Winterlicious takes over Toronto restaurants from January 25th through February 7th, 2013, and reservations open to general public on January 10th…
Hush, now, and pay close attention dear readers. The time is nigh. We have been waiting six months for these 12 days… and they’re but a month away. I speak, of course, about Toronto’s Winterlicious, coming back from January 25th through February 7th, 2013. The prix fixe extravaganza is the culinary wet dream of the city’s foodies, avant garde grubbers, the ‘culinarily’ curious, cheap diners, and the list goes on.
Click here to check out our Toronto Winterlicious Survival Tips!
25 Best Bets for Winterlicious 2013
Sure… you can try to snatch reservations at the top of the top restaurants during Winterlicious… but are you definitely going to head back during the pay-full-price rest of the year? Winterlicious in Toronto is a great time to discover other hidden gems and restaurants you’re more likely to return to on the regular. With that in mind, we’ve selected 25 restaurants – some top-tier, some mid-range, and some down-right homey – that have great menus to sample their best…
LA’s Italian + Bar
A staple in the heart of Toronto, the newly renovated Little Anthony’s shines for the first time at Winterlicious. While the menu remains soulfully Italian at its roots, Chef Aaron Foster (formerly of Ritz-Carlton) has managed to put his spin on the traditional, making the menu more eclectic and innovative. Case in point: Winterlicious dishes like shrimp a la plancha, potato and gorgonzola soup, and goat cheese and chocolate pana cotta.
Sitting pretty in the Park Hyatt, Annona’s decor is subdued opulence. For Winterlicious 2013, they’re pleasing palates with options like seared scallops with grilled polenta, sumac crusted halibut with roasted red pepper beurre blanc, and a dessert duo sure to delight discerning diners.
A player in the ACC area restaurant scene, Aria’s beautiful dining area with its bright windows and to-the-sky ceilings provides the perfect backdrop for its fusion of rustic and ultra-mod Italian food. This year’s Winterlicious lunch is a dream, with beef carpaccio and egg mimosa, gnocchi with venison ragout, and flourless walnut cake pon de block to tantalize your tastebuds.
This is one of my favourite stops in Leslieville. (If you sit alongside the Eastern wall banquettes you have a light switch that when flicked beckons a server over… great to keep the functioning alcoholic, such as myself, wet an entire night through.) Their gastropubby grub will have you back on the regular, and Winterlicious is a great time for neophytes to break their seals, so to speak. Try the mac n’ cheese with black truffles and cave aged gruyere, or the burger le banquet with house-ground organic bison patty, and finish off with creme de mascarpone. Magnifique!
Auberge du Pommier
The crown jewel in the O&B restaurant empire, Auberge du Pommier consistently serves some of the city’s most deluxe French cuisine. Or rather, most deluxe cuisine. Period. And the service, absolument parfait. The $45 Winterlicious dinner is a total steal, with leek and cabbage soup, pot au feu with braised beef short rib and dashi bouillon, and a sticky date pudding being among the glorious dishes on offer.
Bloke & 4th
The supper club that is Bloke & 4th has prepped a tummy-rumblin’ Winterlicious meal if ever there was one. We’re loving the sound of the spicy tartare with BC albacore tuna and wild salmon with yuzu, the ultra gourmet mac n’ cheese with spicy marzano sauce and lemon panko, and the PB&J bombs – deep fried peanut butter and Cherryvale berry jam covered in a cornflakes batter. Feed me. Now.
Hands down the best high-end Greek in the city, Estiatorio Volos is a prime spot for Winterlicious. The $35 dinner couldn’t be more worth the small fee, if for the glory of the exohico alone. With tiger prawn saganaki, fig-glazed Cornish hen, and saffron and pistachio ice cream all on order during the prix fixe extravaganza, Volos is one reservation you simply won’t regret.
One of the most coveted Winterlicious reservations to be had, Canoe does the prix fixe extravaganza like nobody’s business. Whether the $25 lunch – with options like roasted squash and parsnip soup, smoked pan-seared heritage salmon, and spiced chocolate panna cotta – or the $45 dinner – with St-Canut pork rillette, duo of Ontario beef, and maple gingerbread pudding – Canoe is absolutely prime during Winterlicious.
Canyon Creek Front
Not so much a chop house as a surprisingly locally-focused steak restaurant and bar, Canyon Creek on Front is offering up grilled top sirloin, chicken marinated in herbs de provence, and pumpkin creme brulee among other delightful dishes during Winterlicious in Toronto.
Another coveted reservation during Toronto’s Winterlicious, Colborne Lane’s gastronomical fusion cuisine is some of the city’s most creative fare. The tom yum soup sounds like appetizer gold with chestnuts, shiitake mushrooms and crispy chicken wing. The braised pork belly with fermented black bean and lily bulb will likely be a visual spectacle. And for dessert, the chocolate bar with caramelized peanut sounds like music to thine ears…
The Drake Hotel
It’s no surprise that Toronto’s hotbed of culture – which hosts countless food events throughout the year, including Ivy Knight’s 86′d Mondays – is partaking in the glory of Winterlicious 2013. Their $20 lunch is like finding a designer ensemble marked down for quick sale. Potato soup with escargot and parsley, Ontario flank steak with green peppercorn roasted cauliflower, and pear upside down cake with candied ginger are but three of the order options.
