Winterlicious is a yearly event wherein for two weeks over a hundred of Toronto's restaurants offered prix-fixe menus for lunch and dinner ($10, $20, or $30 for the meal, no more). The goal is for restaurants to entice new customers - ideally, return customers - for a variably competitive price. It's an amazing bargain, especially if you can get into the city's top restaurants - spots for those can be competitive. I waited a few days until the worst of the phone traffic had died down and tried for a few placed I'd heard good things about instead. Tonight was the first.
Despite the dark walls and exposed brick, there was enough light that we had no problem reading the menus. Little chandeliers marched down the center of the long room, incongruous with the modern decor. A shiny bar lay near the front, by the door, with flat screen t.v.s and no sound. I didn't notice them until the end, just as well. saffronjan and her husband met me at the table, white linens and bread already arrayed on the table.
The waitress was reasonably attentive, in a slightly uncertain way. She asked each of us permission to pour us water. She kept coming back to see if we were ready to order, then hovered momentarily without interrupting, unsure if we were. For better or worse, we were entirely abandoned after we'd finished. The good of it was that we weren't being rushed out for another seating. But it took a while to corral our bill.
We each ordered a different wine. Mine was a featured Winterlicious tie-in, a Sauvignon Blanc from R.H. Phillips. Its flavor was large, opinionated, and fairly tasty. Unfortunately, I can't help but think of it as possible cause of my current headache. And I only drank one glass.
I started with a beet salad, an elegantly composed salad of beet jelly with beety chunks, green beans, and fried potatoes in an apple dijon vinagrette. The lovely little tasty lumps of fried potato was the highlight of the dish. J & J seemed pleased enough with their rocket salads, involving walnuts, grapes, stilton, and a port vinagrette, but it seemed a bit underflavored to me, with rather meagre portions of stilton.
They did, however, make the better choice for mains. Their pheasant, unexpectedly a white meat, had a nicely rounded taste which benefitted from its simple preparation. My venison, on the other hand, while tender and rare, was rather lackluster in the flavor department. The red current sauce was sweet but otherwise didn't taste of much.
Desserts on the other hand... I loved the vanilla creme brûlée with which I finished. The custard was satiny and rich, the glaze slightly too thick, but deliciously candied. John was less excited about his chocolate pecan tart, in large part because there was almost no chocolate involved.
The meal was pleasant, and it was good to see the prix fixe menu reflected the place's good reputation for game meats. I'd be content to return, but equally, I wouldn't go too far out of my way for it, based on tonight's meal. Although... maybe I would if I knew I could have the creme brûlée again.