(Looking for Summerlicious 2013 recommendations? Click here to see 2013′s Summerlicious guides.)
Summerlicious is back pon de block starting July 6th and running through the 22nd, and reservations officially launch today. There are about 150 restaurants partaking in the prix fixe craze this summer, so unless you’d like to spend a couple hours checking out all the menus and establishments, doing some cross-referencing, and making a spreadsheet of first, second and third choices, then you should probably just take a look below at our Top 15 picks. (Click the links to see the restaurants’ full Summerlicious menus, and watch the videos and vlogs to get an inside look at what to expect.)
It got notable acclaim right off the bat when it opened last year, and in Toronto Life’s rundown of top new restaurants of 2011 Aria took one of the top 10 spots. The $25 lunch here is an amazing bet, with choices like mozarella di buffala with sweet pea puree and seared organic salmon with Sicilian caponata.
This Ossington restaurant is, to put it simply, #AwesomeSauce. The vibe is killer, the decor a sight to see, and the food, man, the food! The three-course Summerlicious dinner here has drool-inducing dishes like forest mushroom soup with herbed creme fraiche, a chive gnocchi with cherry tomatoes and spinach, and a lemon semifreddo with a blueberry compote and crunchy meringue. How long until the 6th again…?
A much-overseen spot on Spadina, Hotel Ocho’s Scandinavian design and well-executed kitchen is worthy of closer inspection. They’re serving up a seafood chowder, vegetable puff pastry tart, and orange cheesecake among other hunger-inducing choices during this year’s Summerlicious.
Ole! Embrujo Flamenco on the Danforth is Spanish tapas done damned well, with the theatrics of live dance thrown in the mix. Their prix fixe menu includes a cream of cucumbers and mint, chicken in beer with sweet paprika, and poached pears in Marsala wine.
This is one of those hidden gems oft-frequented by regulars and oft-missed by food revellers. But, and we say this all serious-face-style, you have to try Smith Restaurant! They’re doing a $25/person dinner with such menu items as baked kale salad, seared pork chop with olive polenta, and and lemon curd with Earl Grey compote.
King East hot spot Kultura has one of the best atmospheres for social dining. Chef Bernadette brings the flavours of the world to the Summerlicious menu, like mushroom na’an with truffle oil and garlic butter, a sous vide beef tenderloin, and a honey sabayon doughnut with melted chocolate that’d please even connoisseur Homer Simpson. (C’mon, couldn’t do a donut reference without mention of Big Yellow, right?)
Trevor Kitchen and Bar
This much-classier-than-the-name-sounds restaurant on Wellington Street traditionally does a fantastic job imbuing their Summerlicious/Winterlicious menus with avant garde fare. Take the bacon and smoked cheddar tomato soup, or the crispy tofu with honey mushrooms, or even the dark chocolate and caramel torte with peanut butter chantilly. Heck take ‘em all!
Anyone remember our infamous L’Unita vlog where we stuffed ourselves so full we practically had to roll on home? We do, and it’s still one of our favourite meals in recent memory. Their prix fixin’s have plates like a white fish crudo, a sweet pea agnolotti with spiced lamb sugo, and the polenta bombolini.
Chef Jason Bangerter’s cuisine at Luma in TIFF Bell Lightbox is some of the best in central downtown. The room is chic but unpretentious, and the food most certainly matches. The Summerlicious offerings have beautiful twists, like the smoky tomato gazpacho with spot prawn tartare, the truffle and ricotta lasagna, and a chocolate bread and butter pudding. Illuminating, right?
Sen5es at the Soho Met
We did Winterlicious at Sen5es a couple years ago, and to say it was fantastic would be an understatement. For the Toronto prix fixe fest, they’ve got pickled watermelon with citrus and shrimp slaw, a lemongrass scented Cornish hen, and a spiced dark chocolate ganache tart, and that’s just a sampling.
Mediterranean fare this fine is hard to come by, but Malena brings the flavours of Greece to the table like few others. For the 3-course dinner set at $35, you can order up the prawn and zucchini fritters, house made sausage with polenta, and a gelato affogato (which if you’ve never tried, you’re missing out hardcore).
Mildred’s Temple Kitchen
Chef Donna Dooher’s Liberty Village restaurant shows amazing reverence for food. Using many local ingredients and intricate cooking techniques, Mildred’s Temple Kitchen is one of the city’s finest gems. The Summerlicious lunch sounds oh-so-magnificent, with everything from shrimp and crab cakes with chili-lime emulsion, to the MTK burger with tobacco onions, and even a vanilla cake soaked in three milks.
A Toronto institution, Reds Bistro is most-famous for the Financial District power lunch. So, we’re suggesting sticking to dinner during Summerlicious 2012, and checking out their prix fixe menu with panko crusted soft shell crab, three-fish sashimi salad, ‘broken’ summer trifle, and so much more.
Cafe du Lac
Renowned the city-wide for its poutine with foie gras, Cafe du Lac is serving up an exceptional selection at $35/person during Summerlicious. Try the poutine, of course, and the duck confit with truffled mash and a duck demi.
Auberge du Pommier
When O&B gets it right, they really get it right. Auberge is French cuisine at its finest, and the ‘white-glove’-like service is out of this world. For $45/person, you can get a spectacular three-course dinner including a peach gazpacho, filet mignon with oven-roasted tomato fondue, and poppy seed shortcake.