Mildred’s Temple Kitchen
This Liberty Village gem has been around for four years and we never get sick of it. Donna Dooher is the woman behind the temple and always keeps the menu innovative with fresh and local ingredients. Best part is they have some awesome vegetarian options, like the fantastic curried cauliflower. Better part, the MTK burger is topped with tobacco onions… yeah, they’re a thing, and they’re delicious. Winterlicious schminterlicious, Mildred’s is a hotspot anytime of year.
Epic at the Royal York
The Royal York Hotel’s epic restaurant, called, aptly, Epic Restaurant, is offering up pan-seared lemon glazed diver scallops, hot-smoked Atlantic salmon filet with a warm lentil and baby mushroom salad, and chocolate truffle and caramel fudge with brandied apricot reserve during the 10 days that is Toronto’s Winterlicious.
A proper gastropub if ever there was one, Habits is getting in on the prix fixe Winterlicious action this year with a bevy of drool-inducing dishes. Take the rabbit terrine or the warm waldorf salad, the pan-seared Ontario pork tenderloin or the Ontario pickerel with lemon risotto, or how about the Tahitian vanilla creme brulee? Need a towel…?
Elmwood Spa is one of the city’s best, and after a long day relaxing with oxygen facials and massages, who wants to wander ’round in search of sustenance? Luckily for spa-goers, Bangkok Garden is in the throes of prepping for Winterlicious 2013. Order the crispy tofu to start, followed by the steamed rainbow trout and the Thai tea creme caramel and keep up the relaxation while you refuel after your… uh… refueling.
Here’s one of those meals where pointing at the Mexican delights on the menu is totally apropos instead of bastardizing their pronunciation. For instance: empanadas (easy) de rajas con queso (hard); bunuelos con agua (difficult) de rosas (simple). Either way, you’ll be fully impressed post-Winterlicious dining at this ModMex resto.
Sitting in Kultura can be an ethereal experience thanks to its historic setting mixed with rustic decor and chic lighting. Not to mention, their fusion of worldly flavours, as evidenced in their Winterlicious dishes like chicken samosas with asiago, sage, and spiced apple, or their mushroom orrechiette with pinot noir pear chutney, or the famed doughnut bites. Go ahead, get cultured at Kultura.
Featuring teppen-style cooking at your table, Benihana is a visually-stunning dining experience to be sure… and one oft overlooked by the city’s foodies. You can discover the experiential dining found within during Toronto’s Winterlicious 2013, with their famed teriyaki playing a big part on the $45 dinner menu.
Located in Yorkville on Avenue Road, this Toronto staple is a must-try during Winterlicious. Ideal for a first date or dinner with friends, the rustic farmhouse decor is cozy and comfortable and the menus reflect authentic Italian fare with a creative Canadian twist. For Winterlicious 2013, the menu is top notch with luxe items like burrata, duck ragout, and mascarpone cannoli. All for $35? Definitely worth checking out.
Yes, it’s pronounced akin to being in the buff, but there’s nothing humble about Nyood’s Winterlicious offerings. Truffled pierogies, hoisin ginger short ribs, and Valrohna chocolate cake with chantilly cream… as I said, nothin’ humble.
Pan on the Danforth
Pan on the Danforth has one of the largest sets of dish options during Winterlicious in Toronto. The $35 dinner has six apps, seven mains, and four desserts on offer. Now that’s a selection to appease any diner. The homestyle Greek cookin’ and smiling service just add to the ambiance of this Danforth stalwart.
This is another gem of a spot to try out during Winterlicious. I had a nine-course truffle dinner there once… shoot-me-in-the-face-good, I tell ya. This year’s gastronomically glorious grub includes porchetta carpaccio (had no clue that could be a ‘thing’), confit Peking duck leg, and Tuxford & Tebbut stilton with Tabasco meringue and celery. Shut the front door and turn off the porch lights that’s an intriguing menu!
Tappo Wine Bar
Filling a nice ol’ spot in the Distillery District, Tappo Wine Bar is Italian excellence. Take for instance their papardelle con cinghiale (wild boar ragout atop wide ribbon pasta), or the arancini, or the pistachio cannoli. Classic Italian dishes marrying the north and south with culinary curiosity.
Against the Grain Urban Tavern
This urban tavern sitting on the waterfront is an interesting choice for Winterlicious, we know. But for lovers of casual dining, their menu is uniquely gourmet: curried cauliflower and red lentil soup, firecracker fried oysters with spicy mango wasabi dip, and stout braised lamb stew are just a few of the belly satisfying options.
This North York institution has been around for years, and for those who’ve yet to make the trek over, Toronto’s Winterlicious 2013 is the perfect excuse. Order from the menu of Continental Canadian fare of plates ranging from jump-fried escargot and tiger shrimp, duck confit braised with double smoked bacon, and pink velvet cake, and see why they’ve been there for decades.
We’ll be out and about non-stop during Winterlicious doing our due diligence (read: eating to the point of permanent waist-line damage), so be sure to follow us on Twitter – @viewthevibe and @amazerall, respectively – and send us your favourite meals as you nosh your way through Toronto. And before you bid us adieu, check out our Winterlicious Survival Tips.