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Winterlicious 2012 menus are out - anything CH worthy?

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Saw the list of restaurants participating in this year's Winterlicious. Some of the usual restaurants and some new ones... anything looks appetizing or worthy of trying to this Chowhound group?


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  1. I might use it as a chance to try out Scarpetta as I see they are featured this year and they have their signature dishes on the menu. Polenta for starter and spaghetti for main . I just realized I missed out on a $50 prix fix that ended Oct 6th there that included additional food and wine pairing. Oh well!

    Looks like some new spots on this round of 'licious though. I don't think I did any last summer but usually I would do 2 or 3. I am sure there will be a lot of debate about whether or not it is worth it like there always is when the 'licious topic comes up but it would be nice to focus on finding the "needles" in the haystack so to speak. Good spots that are solid bets for you dining dollars.

    11 Replies
    1. re: ylsf

      FYI, Scarpetta signature Sundays offers the same menu I think. I remember that the Sunday menu has the polenta and spaghetti and is $35. So if that's what you're interested in trying, you might be better off going on a Sunday instead of during Winterlicious. (no matter when you go, it's definitely worth going just for the polenta - so good!)

      1. re: ggom1

        Oh great, thanks for the heads up on that. Yeah, will likely do a normal Sunday instead then!

      2. re: ylsf

        I went to Scarpetta with a group of 6 last night. I had the polenta, spaghetti and coconut panna cotta - all were very good. The only thing that irked me was an 18% gratuity included that we only found out about at the end.

        1. re: danniii

          why is that a problem? Almost all places charge 15 to 20 percent for a larger group. Was your service bad?

          1. re: JennaBean

            Service was adequate. I'm just not used to mandatory gratuity for less than 8 people.

            1. re: danniii

              I think at may places it is six people or more. Marben, Beast, Le Select, Cava, just to name a few. If you are concerned with such a thing you should always check in advance. In a group of six or more I think you should expect autograt unless otherwise stated.

              1. re: danniii

                We had an enjoyable lunch at Frank in the AGO today. There were 3 of us and a 15% gratuity is added to ALL bills.

                1. re: T Long

                  Must be a winterlicious thing - I go to Frank frequently and have never seen an "autograt". Probably to ensure that the servers don't get stiffed by what may be perceived as a ... More frugal clientele.

                  1. re: justxpete

                    If so, that's a terrible thing to do imo. Maybe they just started a new policy because of their cheap regulars...

                      1. re: justxpete

                        Pan on the Danforth has been adding 15% gratuity to the bill,

        2. its funny...
          i just took a look at Bymark's dinner and wondered: "for $4 more, is there any difference in taste or value between that and Ruby Watchco?"

          1. I liked past 'licious meals at Mistura, and have found their 'licious meals to be one of the better values, as the top level of 'licious dinners go.

            265 Davenport Rd, Toronto, ON M5R1J9, CA

            2 Replies
            1. re: prima

              Totally agree with the Mistura rec. It's my go-to 'licious spot. The pasta is always great and they really know how to take care of their customers.

              1. re: Hondapendragon

                Went to Mistura last night for Winterlicious and was not disappointed. Delicious and very inspired food (squid ink braised calamari was a bit daunting to look at but was so tender and flavourful) as well as attentive service. Definitely the best 'licious we had this year.
                Also made it to Peter Pan for lunch... Sweet pea risotto was surprisingly tasty. They were pretty busy so service was a bit lacking.
                Cafe la Gaffe on Baldwin for dinner was also very busy but my app of beef carpaccio and main of chicken breast were both good, not fantastic. 2 others had the steak and were very disappointed with it.
                We also made it to Zucca Trattoria and were very pleased with it - Started w sausage and chestnut patties with polenta and the ceviche - both very good. Then had the lamb and artichoke parpadelle and the steak. Parpadelle was obviously made in house, very nice flavour and the steak was perfectly cooked with.... wait for it.... duck fat roasted potatoes. SO GOOD.

            2. Any of these for lunch: Biff's, Bymark, Jump, Canoe.

              1. Has anyone made some reservations or know of some good menus?

                2 Replies
                1. re: .alias

                  Senses menu looks really good this year

                  1. re: .alias

                    Was at Ouzeri On the Danforth this evening for Winterlicious. I was impressed with the size of portions and the attentive service. Mind you it wasn't that busy. The vegetarian mousaka was very flavourful. For starters we each had Mezes which consists of taramosalata, humus, melitzanosalata served with grilled pita. The better half had the souvlaki and it was pretty much what you would expect. Desert was a coin toss but I selected the Loukomades and was not disappointed. I have heard that Winterlicious portions could be a little cut back at some places however we were both stuffed. Our server put the Winterlicious menu right out and encouraged us to order from it. All in all, good meal and excellent value. $25pp

                  2. The Ouzeri's $15 lunch looks like a great deal, including loukamades as an option for dessert. http://wx.toronto.ca/inter/se/restaur...

