these events is that it gets those who wouldn’t normally venture out, up and out of the house. While it won’t make everyone a repeat customer, I hold the hope that for some, it will spark their interest in food or maybe allow them to broaden their palates with some new tastes. Still, like many foodies I know, I’ll keep a wide berth around participating restaurants during the event, as my few good memories are generally buried under too many cookie-cutter meals in small portions with bad service. It’s worth both my time and money to visit at another time, where I’ll have a better chance to enjoy my meal.

                            And then maybe, I might actually come back.

                            1. Great concept with too many poor experiences for us.

                              1) Often feel like part of a herd going in and out at scheduled times which in many restaurants are way too early or way too late.

                              2) Being made to feel like 2nd class citizens with the poorest service imaginable (Centro a couple of years ago)

                              3) Being rushed through meals while non-winterlicious patrons are treated like royalty

                              4) Pushing the easier, low cost desserts (and hey I dont know what I like for dessert when I just walk in to order). Hate that most restaurants want your entire order immediately)

                              Having said this we are going with friends to a Winterlicious this Saturday night. Only one we booked because our friends wanted to go and we wanted to go out with our friends.

                              1. For $15 I just had a decent meal at Oliver & Bonacini Cafe Grill

                                The fish was not your regular fried fish and chips, almost seems like it was flash fried then finished in the oven (most likely was) the fish was also slightly undercooked but still tasty, the fries where nothing special but still above average.

                                The starter was just a plain shrimp pate, didn't blow my mind, but my friend enjoy his soup and it was well seasoned.

                                The deserts were by far the best course, perfectly cooked carrot cake (the lemon sour cream icecream was a perfect pairing), and sticky toffee pudding was warm and decadent

                                for $15 you can't go wrong, service was on point. great value, not a rip-off in the bit.

                                Table for 2 @ 12pm (right b4 the lunch) and no reservation worked out perfectly.

                                Here are pics: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lricharz...

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: flying101

                                  Oh my gosh, I think that lemon sour cream ice cream is divine. I crave it all the time!!! I think it is made by Soma.

                                  1. re: Full tummy

                                    most likely because SOMA is owned/operated by Oliver & Bonacini

                                    1. re: flying101

                                      Soma is NOT owned and operated by OB restaurants. OB was an angel investor and uses SOMA products, partially because they are so great, partially to support their investment. David Castellan was at one point their executive pastry chef. The relationship ends there.

                                      1. re: sloweater

                                        My mistake, i stand corrected.

                                        I thought there was some weight to their shares in the company.

                                2. Just came back from a great lunch at George Brown's Chefs' House. Not planned, but lucked onto a Winterlicious menu....so the cheaper prices made the experience even sweeter! So a big thumbs up for my first Winterlicious meal!!

                                  1. If you're wondering why you're having such poor dining experiences during the 'licious seasons, it might be worth trying to get an honest conversation going with one of the servers to find out how the staff feels about it. We try to do this at the restaurants we visit, and we're yet to hear anyone excited about the traffic. Many restaurants feel pressured into offering 'licious deals just to compete for patrons. Unfortunately, that means that they have to put together menus that are barely break-even (or loss-leading) for patrons who mostly order water. Morale can get pretty low, especially since customers tip (or don't...) based on the discounted food prices (hence the new trend of tacking on gratuity). It's a bit of a vicious cycle... poor service leads to poor reviews, but they shrug those off as being from customers unlikely to return at regular price anyways.

                                    I think the first 'licious was a fantastic idea, and I really enjoyed it, but I can't say that the current atmosphere motivates me to continue searching out deals. If you enjoy nice restaurants, winterlicious is really not the time to sample their fare. If you're budget conscious and want some neat lunches, though, then it's a great couple of weeks!

                                    1. Widely varying experiences. I've been going for a few years now, and have had some really varying experiences. It's a great chance to get dressed up and try a restaurant you might otherwise not have, but on the flip side, you get what you pay for. 25 dollars for dinner, and they want to make a profit? Kinda hard.

                                      1. Quick guidelines to enjoying 'licious:

                                        Don't go to the big shots - Choose a neighbourhood place rather than a Canoe.

                                        Check the "licious menu againt their regular menu - If their 'licious menu is stuff they regularly serve your less likely to get a catering style meal. The kitchen is used to prepping the stuff and it will probably taste less like an assembly line meal.

