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Summerlicious 2013: July 5-21 ... recommendations?

I'm always in Toronto in June and seem to just miss out on summerlicious, but not this year. In my current hometown of Miami the comparable event ("Miami Spice") is the entire month of July and August, but down here that is "slow season" so there is generally some really good deals. In contrast, Summerlicious is in the busier season in Toronto, so things may be different. So who is great and who is grudging?

My only experience was with Canoe, which was fantastic but has become impossible to book. I see lots of interesting alternatives: Splendido, Cafe Boulud, Daisho, Scarpetta (which has an almost identical menu to the one in Miami, which is amazing and great value).

Anyway, love it or hate it, summerlicious always deserves a thread for raves or rants, so let the games begin.

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    1. I wasn't happy with my Splendido 'licious experience last year but some other people I met at a party went and really enjoyed it...

      I haven't looked at the menu's this year but can't go wrong with Canoe or Auberger if you can get in

      6 Replies
      1. re: ylsf

        Anybody else have experience at splendido, especially in 2013 licious? I'm wondering how it stacks up to the regular menu in terms of value. I've never been there before and thought this would be a good intro, but looking for feedback on whether I'd be better served with the regular menu, or maybe adding an extra a la cart course (perhaps foie-based).

        1. re: non sequitur

          I wouldn't make your first Splendido experience a 'licious one - it's always a mixed bag with Licious. There menu prices have come down significantly in the last six months - so you're better to go and just have the regular menu one night. You could also have the prix fixe for $65/pp, which includes 4 courses.

          1. re: justxpete

            Which is why I was hoping someone had been to splendido summerlicious this year. I will look at the regular menu, or maybe add a course (which will immediately take me from $45 'licious price to $65 pf price), but was hoping the listed courses would be a good intro.

            Actually, just took a look at both the PF menu and the regular one, and they don't seem much more compelling (small menu, so maybe there are unlisted daily specials?). There is more choice at $45 than at $65!

            My reservation is already time-limited to 1.5 hours, so maybe switching isn't even an option.

            1. re: justxpete

              Went to Splendido (for the first time) for 'licious on the 5th, had a great experience, food and service were excellent. Not sure about value though, but I was certainly happy with everything.

              1. re: h3llbringer

                Yay - at last someone's been. Thank you.
                I will be there Saturday.

                1. re: non sequitur

                  Went on Saturday for dinner. No complaints. I could see that the service was Michelin-level, from white glove placesetters to purse chairs, bit there were many advance apologies during the evening ("half our servers are in wine country today", "we have a group of 30 tonight" and "you can't supplement summerlicious from the regular menu because the kitchen is cranking out 3x the usual number of covers during summerlicious", and not making the full menu").

                  So I can see why many 'hounds avoid dining at summerlicious participants, but I had fair warning here, and because of that I wasn't disappointed and would consider Splendido for a future spurge dinner (which is justification enough for any place to participate).

                  Our 3 courses were served in just over an hour, which is also not a bad thing necessarily but shows how efficient the operation was. And on our way out we were given a notice that a $45 3-course dinner will continue to be served until September 1, basically extending what is surely a money-maker for the restaurant.

                  Now if only I'd been able to secure some foie gras parfait...

        2. The 2012 discussion is also informative research-wise: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/858060

          1. Advance Reservations for Amex cardholders begins tomorrow...

            I'm going to try for Canoe and Splendido. I wish they would do this via opentable instead of the horrible phones.

            1. Luma is always GREAT for the whole experience, and their lunch menu looks particularly awesome this year.

              I always visit Quince uptown because the value is incredible for $25! They have a great variety on the menu, usually, and don't compromise on service or portion size. Similarly, 93 Harbord has also been good for value and service.

              This year I'm intrigued by the menu from the Drake with their new chef. I've heard raves for the Fried Chicken!

              1. I was considering Cafe Boulud.. until I looked at the reviews. I am hoping to go to Bent, Momofuku, and one other.. I usually like to try something new,but might just stick with something reliable like Bymark or Luma..

                1. I like lunches...

                  especially the ones at Bloom, Pangaea, Chiado, Quince, Mildred's Temple, Frida's, Loire....