                    Volos' $20 lunch also looks good: http://wx.toronto.ca/inter/se/restaur...

                    yyuen, lots of the menus look appetizing, maybe more appetizing to me than usual since I'm on a diet. My main issues with Winterlicious are that some restaurants deliver sub-par service to customers who order off the WInterlicous menu, maybe because some of their servers anticipate lower tips from the Winterlicious customers, and a few restaurants, in order to watch their bottom line (which is understandable), serve ridiculously small portions, dishes made of lesser ingredients (by lesser I mean less expensive, not less fresh), or dishes that don't reflect the usual skill set of the kitchen (lesser presentation, and sometimes not as carefully prepared as a fully-priced dish). At some restaurants, Winterlicious basically equals a free dessert. Which is a perk to some, but 600 unnecessary calories to others.

                    500A Danforth Avenue, Toronto, ON M4K 1P6, CA

                    Estiatorio VOLOS
                    133 Richmond Street West, Toronto, ON M5H 2L3, CA

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: prima

                      Prima, I agree with you re: service and portion size. It was the reason why I started this thread - for the price of Winterlicious nowadays when taking the service and sizes into consideration, are any of the restaurants on the list still worthy of trying?

                      My assumption is that at the $45 mark, I can share an appetizer, order an entree at the more popular restaurants on the list, skip dessert, and probably have better service and possibly a larger portion.

                    2. We have a $400 Oliver & Bonacini gift card. So, we are going to Canoe and Auberge for dinners. We also have a $100 Cadillac Fairview gift card, so we are going to Fabbrica and Linda's, both of which are in the Don Mills Centre, and are part of Cadillac Fairview. We thought it was a great way to make use of our gift cards! I have in the past been to Canoe during Winter/Summerlicious for lunch and thought it was "special". Auberge is a restaurant we never miss during a Winter/Summerlicious. We have always been treated with respect and feel that the staff go out of their way to be gracious. Haven't been to either Fabbrica or Linda's and are looking forward to them.

                      1. Lunch at Chiado, Globe, Pangaea

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Dean Tudor

                          Going to Windsor Arms this Sunday. Will let you know how it turns out. I usually tweet thoughts from @torontofoodie and then post here in CH. Have not seen a lot of reviews of Windsor Arms. Anyone here been lately?

                        2. Our party of 4 had the $15 Winterlicious lunch at Trio Restaurant, Novotel North York, yesterday. I've eaten here several times have always been happy with my meal. Started with a warm lentil/veg salad served over rocket greens, nice generous portion, colour not great (sorty of grey-ish) but it was very tasty. Main was chicken pot pie, big chunks of chicken, and a phyllo-like crust. Again, a huge portion that could have easily been halved in size. Dessert was a stewed fruit with a teeny-tiny dab of yogourt. Tasty but nothing special and the portion size was very small. The sticky toffee pudding would have been a better choice. Service, as always, was attentive. They were quite busy for a Monday lunch. The dining room itself is bright, modern, and nicely decorated. Total bill, incl. tip and tax for the 4 of us was $100 incl. our coffee, one mixed cocktail and a pop. Will try to get back for the $25 dinner.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: barneyvernon

                            Our party of 6 also enjoyed our Winterlicious lunches at Trio this past weekend. However I didn't think the delicious pot pie was too big a portion!

                          2. I would say lunches at Quince, Chiado, Pangaea, Frank AGO, Biffs, Tabule, Globe. And Bymark of course since they brought the famed burger (plus other good choices) back for their $25 lunch. Though the toppings are not quite the same as in days of yore.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Chester Eleganté

                              We were happy with the dinner at Scarpetta. The bread basket was yummy. Lots of variety. And we got to try their signature dishes such as the polenta, spaghetti with tomato and basil, and the guava panna cotta.
                              No boring stuff like salads, chicken or salmon. So pretty good value. And the service was great (and we do not drink alcohol). Have not been to licious in a very long time. But this was a good experience. I think licious is still good value for those who want to 'try' out restaurants. Just need to peruse menus before hand and book using Amex.