                                        Don't do 'licious on a Friday or Saturday - Because the resto will be overwhelmed and you'll probably feel rushed. Sunday through Thursday rocks and it's easy to get a reservation.

                                        Don't go to 'licious thinking you're getting the deal of the century, think of it as getting a free dessert. Honestly by using these guidelines I've never had a negative 'licous experience, Give it a try!

                                        1. i went to a licious restaurant tonight, it was busy, but the service was good, the food was very good and very generous-regular large portions ( i needed to take some home) but i found out from hearing other conversations that if ONLY water was ordered as beverages at a table they charged $1 for water with lemon, $1 for hot water and $1.50 for hot water with lemon, plain water was free as was bread service...we had wine, but i wonder how others feel about this...to me it kind of makes sense, there is a cost atttached to these items, so initially i was shocked but after mulling it over i was okay with it....

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: ingloriouseater

                                            Since when is ordering water a sin? I prefer water to other beverage and refuse to pay $3 for a glass of bubbly water.
                                            I can understand why servers would get upset that the bill is so low (and hence, the tip is also low). But since this is considered a promotional event, it is meant to attract customers so they can come again and pay full price. If the restaurant is concerned about loss of wages for their staff, they should pay a special Winterlicious wage to their servers.

                                            1. re: merlot143

                                              i giggled a bit when i read your post as you said that you prefer water to other beverages-given your nickname is merlot143. i guess i wondered at first about charging for 'enhanced' water (as there was no charge for plain water) but realized there is a cost attached to it and in most cases the promotional menu price doesn't cover everything so though it seemed like a cheap money grab, i actually understood it. also, one of the gripes i always hear about from servers (the big star article last year) is that the licious brings out the once or twice a year people who are cheap and only drink water and never return and are stingy tippers

                                            2. My complaint about Six Steps winterlicious was "moderated" and deleted...but the gist is, avoid Six Steps unless you enjoy paying up to $15 for desserts that do not appear on their normal menu, and having the servers ignore you from the main course on. Six Steps charges $35 for dinner licious, but unless you order the chicken, you are not getting a "deal". The other choices of main courses are normally worth $14 and $16 respectively, which doesn't seem fair in a $35 prix fixe.

                                              1. Tried WL tonight at Five Doors North (mainly because we were going to go there anyway and WL just happens to be on). So we did the WL deal with a few sides added. Overall, I'd say it was a little under average; the portobello mushrooms (that we always order) were overly vinegary (can't remember that ever being the case before) and the banana bread pudding for dessert (never seen that on the menu for dessert before) was doughy without enough chocolate and not thoroughly warm as it should have been. The other food was fine---good eggplant parmigiana; rapini as good as usual; and the beet salad and parsnip soup were all quite good. Usually though, I like everything I order there so this was a tad disappointing. But the service was as good as it always is. Though about whether WL was working? 5DN is never that busy!

                                                1. We went to 93 Harbord last night and very much enjoyed it. We were met with an extremely friendly staff who were eager to please. The restaurant was full to capacity, but the tables were spread out far enough apart that you didn't feel that you were eating with the people next to you. We didn't order wine, but had specialty teas with our dessert. We started with a whole wheat pita with an olive tapenade. My husband had lentil soup and I had grilled camalari as appetizers. Both were delicious. I had grilled salmon with a citrus glaze and my husband had a lamb and fig tagine. Both came with bok choy and grilled red pepper. The salmon came with basmati rice and the lamb came with couscous. The salmon was scrumptious; my husband said that the lamb flavour was delicious, but some of it was a tad stringy. We shared two desserts, poached pear in phyllo and a fig with a yogurt drizzle. The plates of dessert were beautiful, each decorated with strawberries and blueberries.

                                                  93 Harbord was a $25 dinner and we felt that we had a lovely dinner for a very affordable price. The portions were not huge, but sufficient considering that we started off with pita, had our three courses, had water and then tea. We were made to feel special and we had a beautiful evening out.

                                                  We have been very pleased in general with our Summerlicious and Winterlicious dinners. In the past we have eaten at Amaya, Centro, Oliver & Bonacini, Auberge, Herbs, Trappers, La Toh Heen, Autogrill, Bistro Tournesol, Mildred Pierce, Mildred's Temple Kitchen, and the list goes on. For the most part we were pleasantly surprised. Of course, some were better than others.

                                                  We would definitely recommend 93 Harbord. We thoroughly enjoyed it!

                                                  1. Had our first Canoe experience this year with their Winterlicious lunch - realistically, it'll take a very special occasion or a later, more prosperous phase in our lives to get us there for a "real" meal.