                  1. Has anyone tried a place called Cabal near King and Bathurst? The Summerlicious menu looks great but I don't know if the restaurant is any good.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: piccola

                      It's more of a night club/lounge than restaurant. Similar to the Richmond lounges - mediocre food at best, mostly hosts private events. Music gets really loud past 9pm.

                      1. re: happycamper

                        Good to know! Doesn't matter that the menu sounds good if the execution is mediocre.

                    2. Chiado and Starfish have never failed me.
                      Adding to the list this year are:

                      Strada 241
                      George Brown

                      All seem to have great value

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: happycamper

                        We had a great 'licious dinner at Chiado - as always.
                        The grilled squid and salmon tartar were the highlights of the night.

                        We also asked for (whatever they think is wise) wine pairing for our courses. The fact that the pours got more generous through out the night is definitely a plus in my book!

                        It was a very busy weekday night with very prompt service. Get a reservation there for the summerlicious lunch menu- you won't regret it.

                      2. I managed to get a lunch reservation at Canoe and a dinner one at Splendido without too much problem. I'll try a few lunches also, like Estufarian's recommended "Linda's Modern Thai" from last year, and George Brown. I think the lunches I can get by planning a day or 2 before, not on day one like Canoe.

                        1. I'd always been pleased with Reds for lunch but they seem to have pulled out. To be honest I haven't been as happy with the food there since the remodel. One place that I would recommend avoiding at all costs is Bymark. I've had 3 horrible lunch experiences there during Summerlicious (I only booked the first one!)

                          Canoe was good for lunch during Winterlicious.

                          I've never been disappointed with a 'licious meal at Frank.

                          This year I have lunch reservations for Stock (have never been so we'll give it a try) and Canoe.

                          Dinner reservations at Mistura and Tutti Matti.

                          13 Replies
                          1. re: Breadcrumbs

                            Frank is good..
                            I haven't been to Bymark for about 5 years, but had some really good lunches there for various 'liciouses.. to bad to hear you had a bad experience!

                            1. re: rstuart

                              I've only been to 'licious at Bymark in the past 2 yrs rstuart so that likely explains the gap. In my case, service has been the primary issue. Of course, when service is poor, food is cold or worse, forgotten.

                            2. re: Breadcrumbs

                              BC.. have you been to Stock yet? Wondering how it was..

                              1. re: rstuart

                                No rstuart, we go next week. Sounds like TJ is going on Saturday though so we can look forward to that rept. in the interim.

                                1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                  Stock - watch the water and wine markups. We felt really ripped and stupid when we got our bill.

                                  Just sayin'.....

                                    1. re: millygirl

                                      Can you tell us more about the water and wine markups?
                                      I'm going there next week.

                                      1. re: ace123

                                        From a Yelp review:

                                        "Other: When asked about the water, we opted for tap water. Little did we know, we were charged $12 because of their 'in-house filtration system.'"


                                        I have seen places with that on the menu before but never actually been charged it (I guess maybe if you aren't ordering other drinks?). So, works out to $3 a person for water.

                                        Probably huge markups for bottled water too.

                                        1. re: ylsf

                                          We went for brunch.

                                          We fell for the 'sparkling or flat' routine. Without thinking I guess, I replied flat assuming I was getting tap water. I never did see the actual bottle because its poured from a carafe so for all I know it was tap.

                                          A glass of Cakebread, maybe a 4 oz pour is $28 - seems a little excessive to me.

                                          We left feeling gouged.

                                          1. re: millygirl

                                            Tap=Tap Water
                                            Flat=Flat bottled or Filtered tap water
                                            Sparkling=Carbonated Mineral,Spring or Filtered & Carbonated Tap Water

                                            If you order "Flat" water in almost restaurant in TO, expect to be charged for it. If you ask for "Tap", and then are charged, then something's awry.

                                            1. re: justxpete

                                              Yes, agreed.

                                              And I meant to add the word 'stupidly' above as I do know better but I was distracted at the time.

                                              Lesson learned, and a caution to others....pay attention.

                                              Funny because normally we don't even look at the bill but when it came in at double to what we were expecting we took note.