                              1. re: Chester Eleganté

                                For the record, I ate at Frank last night (dinner). Disappointed. Food was mediocre & lukewarm and service was slow (but very congenial). I do recommend the jerusalem artichoke salad app - yummy.

                                Details: A good amount of food for $35. But - although I love spice & I really love cardamom, the kitchen went way overboard with cardamom in the apple turnover and the cider cocktail. The pork tenderloin was a little tough & overcooked, with uninspired root vegetables - could have done as well at home. The fries (with steak frites) were way oversalted. Skirt steak should probably be cut differently (strips maybe, rather than one slab) when cooked, to minimize toughness. Malted chocolate pudding had no malt flavour, and unappealing dry crust.

                              2. I had a Winterlicious dinner at Corner House last night - group of 3, my first time there. The food was lovely and I was very impressed with the restaurant atmosphere (it's not too cramped, and I liked the homey feeling) and our service. They had a very full house and it's a very small place, so it's a place you want to dine earlier in the evening - we were the only ones waiting for our table at 6:45 (wait was just 2-3 minutes), but when we left 90 minutes later there were people lined up in the barely-there front entrance as well as in the upstairs hallway.

                                As for the menu, it was nicely varied and the food was really nice. Between the 3 of us, we had salads (arugula or pear) for starts, black cod (tasty and buttery-soft), Angus striploin (perfect texture, nice flavour, perfectly prepared), and venison stew (deep flavour, not overly gamey) for mains, and flour-less chocolate torte or sticky toffee pudding for desert (the toffee pudding was about the best dessert I've ever had). Portions were actually the perfect size - the portion of stew looked small when I got it, but was perfectly satisfying once I had eaten it - my dining companions said the same.

                                Really nice meal, really bad timing with respect to reservations. They have an early-evening prix fix menu (5:30p-6:30p) during the rest of the year, and I'll probably take advantage of that in the future.

                                1. I went to Luma with a friend on Thursday... we had to cancel our Saturday reservation, and the only time we could get it was at 5:30! Despite the fact that we are "those" Winterlicious customers.. (I had tap water and she had a coke), and that we had been warned we could only have the table for 1.5 hrs... we had a wonderful experience. The servers were unfailingly pleasant and attentive, and the meal was fabulous. The winter root salad and chocolate bread and butter pudding in particular were amazing.
                                  I will definitely be going back on a non-Winterlicious evening...

                                  1. Going to Canoe on Sunday night (guess they are doing special seatings for Sunday night during 'licious). Anyone been this year?

                                    I went to Edward Levesque Kitchen near the start of winterlicious this year and it was good except for the fries were very oversalted.

                                    1. Went to Didier last night and had a great time. We brought our own 20-year-old Burgundy and were given Riedel glasware to use. They didn't decant it, but it didn't really need it. The appetizer - oeufs en cocotte with minced lamb and lamb jus - was good, but not outstanding. The beef tartare that I had and the cassoulet that my wife had were both very good, and the desert - a warm chocolate cake with liquid centre was good. What really impressed us, though was the service - attentive and friendly without being obsequious, and the ambience, which was relatively quiet compared to Zucca and Bistro 990 and pretty (lots of wood and fairly private) . We'll definitely go back.

                                      This Winterlicious we've also been to:

                                      Bymark was a nice space. We had a great appetizer (duck confit poutine), so-so mains (striploin and slow-braised short rib, which was not as tender as expected, and cornish hen and chorizo) and pretty good deserts (gingerbread cake and apple crostata). We were told we had to be out in 2 hours, but we had plenty of time without feeling rushed.

                                      Zucca Tratorria was mixed. We brought our own 30-year-old Barolo and had outstanding service from the waiter, who double-decanted it for us to get rid of the sediment, gave us good Riedel glassware and was constantly coming back to top up our glasses to the appropriate [low] level. The appetizer (potato and chestnut patty, roasted shallots and grilled polenta) was very good. My main course was disappointing - very overcooked, almost mushy pappardelle pasta with a reasonably good lamb and artichoke stew - which was tasty but a little scanty. My wife's main - roasted guinea hen - was better, but not as good as the appetizer. My wife's dessert - lemon curd, semolina and ricotta torta - was pretty good. Mine - warm rice & chestnut pudding with blood orange caramel sauce - was reasonably good. The restaurant was very noisy, though. I'll probably try it again after Winterlicious, but on a night when they're not likely to be so busy (and loud).