                                                    Lunch was worth the $25 for our lovely view, good service, 3 decent courses, and the excitement of being at Canoe. Of course, after coffee, bevvies, tax and tip, that original idea of $25 is a lost cause...

                                                    The real sticking point for us was the lack of any "wow" factor to the food. It was fine. It just wasn't what we'd hoped for from Canoe. We're not judging the "real deal" by the 'licious and hope to return one day... but for now, I'd recommend against the 'licious experience. It's disappointing, and I wish we'd waited to do it right.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: c.cow

                                                      I know what you mean. I did the dinner licious at Canoe some years back and I was very let down. Tiny portions and no wow at all.

                                                    2. I was there for lunch and the food was great..not sure if they were part of winter licious but. never paid attention .. the butter chicken was outstanding.. have to take my wife there for dinner..she will love it...

                                                      Waterfalls Indian Tapas Bar & Grill
                                                      303 Augusta Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2M2, CA

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: elmufdvr

                                                        We had a great meal at Byzantium on Saturday. Service was on it, food was stellar, the dessert was kinda ho hum but everything else was fab. Their Ceasar is unique and always get it when I'm there, not traditonal but very creative and tasty. Pasta dish was stellar as was the Capon dish my SO got.

                                                        Again, I don't get why people read regular reports of inattentive and average catering-style meals at places like Canoe for Winterlicious and keep going and complaining about it. There really are some good places to enjoy a 'licious meal, do some homework and enjoy yourself.

                                                      2. not so good...went to sultans tent expecting to be able to see the show, but they stuck us in the section without a view of the show...weakkk

                                                        1. Had a not so good lunch at Pure Spirit. Portion is small, which I understand as this is a promotional event, but the food didn't taste good at all.

                                                          To start, we had calm chowder and fish cake to start. Calm chowder was fine, but fish cake came in a small plate with 1 piece of fish cake and a few springs. For main, the chicken stew on mashed potato only had a few spoonful of chicken stew on a big bowl of mashed potato. There were also some diced carrot, corn and grean beans just like the green giant frozen ones. The other main was white fish with saffron risotto. The risotto was tasteless and mushy. The fish is alright. The best dish is the creme caramel that I had for dessert. Smooth and soft but still hold a shape. My friend's chocolate tart was not so good according to her. I think the presentation of the desserts can improve a lot if they can put a strawberry on top. They were out of 1 dessert choice on the first day of winterlicious.

                                                          As for service, water is not refilled until we had paid our bills. We were sitting in the middle of the room and my chair was kicked by the servers for so many times. One time even the whole chair was moved. But there was no apology. Also, they tried to clear our table while we were eating the leftover bread after the mains. (We still have room for bread after mains...) Overall, i probably won't go back. If I want seafood, I will go to Starfish and Rodney's by Bay.

                                                          1. My daughter and her husband went to Auberge du Pommier. They say that the place is lovely, everything was fine but that the portions were really small.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: lamaranthe

                                                              Had dinner at the WIldfire Grill on Saturday and was impressed. Portions were generous, staff attentive, and never felt rushed even though, when reserving, we were told we needed to be out of their by 9:30 for our 7:30 reservation. We were there about 15 minutes past 9:30 and no one came looking for us. I had a 8 oz Filet Mignon which was delicious and everyone else at the table was impressed by the quality and quantity of the food.
                                                              As we were leaving, the hostess was very gracious when I told her that we had a great dinner and we were handed a $25 off gift certificate for returning (if we spend at least $100 - easily done)

                                                            2. I had Lai Toh Heen's dinner menu this evening for Winterlicious. I booked an 8 p.m. seating and went with my mother, since it's near her house, though we'd never been before.

                                                              I liked the look of the place, and the staff seemed very eager to please. It was only about half full when we arrived, but by the time we left it was almost empty. The service was attentive (though there was a lot of time between courses) and the atmosphere was comfortable.

                                                              We both ordered the $35 menu, which started with a two-piece dim sum amuse bouche. The steamed chicken dumpling was excellent, full-flavoured and balanced. It arrived almost too hot to eat, but very fresh. The fried tofu block stuffed with crab meat and shrimp was a little less pleasing, but still well cooked, and the tofu was handled well. The crab meat and shrimp was not as apparent as I would've liked, though, and it was mostly a study in umami. Lai Toh Heen is well known for their dim sum, so it's understandable that this was the best course of the night.