                                              Hmmm, maybe a new thread - do you check your bill? The other night, at a place that shall remain nameless, we were charged for 2 bottles of wine instead of 1. We caught it, but only after we paid the bill as one in the party just happened to notice. The restaurant quickly credited the charge but I wonder how often this happens.

                                              1. re: justxpete

                                                I agree but some places don't have "tap" water anymore and everything is "filtered" and charge for it. It seems like Trump/Stock might be one of those places (see above comment from Yelp that I quoted). I would hope that they would only do this if you didn't order drinks but another Yelp review mentioned getting charged $2 for a caraffe of tap water even though they did order drinks.

                                                Sure seems like nickel and diming..

                                      2. re: Breadcrumbs

                                        Look forward to hearing from both of you...

                                  1. Much as I try to avoid Summerlicious, I do notice that Daisho (at Momofuku) still has lots of availability, and I'm sure many people want to try this.
                                    This may be because you MUST select Summerlicious on the first reservation page (BEFORE you choose date and # of people). If you just select the # of people it (bizarrely) shows fully booked for entire Summerlicious period!

                                    8 Replies
                                    1. re: estufarian

                                      Thanks estufarian. We generally avoid Summerlicious but this intrigued me. Just made a reservation!

                                      1. re: millygirl

                                        I tried it last night and it was pretty good overall. Certainly among the better Licious meals I've had.
                                        They have it down to a production line - we were out about 65 minutes after being seated.
                                        Choices are fairly good - appetizers and mains were both high quality, and reasonable quantity.
                                        The desserts are from their 'famous' list (Milk Bar products) - but I found them a bit sweet, with no balancing acidity. But I know others disagree.

                                        1. re: estufarian

                                          Glad to hear: I'm doing next week..

                                          1. re: estufarian

                                            would you say the liscious menu is a good representation of daisho's normal quality and operation?

                                            it seems common for some bigger name places to not hold par when operating under liscious periods and i don't really wanna go unless it lives up to its name and reputation. canoe seems to be one place that can't maintain the same level during liscious events. i have a reservation for friday and want to know if i should cancel.

                                            1. re: msprnt

                                              I haven't been to 'regular' Daisho.
                                              It's format favours large dishes shared by several (many) diners. Small groups (i.e. couples) are advised (on the website) that they may be seated at the bar.
                                              Accordingly, I had avoided Daisho (until Summerlicious), and took this opportunity to try it (for the first time). For this occasion I think the room is set up differently as most of the tables were set for two or four and the menu was specific for this period.
                                              I've 'passed by' Daisho several times and it struck me as more akin to something like Guu (in atmosphere, not necessarily food). So I judged it by 'what was on the plate' and it ranks farly high in my 'Licious experiences.

                                              It FAR surpassed my last meal at Canoe (which you mention) - which was on a 'regular' night. That meal became a running joke as so many mistakes were made that we wondered how much worse it could possibly get - although the apologies were indeed effusive (examples: one dish served missing main ingredient; the included wine pairing was served with the wrong dish - kitchen sent out plates out-of-order; wine corked).

                                              1. re: msprnt

                                                Wow - my licious experiences at canoe have all been so good, explaining why it's so hard to get through when reservations open. Now I'm questioning whether i should make a last minute change up for lunch Friday (I'm coming from scarborough, so if it isn't great it isn't worth it). Hmmm.

                                                1. re: non sequitur

                                                  FWIW, i know a lot of people who love Canoe, but i've just never been wowed there like i was at Daisho (non-licious).

                                                  1. re: LemonLauren

                                                    My Canoe experiences (licious) have all been superior than my one meal (non-licious) at Daisho...

                                                    I guess different nights, different company, different staff, different specific meals, etc can all influence ones feeling for a place

                                        2. Amex is doing a promo, register your card first and then pay for your Summerlicious meal with that card and get $10 back on your statement:


                                          1. Had lunch at Café Boulud today, service was good as well as the food. One of the main courses has been changed to Cumbrae beef instead of the pasta. The fish soup is replaced by an heirloom tomato salad. Well worth it.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: ace123

                                              Great to hear ace, thanks for reporting!

                                            2. Had dinner at Luma last night.

                                              Overall we thought it was good.

