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Winterlicious Menus are up: Jan 25 - Feb 7, 2013...

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  1. I might try
    Didier http://wx.toronto.ca/inter/se/restaur...,
    Coppi http://wx.toronto.ca/inter/se/restaur... ,
    Via Norte http://wx.toronto.ca/inter/se/restaur... or
    Lisbon by Night http://wx.toronto.ca/inter/se/restaur...

    Pan's $25 dinner menu looks like a good deal. http://wx.toronto.ca/inter/se/restaur...

    For sticky toffee pudding lovers, looks like quite a few places are offering it as a dessert (C5, Starfish, Crush Wine Bar, Via Norte, I'm sure there's others)

    10 Replies
    1. re: prima

      I'm not a fan of desserts, so I usually try those places with cheese as an option, such as Quince or Pangaea or Biff's. Jump looked good, so did Chiado. Splendido (new this time) looked ordinary, no pizazz. So did La Societe.

      1. re: Dean Tudor

        Habits Gastropub offers a selection of Monforte cheese as an option on their $25 dinner menu. http://wx.toronto.ca/inter/se/restaur...

        The Drake also offers a selection of Monforte cheese as an option with their $20 lunch or $35 dinner: http://wx.toronto.ca/inter/se/restaur...

        The Drake's lunch menu looks good to me, esp. the Perth Pork Tacos and the Drake Black Forest. So happy to see a contemporary take on Black Forest. And so tired of boring old Creme Brulee. ;-)

        1. re: prima

          Thanks for pointing out more cheese options; I did not look at those menus for Habits or the Drake.

      2. re: prima

        not to be "that guy" but I've never had a satisfying winterlicious meal.

        1. re: EverymanJack

          I haven't done Winterlicious for a long time, but I was very happy with the gnocchi at Noce the last time I did Winterlicious. Hopefully this thread will help sort out the places offering the most interesting meals and the best deals.

          1. re: EverymanJack

            I too have found the crowds, sub-par or rushed service, smaller portions, food not necessarily always prepared as well as it might have been otherwise, etc just not worth saving a few dollars. But, that's just me. Your mileage may vary. Having said that I might pop in for a lunch here and there to someplace I have never been just to get a sense of the place but only if it's very convenient. Never a dinner.

            1. re: Flexitarian

              The only places I go for dinner are those that have no lunch, such as 93 Harbord. And then I go at 5:30 or 6, out by 7 or 7:30. I avoid crowds, just try for the food.

              I try to stick with the cheese option for dessert because I have low tolerance for sweets. Basically, Winerlicious and other prix fixe meals are two courses with a free dessert thrown in. Any money they make is in the beverages (water, coffee, tea, booze).

            2. re: EverymanJack

              I have to agree. I find service to be not as good during winterlicious and do my best to avoid the restaurants doing winterlicious during this time. I've been to a few restaurants during this and have never been satisfied. The best was a French restaurant in Yorkville that has since closed. Too bad. It's also interesting that they almost never offer their regular menu items, so I feel I'm not getting a true sense of the restaurant. I would look for good deals in the city - check with the hounds! Apparently Splendido has a great prix fixe lunch menu in December. For a cheaper offer, Mengrai $16 lunch special.

            3. re: prima

              I've done Didier and Coppi in years past, and they were both great meals.

              1. re: graydyn

                thanks for letting me know. :-)

            4. Avoid licious at Splendido. They were mediocre in every possible way this evening. Such a disappointment. Not fine dining. Seriously, if you have a Splendido licious reso, cancel it.

              19 Replies
              1. re: Food Tourist

                Too bad about your recent experience. Could you elaborate a bit on specifics of what irked you so much. Have you been to Spendido during regular times?

                1. re: T Long

                  Basic service - had to ask for cocktail menu and the server didn't offer any suggestions, like "your main course is tiny, so I recommend you order one or more of the sides listed!" (that would have been ideal advice). The duck main is overly salty. The porchetta appetizer was pretty decent as was the chocolate chile dessert (the sorbet with that dessert is incredible). Every other dish was tiny or mediocre in taste and quantity. The cheese plate comes with an interesting meringue but also a stick of celery. They didn't rush us out, which was nice, and they did comp 3 glasses of wine after accidentally charging us for 3 bottles and valet parking, none of which we had. I haven't been to Splendido for a couple of years, but yes, I've been there in the past for full menu and champagne cart and all the "extras". Server never checked on us during main course so we didn't have the chance to say "too salty, too small, bring us sides". Bottom line is it felt like the typical mediocre Winterlicious that I normally avoid like the plague - and $45 was taking advantage of us.