                                                              Next, we both went with the jumbo prawn with toasted garlic and hot pepper, and while the prawn was jumbo, the toasted garlic and hot pepper weren't very obvious. It came with tempura asparagus, and overall, though it was cooked perfectly, both the prawn and asparagus were a bit bland, and the seasoning was almost non-existent.

                                                              Following that, we both got the pan-seared foie gras and beef tenderloin in sweet tomato sauce. This one was mostly disappointing. The foie gras may as well have been more tofu, the tenderloin was tough and fatty, and the sweet tomato sauce tasted more like a standard chinese BBQ sauce. The meat was also drenched in the sauce, which was basically all I could taste. Sweet was about the only adjective that the menu described accurately.

                                                              Next they brought the pasta/rice dishes, which I thought were ordered strangely to arrive after the meat. I had the stir-fried Taiwanese vermicelli with shredded chicken and vegetables, and my mother had the seafood fried rice wrapped in lotus leaf. Though I didn't taste her dish and she didn't taste mine, we both came to the consensus that they were bland and greasy. The vermicelli was nicely cooked, but pointless. The shredded chicken was lily-white and again, also pointless. From the distance across the table, my mother's rice looked pasty. Neither of us finished.

                                                              The dessert was a sampler of small pieces: jasmine tea jelly, a sesame ball with ginger and lotus paste, and an almond cookie. The cookie was tasty but forgettable, while the jasmine tea jelly had a strong flavour -- though simple, it was not too sweet and not too bitter. The sesame ball's ginger was subtle but delicious, and because of that, it stood out from most sesame balls.

                                                              The meal took about 90 minutes, and while the portions were small, there were 5 plates and I felt full but not entirely satisfied by the end. When we left, at least, I was thankful I was in good company.

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: stet

                                                                Why is it that the so claimed $35 dinner ALWAYS ends up costing almost double??

                                                                We went to Bloom the other night with a group of friends before a concert at The Old Mill. Our dinner was quite nice actually. Considering it was winterlicious and all, the place was only half full which was fine for us, probably not so for them. Anyways we had a choice of 3 items to pick from each course. I opted for the red pepper soup (just okay) and sea bass which was very nice. Perfectly cooked and seasoned. Desert was cinnimin fritters which we really nice as well. Served with a very small amount of banana sauce. SO had the cornish hen, and calamari appetizer - both very enjoyable.

                                                                Our waiter was a bit odd but that's okay too! Rather than asking 'is everything okay" he chose "is everything fantastic"? Whatever, I'm nitpicking here. He just bugged me. A little too eager, if you get my drift.

                                                                Between 6 of us, we also had a reasonable bottle of wine, and one glass of wine ($12) and 3 coffees. All in all, it came to $125 per couple which is okay but a far cry from the initial $35. This must be the same with most others, right?
                                                                I can't see how you can get away with much less. I guess things add up but for us, we've never seen the advantage of Winterlicious.

                                                                And another thing, we actually we're hoping to have the beef tenderloin that someone else was raving about on this board recently but we could not order anything off the menu other than what was presented under the program. That sucked!! We only booked there because it was convienent for us, not for Winterlicious.

                                                                I just don't see what the bargain is and like so many others have commented, it's much more enjoyable to go when things are sane and you can select what you want to order.

                                                                1. re: millygirl

                                                                  We also went to Bloom last week, just two of us. Wait staff was definitely enthusiastic - it wasn't off-putting to us, just odd. Kept us guessing as to what was going to happen next. When I sat down there was only one set of cutlery on the table, we ordered drinks then the bread arrived, at which point I asked for a second set for myself. The waiter seemed genuinely surprised that there was only one set on the table. You'd think someone would notice that before bringing us anything to eat. I think they were simply overwhelmed and not paying attention to details. Like seating two people at a table with only one set of cutlery/plates.

                                                                  As for the food - I had the Calamari Salad and Mediterranean Bass, my friend had the Spinach Salad and Cornish Hen. We both had the Dark Chocolate Tart for dessert.

                                                                  Calamari salad was generous and very tasty.
                                                                  The Bass and Cornish Hen - I'd say that both were very good - my Bass was well seasoned with a wonderful combination of flavours, the fingerling potatoes were hit and miss. The portion for the Hen was quite large but very well prepared - Tender and flavourful. It took my friend significantly longer to finish her dinner due to it's size, than I did to finish mine. The wait staff actually came by to clear our plates since they saw mine empty - but her's was still half full of hen, cutlery in her hand.