                                              I had the Soup, Artic Char and Peach dessert. The soup was really good. It was cold, sweet corn and onion. The artic char was nice size for the price and you can go wrong with dessert. My Husband had the Tuna app, which was good he said and the Beef main. Again, he said the flavors where good, but the piece of beef was small...so if your hungry, probably not the thing to order.

                                              Service was great. The only tiff I had, which totally threw me off was that we made reservations ages ago. They called to confirm a few days before and they say that "Please note that there is another reservation for your table 1 1/2 hours after yours". This was seriously off putting and I almost canceled the reservation. Its not like we walked off the street looking to be seated! Anyways, when we went, the place was half empty the whole time we where there, so I honestly have no idea what that was about. Odd!

                                              2 Replies
                                                1. re: Kassi22

                                                  I lot of places put "time restrictions" on the table for Summerlicious but definitely something they should tell you when booking vs. springing on you last minute.

                                                  Surprised that even with the summerlicious menu they couldn't manage to fill the place up on a Saturday night!

                                                2. We had a really great 'licious meal at Smith on Church last night. It wasn't busy but a bit uncomfortably warm inside. Patio out back was filled.

                                                  I had steak frites and it was fantastic. Thick cut of steak on top of a bed of fries that were in a tarragon gravy and covered with fried onions. Incredibly heavy for a hot night but super good.

                                                  SO had the smoked chicken cobb salad. Chicken was on the bone and it was really good.

                                                  Service was great, nothing about it was rushed and portions were gigantic.

                                                  We've made a point to check out some of the local neighbourhood places for 'licious and always found it enjoyable. We were thrilled with our meal last night and can't wait to check out the rest of the menu at Smith post 'licious.

                                                  1. Went to ONE on the night of the flooding. The side patio door was actually letting water in at one point (the drain by the door was backing up). Staff was coming out with linens to try to contain the water. Three staff members were bailing out the area by the door trying to stop the flow into the restaurant. Was pretty crazy.

                                                    Anyway, I thought the restaurant was just "okay". Was not that impressed. Service was fine but the food was nothing special. Favourite part was the grilled prawns dish. I have had better pork tenderloin elsewhere and the "white cake" dessert wasn't that exciting (my friends chocolate torte with caramel ice cream was definitely the better option). I regret spending $19 on a cocktail too... I was curious what a $19 cocktail tasted like :)

                                                    That is it for me this year... no more 'licious meals.

                                                    1. I generally avoid 'licious as a rule (mostly because I don't find it a particularly good value), but friends wanted to go and they chose Stock. Going on Saturday, will let y'all know how it goes.

                                                      1. I'm heading to the Drake Saturday night. Will report back.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: prima

                                                          The Drake was ok. Like most 'licious restaurants, I think the regular menu is a better value than the 'Licious menu, especially if you don't normally order dessert.

                                                          I tried the green gazpacho (could have been described as guacamole soup), pickerel with fried green tomato, and the Monforte cheese. I hoped for a sampling of a 2 or 3 Monforte cheeses, but all I got was a shmear of some soft spreadable type of Monforte chevre, some compote and a few Rainforest Coast flatbreads, lame for a cheese plate, even for 'licious.

                                                          One friend ordered the spicy tuna rice paper roll, which was a small cone shaped fresh roll in rice paper, and quite a small, 3 bite portion, compared to the soup or salad. The other friends ordered salad, which was a good size, but underdressed for at least one friend. Our server was happy to bring more dressing. My friends who ordered the flank steak were happier than my friends who ordered the mushroom gnocchi. The mushroom gnocchi looked pan-fried. Everyone seemed to like the flourless chocolate cake with salted caramel, which was the size of a brownie.

                                                          I'm not sure if I'd return for dinner in the dining room. The space is so dark, and it seems like the Drake is putting more energy into other aspects of the Drake than the Dining Room. While our server was friendly, service wasn't as good as it once was.

                                                          I had chosen the Drake over other 'licious venues, thinking we could go to the Skyyard afterwards, but I didn't realize we could make reservations (if I understood correctly). When we arrived upstairs, at the Skyyard shortly after 9 pm, there was standing room, but we were told there was 2.5 hour wait for a table.

