Monday, February 7, 2011

Winterlicious 2011

Well I'll start by saying these reviews will be entirely text based. I came to each Winterlicious meal with camera in tow, however at each I forgot to remove it upon checking my coat.

For those not based in Toronto, or familiarly with it, Winterlicious is one of two city wide culinary events held within certain participating restaurants within Toronto. The other being Summerlicious. Each lasting 2 weeks.

So far this year I have been for one lunch and one dinner. I am set to go to one on Thursday, however after hearing a disastrous review of their Winterlicious dinner, I am inclined to save my 45$ and dine somewhere other then Sassafraz.

For lunch I went to Fuzion. A small restaurant located on church street, in between Bloor and Wellesley. Offering a 3 course meal at 20$ per lunch and 35$ per dinner, and the exact same menu offered for each, it seemed lunch was only logical.

For my first course I ordered the chocolate glazed side ribs with habanero mojo. The dish arrived within 7 minutes or so. The presentation was gorgeous, the concept excellent, and the execution poor. The ribs them selves were luke warm, the meat was relatively tough. Worst of all was even dipped in the habanero and pineapple concoction, it was all near flavourless.

For the second course I ordered the venison osso buco. The mains took maybe 10 minutes of finishing the aps to reach the table. I must say, this was truly a hit in my books. Served with a small section of marrow bone, on top of a cauliflower puree, and a juniper berry game sauce. The sauce delicious, the marrow, great, and the meat itself tender, and very flavourful.

For dessert I had the Clementine Mousse. It was served with a blood orange slice atop a bit of sauce/compote, with some sort of dessert stick accompaniment. Whilst maintaining a nice flavour, I did not entirely appreciate the texture of the frozen mousse. The dessert stick was tough and lacking in any real depth, all in all just another unpleasant texture.

The verdict? Well short of first and last courses, it was a great meal. And with a 20$ price tag, I wouldn't have too much trouble recommending it based sheerly on main courses.

For the dinner, I attended Lai Toh Heen, located on Mt. Pleasant, just south of Eglington. They boasted 2 different menus. One at 35$ and another at 45$, whilst no noteable difference at first glance, upon closer inspection the 45$ gave you 1 extra piece of dim sum with your first course, and the ability to have 2 smaller portioned mains. Deciding to for go my usual alcoholic beverage with my meal, I compensated by ordering the 45$ meal.

First to arrive were the appetizers, I ordered the deep fried jumbo prawn. However my jumbo prawn was to arrive at the table in form of cream of chicken and mushroom soup. I quickly pointed out their mistake and awaited my appetizer.

Whilst waiting for the re-emergence of my first course, the second course of dim sum arrived. Consisting of a deep fried tofu brick on a stick, a dungeness crab meat dumping, and a shrimp sui mei, served with garlic infused soy sauce. All where tasty with pleasant textures, albeit the tofu lacked flavour.

Whilst half way through my dim sum, my appetizer made its second appearance in proper form this time. A hulking, lightly battered prawn, with small lightly battered pieced of asparagus, served with two types of hot sauce. Whilst not the most complex dish in all of creation, it certainly was tasty.

After maybe 15 minutes if not longer the mains showed up to the table. Better late then never. I had the wok baked lobster accompanied with the diced beef tenderloin topped with pan seared foie gras. The beef was tossed in a sweet tomato sauce, and the lobster in garlic sauce. The lobster was a portion of half a lobster, minus the claw (my dining companion who ordered the cheaper 35$ meal received lobster a la claw). The portion of lobster containing basically only half a tail, somehow felt skimpy to me. The beef portion consisted of maybe 10 cubes of 1" by 1" beef, topped with a thin slice of foie gras. The beef portion I felt was significantly more plentiful then that of the lobster. As for taste, the lobster was ever so slightly tough, and damn near impossible to remove from the shell, but fortunatly did not taste over cooked. The beef was very tasty, tender, not fully cooked, in a sweet, but not sickeningly sweet sauce. The foie gras was a nice accompaniment.

The fourth course arrived not to long after, consisting of truffle scented noodles with scallop. It also contained slices of king oyster mushroom. There is something said for keeping things simple, theres something else to be said about keeping things too simple. Which is more or less where I stood on this dish. Whilst tasty, I could not help but feel bored and underwhelmed by this dish after consuming a few mouthfuls.

The last course, dessert, arrived fairly quickly after finishing the noodles. The dessert consisted of 3 small treats, a heart shaped mango cream, a brownie from senses bakery, and a deep fried sesame ball. The mango cream tasted like, well, mango, thumbs up. The brownie topped with chocolate sauce and an almond was very rich, and with a fairly small portion managed to be the right amount of rich chocolate flavour for my tastes. Finally the sesame ball, crisp exterior, gooey interior, and a good amount of flavour, another winner.

Thoughts? All in all a good meal, I would recommended it, not highly, but as a place to sit down, and enjoy Chinese food loaded with high end ingredients.

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