                                                                  The chocolate tart was good. Not great. Perhaps whatever they did to make it vegan took away the "great"? :)

                                                                  Our total was $125 all-in for the two of us = dinner, plus 2 beers, 1 glass wine and 1 coke.

                                                                  The restaurant was packed. As the above poster mentioned - I think it would be much more enjoyable when it was less busy and the wait staff was not so obviously trying to please in an over-the-top kinda way.

                                                                  1. re: millygirl


                                                                    Your post really puts Winterlicious in perspective when the other night I ate at Terroni and had a salad, wild boar pasta, and dessert along with the following alcohol: an aperitif, a glass of bubbly, a shared bottle of lovely Nebbiolo (shared between 2 people), and a glass of Vin Santo for $125 including tax and 20% tip.

                                                                    And no Licious crowds!! :)

                                                                2. Skipped the last 2 years of 'licious events due to me being out of Toronto. Now that I'm back, I'm skipping in general due to restaurants having difficulty bringing their A-game. I'll agree that there are some gems in the listings, and it's because of those gems that I've gone outside of 'licious events. Of course I was young and naive during the early years of 'licious, and now know better :) Plus, with prices going up, I might as well go at regular times and order something better.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: MeXx

                                                                    I'd like to give Lolo high marks for delivering regular portions of very good food and graceful service on an extremely busy night. Three of us arrived for our 6:30 reservation lsat night and only about 4 other tables were taken so far. We were under no pressure to order quickly and had plenty of time to peruse the many choices on the menu. There were at least 7 options for mains. Two of us enjoyed the beef carpacio app, and the roasted beet/goat cheese salad was also very good. Both dishes were nicely plated. For mains we had the braised lamb shank au jus, served atop creamy mashed potatoes and veg, and the sauteed tilapia atop roasted potatoes and veg. We all cleaned our plates. Desserts were excellent as well:I found the lemon tarte appropriately tangy; my pals polished off their (huge) apple strudel a la mode and creme brulee. By 7 pm we noticed the place was packed. When our server brought our bill she also offered to top up our coffee and let us take our time paying and finishing our second coffee. I should mention that I think they were only serving off the WL menu but everyone seemed quite happy to order off of it. I would definitely go back based on this experience.

                                                                  2. Its too risky. I went a lot when it started and in general had good experience at the O&B group....Auberge Du Pommier, Jump etc. The misses were Annona. They served us uncooked rice...it was very crunchy and when we complained we got the worst attitude from the servers. We had the absolute worst experience at Thuet. The portions were miniscule and bland. The pork was rancid and the dessert was a bland pathetic attempt at panna cotta.

                                                                    Had decent experiences at Bistro Tournesol, Corner House, Indian RIce Factory, Bymark, Coco Lezzone.

                                                                    The negative experiences in the last few years have caused us to avoid Winterlicious. Its difficult to find time to go out for dinner with young kids so we tend to eat out less, but go to fantastic mid-range priced places and avoid fine dining.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: jnine

                                                                      The O&B group is generally a safe bet during 'licious events. I must make my way to Biff's one day, regardless if it's during 'licious or not.

                                                                      1. re: MeXx

                                                                        If we were to go this year, it would prob be Biff's. The menu looks like it would be executed well. Nice to read the positive reviews....i can almost taste the meal.

                                                                    2. I did one Winterlicious lunch this year - at Biff's. As expected, Biff's did it up right - a fantastic bean soup, delicious smoked ham/spinach/ gruyere crepe with salad and a perfectly sized chocolate torte with caramel and salt. A perfect amount of food - delicious and well put together. I asked our waiter if this was on the regular menu - sadly it isn't because we all agreed it was one of the better lunches we had had in a while. and this from a $15 lunch. Some restaurants actually care about how they present themselves to their customers - and biff's is one of them.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: MeMeMe

                                                                        Now that sounds like a bargain, even at $25. Good for them at Biff's and thanks for the info MeMeMe. Your lunch sounds delightful, and is putting my toast and cheese to shame.

                                                                      2. I think we might be losing sight of the original intent behind Winterlicious. Instead of using it as an opportunity to try out new places, in some cases restaurants that normally aren't within the budget or comfort zone, it's become a cynical profit grab by some restaurants, and a massive turn off for the regular patrons.