                                      Bistro 990 was mixed. We made the mistake of parking next door ($15 flat rate for under 2 hours!). The restaurant was fairly loud. We had the parsnip soup appetizer which was uninspiring. The mains - lamb shanks with barley risotto - were reasonably good, although I think I make a better one at home. Desserts - chocolate mousse torte, and crème brûlée - were quite good. We found out the next day the Bistro 990 is closing.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Ted Richards

                                        Just got home from Prime Steakhouse at Windsor Arms. Discovered a great Ripasso while I was there as well. A 2007 Palazzo Maffei, very smooth. Sadly, at the end of the meal, I wasn't paying attention and wound up wearing some of it.
                                        Bread arrived shortly after we were seated.
                                        We had the Wild Mushroom Soup with Truffle Oil Croutons and Caesar Salad and they were very tasty and ample portions.
                                        For mains we both selected the 10 oz Char Grilled New York Striploin (21 Day Dry Aged)
                                        Cremini Mushroom and Herb Pomme Puree. The steak was cooked to perfection for me, medium rare and the Mrs. ordered it Med-Well and felt it could have been done a little more at first glance howeve,r she was very happy with the overall flavour and tenderness once she started eating it. Very pleased.
                                        Desserts were Chocolate Peanut Butter Bombe - Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse, Chocolate Glaze and Caramelized Peanuts and also the Pumpkin Crème Brulee respectively. Very decadent on both counts and yet not overly sweet, which is fine for my taste. George was our server and he was very attentive. In all, this was a very positive Winterlicious experience for us, outside of the wine incident lol. This was a "HIT". The Manager came over and engaged us and asked us about our dinner and the wine experience. Again, not for a second did we feel second class because we opted for the Winterlicious menu items. The manager even offered me soda to help with the wine spill that got on my tie. Will definitely be back. The Mrs will be going for Tea in the near future as well.

                                      2. I managed 2 winterlicious dinners this year and I was actually impressed. I have mixed feelings about this event - it's a great chance to try new places, and of course it's nice to save some cash, but whereas some places use it as a chance to showcase the chef's best and gain new customers.... others give substandard food & service and rush you through like cattle. Anyway, 1st pick this year was Annona at the Park Hyatt. I don't usually like dining in hotels, but this is actually a charming room, quiet and with ambience (plus a nice view of Yorkville). Service was excellent, especially given that I was a woman dining alone (too many restaurants will give the solo woman diner a tiny table near the bathroom and ignore her all night, apparently because "women don't tip well"). Service was very friendly and the sommelier even came over to chat about his wine selections, although it was obvious I wasn't going to order a whole bottle on this visit. Appetizer was small but tasty guinea-hen leg, main was superb halibut on a creamy barley "risotto", dessert was choice of two mini-sized selections - I had the molten chocolate cake (standard) and the bread pudding (superlative). Not rushed, all very pleasant and has inspired me to return with a friend, order a bottle of wine and do the thing up right. Second experience was at Luma (TIFF), also good. Dining with a friend; good/attentive service, place was a little busy/noisy but not insane. Ambiance definitely more "sceney" but not to the extreme. Food was very good, interesting pureed beet soup to start, main was chicken breast with chorizo - a bit unusual but it worked. Dessert was another bread pudding, very good (not quite up to Annona's). Enjoyed it, would go again but not rushing back. Congrats to both restaurants who played winterlicious well.

                                        1. I realize that Winterlicious 2012 has come and gone but I'm hoping my thoughts on Red's Bistro will help someone out next year.

                                          I went for a $20 lunch at Red's Bistro with a couple of coworkers on the last day of Winterlicious and thought that it was a great experience overall. Service was a bit sloppy (e.g. they had dinner menus out instead of lunch) and our server was a bit absent-minded but no major gaffes.

                                          In terms of the food, we all started with the spinach salad with smoked duck and a generous sprinkling of toasted pine nuts. Tasty combo - we all cleaned our plates. Then, we had a main course of seared scallops and pumpkin risotto, which was garnished with an apple chutney and toasted pumpkin seeds. This was an inspired combination and I may try to replicate it at home! Loved how the acidity of the apple chutney cut through the richness and sweetness of the pumpkin risotto. Solid value for a main dish.

                                          Lastly, I had the panna cotta tasting which was a great way to end the meal. Three shot glasses were filled with three types of panna cotta - strawberry, lemon and chocolate hazelnut. Texture was smooth and creamy and the flavours were true to their descriptions.

                                          I've had lunch at Red's Bistro outside of Winterlicious and while the portion sizes are slightly smaller (e.g. instead of three massive scallops, the Winterlicious dish had maybe 1.5 of those massive scallops sliced in half horizontally), the value is still there. And the food's yummy.