                                                        2. Ended up at Stock last night rather than tonight. Beautiful soaring ceilings and great textural components to the walls. Otherwise, the Trump Tower decor is rather awful -- it already feels dated. Black toilets and gold accents, really? The 70s and 80s club music is also a strange choice for the space, but I guess it is more of a Bay Street meat market than a fine dining restaurant.

                                                          The Summerlicious menu had a decent variety on it, so I give them big props for that.

                                                          Apps: I had the gazpacho and it was really excellent. They used yellow tomatoes, so the colour was a lovely change from the usual harsh red. Pureed very smooth, the soup had a nice bite from some cayenne (?) and the crab meat and greek yogurt were nice add ons. I enjoyed this a lot. The table also ordered the watermelon, tomato and feta salad, which had a pretty composition and was reported to be fresh and tasty, if simple. A friend had ordered the shrimp ceviche but the server heard "soup" instead of "shrimp", and she didn't bother correcting it and just had the soup.

                                                          Mains: I ordered the short rib and was a bit disappointed. While the presentation was impressive with the one big-ass rib, the meat was on the dry side. It had the tender, shredding qualities of well-braised short rib, but I think it was actually braised *too* long and all the fat and connective tissue completely disolved and melted away. Flavour was fine, nothing particularly special. I wouldn't order this again. The rest of the table had the pickerel and the scallops w/pork belly. The pan-seared pickerel dish was served with a quinoa salad and was declared "very good". The scallops looked beautifully seared and were gobbled up. Fortunately for me, my friend that ordered the scallops doesn't like pork belly, so I snagged that and enjoyed it much more than my short rib. It was quite a large piece of pork belly and had plenty of unctuous fatty goodness to make up for my dry short rib.

                                                          Dessert was a highlight for me. I had the panna cotta with toasted coconut and summer fruits. It was the best panna cotta I've had since the one I fell in love with years ago at JK Wine Bar. Perfect texture -- smooth, light and creamy -- very lightly sweetened, and beautifully balanced texturally with the large flakes of unsweetened toasted coconut. The berries were nice, but totally secondary to the panna cotta and coconut for me. Two others ordered this as well and there was equal swooning from them. The last person ordered the lemon meringue tart and really enjoyed it as well.

                                                          Summerlicious cocktail menu had $9 cocktails, which is significantly cheaper than their standard cocktails. I would imagine the drinks are smaller, too, of course. I tried the sake sangria and enjoyed it -- a fresh and bright summer drink. I shifted to the Italian sparkling rose later, which was very good, if very overpriced at $15/glass.

                                                          Service was very good. I love the purse stools (haven't seen those since Splendido), and the schmancy box with a choice of reading glasses when the waiter realized that my dining companion had forgotten his.

                                                          I was planning on checking the bill to see whether we were charged for our tap water, but my friend snapped up the bill and insisted on paying, so I didn't get a chance. Given that they pour their tap water from what looks like Q-water bottles, it wouldn't surprise me to find they charge for it.

                                                          Overall, it was an enjoyable evening. I don't imagine I'll go back to Stock, but if you're going there for Summerlicious, you can have a good dinner. My rec for menu choices would be: gazpacho (though the ceviche might be fab, we didn't get a chance to try it), scallops, panna cotta.

                                                          Oh, and as a side note, my dinner res was at 7, and when we left around 9, the clientele in the lounge area was...entertaining.

                                                          Photos of the two apps, my short rib and the panna cotta. They turned the lights down between our apps and mains, so apologies for the darker photos!

                                                          7 Replies
                                                          1. re: TorontoJo

                                                            Thanks for the report TorontoJo... black toilets? Really? Sounds like it's worth it for 'licious..

                                                            1. re: TorontoJo

                                                              I'm not surprised deserts were the highlight TorontoJo. Guess who's behind them? Or do you already know?

                                                              1. re: millygirl

                                                                No, I know absolutely nothing about Stock -- who's the pastry chef, MG?

                                                                1. re: TorontoJo

                                                                  David Chow was at least til a couple of months ago. (Looks like he's now at Big Crow.)