                                                                        The idea behind it is, to me, to give people a wider selection. Not everyone is a Chowhound afficionado, not everyone can debate the merits of Berkshire pork, and not everyone has a large dining budget. So, when a chance comes up to try out a restaurant that is, in the minds of the consumer, normally somewhat expensive, the seize it. Sure, they are not always the most sophisiticated of diners, and the staff might resent their lack of dining finesse, but they're out there, they're trying and in a lot of cases, they're enjoying their experience. Unfortunately service does suffer in some places, either due to a lack of interest in the crowds coming in (who probably won't be back till the next 'licious), or a desire to wring every last penny out of them. But that doesn't mean the whole program is a sham, it's just badly run and has so little oversight that anyone can run their own pseudo Winterlicious promotion and piggyback on the event.

                                                                        If anything, the city needs to step in and partner better with the industry to standardize the program, to prevent abuses like hidden costs, miniscule portions and the like. And perhaps we need to call the establishments on it when they try to scam us. Email them, call them, let them know that we're here, we're hungry and we're not going away.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: ibraineater

                                                                            What was the reason the licious festivals started anyway? Many of the attendees may not be the most sophisticated, but they are the most frugal, they know not to order beverages other than tap water and are pretty good at not tipping but demanding the highest level of service and having their water glasses refilled many times throughout the meal.

                                                                            The Star did a great report on the dark side of the licious festivals last year and the concerns i've outlined above were among the servers beefs. the customers beefs are well listed on chowhound, small portions, substandard service, too busy, substandard food...the list goes on.

                                                                            i was in a restaurant last weekend and a lady actually had the nerve to complain that the restaurant was too loud due to the high volume of people there and expected the waiter to actually do something about it.

                                                                          2. Too bad about Tutti Matti experience last year...we were there last night and had a fabulous meal. I ordered off the winterlicious menu and my husband off the regular.
                                                                            They have taken fish off their winterlicious menu this year and perhaps fine tuned the menu.
                                                                            The pannacotta tart for dessert was awesome.
                                                                            I think you should try it again!
                                                                            We have always had positive experiences with Winterlicious...obviously some better than

                                                                            1. I went to beerbistro as I usually do every year.

                                                                              No complaints - not rushed, attentive and fun but not intrusive service, and really good food.

                                                                              Had the squash soup, the steak and the brownie ice cream for $25. My friends tried the other appetizers - the smoked salmon and salad, both were reportedly tasty. One friend also had the steak and the other had the gnocchi which was pretty tasty when I tried it.

                                                                              Had a bunch of beers, good conversation - was there for about 5 hours.

                                                                              I don't really experiment with winterlicious - I've found my own spot and I go every year and have never had a bad experience.

                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                              1. re: radiopolitic

                                                                                Went to the BeerBistro for lunch today with 3 other girls. I got the mussels and they were unexpectedly a large portion. Even with the help from others, we could not finish it.

                                                                                We also got a basket of frites, which were delicious right when they got to our table.

                                                                                The service was nice - our servers were attentive and replaced utensils and plates when needed. Not rushed at all.

                                                                                A great 15$ Winterlicious lunch option.

                                                                                1. re: ayl

                                                                                  That's what Le Paradis charges every day for a main course portion of mussels including a side order of frites.


                                                                                  1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                                                                                    Sure, but beerbistro is also offering a starter and a dessert. It's a good deal at a good place - wish there were more like it come 'licious time.

                                                                              2. I've had quite good 'licious experiences the times I've gone, but I'm really picky about which places I'll try. I went to Boulevard Cafe with some friends on Friday and enjoyed it. We had to wait a little while for a table, but I think we were a bit early for our reservation. Service was fine and all the food came out quickly. Group consensus was that the humita appetizer was the standout dish for the evening (we tried the shrimp appetizer, ceviche, seafood stew, filet entree and chicken entree). Portion sizes were very reasonable, they brought us an extra basket of bread when requested and everyone was stuffed by the end of the meal. We liked it enough that everyone agreed it would be nice to return in the summer when the patio opens up.

                                                                                1. Went to North 44 last night and was very impressed. The Winterlicious portions were a little on the small side, but I think I'd rather small portions of well-cooked food than large portions of poorly made catering fare.

                                                                                  1. I went to Myth for the $25 dinner and it didn't seem like a rip-off. The food was decent, portions were fine and we left full. The lamb chops were nice, but could've used more char., the pastichios (sp?) were plentiful, and the chicken breast was tender and juicy which can be hard to pull off.