                  1. re: Food Tourist

                    wow.. and to think that I was really disappointed that we didn't get into Splendido! Went to Loire instead, which was only $35, and had a truly wonderful meal (the type where you try very hard not to lick the plate, since you're in public). In fact, my only complaint about the meal was that it was so loud in there my dining companion and I could barely hear each other speak! I will definitely be going back to Loire..

                    1. re: rstuart

                      Glad to hear Loire was a good meal. I've had both Loire and Tati on my list for a while. I'll have to try to make it to Loire this year.

                      I think it's best to stick to the less-raved-about restaurants during Winterlicious. The whole event was supposed to be used to draw people into restaurants during a slow month. I don't understand why Splendido would even bother with Winterlicious, since they already draw plenty of business in January and yearround. At least a few of their servers sound like they're adjusting the service level in accordance with the bill.

                      While I've generally been lucky with service during Winterlicious in the past, the service issues I've had, have been at well-regarded, relatively hyped-up restaurants that wouldn't have trouble getting reservations in Jan with or without Winterlicious.

                      While I understand some servers expect Winterlicious customers to be on the cheap side when it comes to tips, I think some servers at some of the more hyped-up restaurants are used to getting bigger tips from bigger bills, and just don't feel like providing the same level of service to someone who is paying $45 plus tip and tax for a 3 course prix fixe dinner. The true gems are the restaurants with servers who deliver good service to any customer, regardless of whether the customer orders a Winterlicious meal or off the regular menu, and regardless of whether someone orders wine or tap water. Some Winterlicious customers might be using Winterlicious as a go-see, or maybe for a special occasion taking place during Winterlicious, and might tip better than some disillusioned servers might expect. ;-)

                      1. re: prima

                        "The true gems are the restaurants with servers who deliver good service to any customer, regardless of whether the customer orders a Winterlicious meal or off the regular menu" - totally agree. I would think less of a place if I experienced different level of service between regular and 'licious. I have to say though that I've not had any service degradation because of 'licious as yet. I guess I must just be lucky...or I choose my restaurants better;)

                        1. re: T Long

                          I have had excellent service in the past at Canoe and Bymark during Summer/Winterlicious.. despite the fact that those servers no doubt make much less than usual those times of year!

                        2. re: prima

                          On Splendido's website there is still a link to an article from back in 2006 about 'licious events. I know it was under the previous owner but maybe they should re-consider what they said back then :

                          ''A lot of people call us to ask if we are part of Winterlicious and when we say we're not they say, 'Thank God,' '' says Yannick Bigourdan, co-owner of the equally spiffy Splendido, which, rather than go with the flow and try and do the nearly impossible and sell a top-end meal at $35, opts out altogether. Which makes the place something of an oasis for those rare flush locals who actually enjoy spending what they can afford more than hunting down a bargain.

                          http://splendido.ca/press/25/

                          If you can't execute winterlicious well, then, don't hurt your reputation and try to do a mediocre version of it.

                          BTW, the "confit of duck leg" on the menu was changed at the restaurant. It was served .... in a square and then fried all around. I don't know the technical term of it, but, it was not on the bone but pulled from the leg which made it dry too. Just some garnishes, no sides. Salt was definitely the overwhelming flavour. Unfortunate because I normally love duck confit.

                            1. re: szw

                              Is it still a terrine if it is fried all around? Didn't have the texture of a typical "terrine" that I have had. It was not soft like a terrine but dried out.

                            2. re: ylsf

                              Agree the confit was very salty and kind of dry... not very "fine dining" but I found the crunch satisfying.

                              The porchetta was excellent though and I loved the mustard/herb sauce it sat in.

                              Overall I thought the food was best here over Canoe and Chiado.

                              I would probably go again at full sticker.

                          1. re: rstuart

                            Re: Loire -- Rstuart, bring your ear plugs with you next time!!! ...

                            1. re: rstuart

                              Glad you enjoyed Loire - Brendan and the staff there really try hard to make the experience the best it can be. Though their food isn't the best in town, and they always seem to be offering some discount or group buying coupon, they seem to be surviving well. What did you eat?

                              1. re: Food Tourist

                                I had the arugula and radicchio salad, the pearl barley risotto with goat cheese sauce ( with mini bok choy instead of cabbage... v good!), and the warm banana bread pudding with coconut ice cream. My dining companion had the soup and beef bourguignon.