                                                                    1. re: millygirl

                                                                      What?! No way, that's awesome! No wonder the dessert was so good. Sigh, I miss my weekend breakfasts at Hammersmith's.

                                                                      1. re: TorontoJo


                                                                        Okay then, I guess I better not tell you that they've also expanded the brunch menu. It gets better and better.

                                                                        Sound though like you have plenty of good options also. I was reading your NOL post. Very informative stuff. Doesn't sound like you're hard done by :)

                                                              2. Here's a recommendation - don't go to Toula.

                                                                Went there last night for a special occasion (someone else's anniversary, didn't know it was summerlicious) and the only thing that made it worth the trouble was the view and the company. The waiter was really nice but even comping my entree didn't make things right. They forgot the entree for one of our party and gave him a free salad to tide him over, and my 'surf and turf' (filet with 2 jumbo shrimp) was tiny and overcooked. When I sent it back I was treated to an extrememly long wait for another tiny, also overcooked, steak but his jumbo shrimpy friends were nowhere to be seen. Also, the nice veggies, fingerling potatoes, and reduction sauce were replaced with a mealy pool of artichoke puree (had to ASK what it was) and 2 stalks of stiff asparagus wrapped in prosciutto. Blech. Didn't eat any of it.

                                                                Don't go here unless you are staying at the Harbour Castle and have lots of money and absolutely no desire to put any effort into leaving the building.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: katiemo

                                                                  Sadly, I think "Don't go to Toula" has been a 'licious mantra for as long as there has been licious.

                                                                  1. re: Jacquilynne

                                                                    Exactly.... That is on my "never go to list" for 'licious or otherwise...

                                                                    Was hoping that they would have a bad enough reputation from a google search to save people :)

                                                                2. Four of us went to Bloom for lunch...


                                                                  Between us, we had everything. Excellent food, well-produced and nicely spiced.

                                                                  Next week: Quince, Frida and Earth Rosedale for lunches.

                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Dean Tudor

                                                                    I went to Quince last year for 'licious and it was great. Lovely service, too.

                                                                    1. re: piccola

                                                                      it's one of the best-kept 'licious secrets, and only $25!!!!

                                                                      1. re: LemonLauren

                                                                        Actually, I think Quince is one of the best kept secrets at any time of year. Consistently satisfying meals at good prices. Plus fun happy hour specials during Cinq a Sept and the occasional rijstaffel dinner. Nice space and friendly service. Great spot.

                                                                        1. re: LemonLauren

                                                                          Had a very good dinner at Quince on Saturday.
                                                                          Butter lettuce with lardons, crispy braised pork shoulder and warm brownie with caramel. $25 steal.

                                                                          All a great coincidence as I had forgatten about liscious and was taking mother and aunt, both 86!, for dinner.

                                                                        2. re: piccola

                                                                          After all the compliments for Quince we went on Friday for dinner and agree it was a great value, friendly servers (much more patient than I would have been when the table next to me asked for an explanation of nearly everything on the menu: gnocchi, sangria, seriously?!), and enjoyed by all.

                                                                      2. Went to Strada 241 for dinner (which I'd never even heard of before!). What a great experience and really good value for $25. I actually couldn't finish my main (a fabulous pizza) which has never happened at a 'licious meal before! I will definitely be going back for another meal soon..

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: rstuart

                                                                          Just got back from Daisho.. so, so good!

                                                                          1. re: rstuart

                                                                            Final meal was at Bent.. another great meal, although I do hate places that you have to SHOUT at your dining companion to be heard..
                                                                            So all of my experiences were good, and I tried new places that I wouldn't have necessarily gone to, which is always nice..

                                                                        2. I had 'licious dinner at Mildred Temple Kitchen earlier this week and it was really good. Just be warned they give regular-size portions, not the usual tasting menu dishes served up at 'licious. I had to take some home.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: piccola

                                                                            I've always had good 'licious experiences there..

                                                                          2. Went to Stock for lunch. Good service. No charge for water. Wine pairing only $6 for 2 x 3oz for the appetizer and the main. Real surprise!
                                                                            The sliders, OMG, so good.
                                                                            Both the panna cotta and the chocolate torte were excellent.
                                                                            Glad that I went.