                                1. re: rstuart

                                  rstuart, I went to Loire for lunch today. Fab food, quiet as a church, half full. The salad and the terrine were great, as was the skate and the beef cheeks. Pastry tough under the lemon but the nougat glace was superb. The menu itself seemed better than the regular lunch, which had apps at $9, mains at $18 or so.

                                  1. re: Dean Tudor

                                    My friend also had the beef cheeks and loved it. Glad I didn't get the lemon tart after all!

                            2. re: Food Tourist

                              We went to Splendido last night -- had never been there before. We were a bit concerned after reading your post. But, we were very pleasantly surprised. We found the staff extremely attentive, but not pushy. We were asked four times during our meal by three different servers if we were satisfied and if everything was to our liking. My husband had the soup and I had the porchetta. Both were good. The bread was delicious. We shared the salmon and the duck and were happy with both. Neither of us like salt and nothing was oversalted. Yes, maybe we could have used the brussel sprouts, but we forgot to order them. The two desserts we ordered were very interesting and delicious -- we each had some of each others. It's definitely food that we don't get at home. There were these little "rice cakes with tamarind" on the plate with the salmon that were absolutely scrumptous and vegetables with the duck were caramalized and added a lot to the dish. The sauces with both the salmon and the duck were wonderful additions. Even my glass of wine was very good. We were glad we didn't cancel and we look forward to going back. I guess that's what makes the world go round. Different people; different opinions. Cheers!

                              1. re: farmgirl1836

                                Sounds like they stepped up their game after hearing the first round of negative comments one week prior (we had also left a detailed comment card). Glad to hear you enjoyed!

                                1. re: farmgirl1836

                                  Glad to see it improving. Hopefully my non-WL will be good in a few weeks as well.

                          2. I tried Sotto Sotto (Village location). Not impressed that they switched up the fish, from albacore to sword fish. No flexibility on providing a less mercury-filled fish for the Winterlicious menu.

                            Overall, first time at SS and nothing wowed me (tried stuff off the Winterlicious also). Won't be back.

                            1. My boyfriend and I went to Fred's Not Here last night. The environment was okay but seemed a bit old. I remember 4 years ago I came here with my friends during Winterlicious and loved it. My medium rare roast beef was rich and flavourful, but my boyfriend's rare New York strip loin appeared to be overly charred. We asked for a new order and the waiter was happy to do so. Overall, not as good as I remembered but still not bad. I probably wouldn't go back for Winterlicious again.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Yq214

                                Usually avoid the licous fests as well, but happened to go to globe earth (Bloor west), and had a good value lunch. They were busy but both the service and kitchen kept up well. For apps , we had the smoked white fish and beet salad - both were very good, mains were beef short rib and mushroom pasta (I believe taglietteli), bot were also tasty. Dessert was flourless chocolate cake-not bad at all, but not stellar. All in all, fantastic value, my only quip is the wine list by the glass - all Ontario, with no solid satisfying full bodied red to stand up to the short rib. I respect the Ontario wine thing, but please have at least one or two other options where needed.

                              2. Lunch at Bymark was a disappointment. Service was the primary culprit but food failed to impress as well.

                                Bymark advises of a time limit they impose on reservations to ensure they are able to turn tables and accommodate other Winterlicious diners. Not a problem from our perspective. We arrive 5 mins early and are seated promptly.

                                Drink orders are taken immediately. It takes 25 mins from that point for a server to attend to our table. Prior to that he did drop by to tell us he’d be right with us.

                                Soup course arrives in good time. A flavourful parsnip puree that didn’t benefit from the slices of raw chilis strewn about. The chilis were potent and sliced too large so instead of imparting a subtle warmth, they attacked your palate and left one guest grasping for her water. The soup is poured tableside atop the already plated raw chilis, cress and prawns.

                                Some of us have dined on Bymark’s burgers in the past and quite enjoyed them. The Winterlicious Street burgers were underwhelming and overdone. The meat did not appear to be seasoned at all so the only real flavour came from the minimal amount of pepper relish. There was a disproportionate amount of bread for the small sized burger as well.

                                For dessert it was the tablespoon sized ball of caramel ice-cream that accompanied the spice cake that really shone. The cake itself had a somewhat rubbery texture and someone commented it reminded them of a boxed snack cake. One guest had the panna cotta and really enjoyed it.

                                This is the second disappointing ‘licious experience I’ve had at Bymark (I didn’t make these reservations) and I personally wouldn’t do ‘licious here again.