2012 Winterlicious Picks

A bright spot in every bleak winter, foodie festival Winterlicious is upon us. Toronto diners are once again spoiled for choice as the city-wide promotion ushers in affordable prix-fixe menus at high-end destinations. This year, the promotion runs from Jan. 27 to Feb. 9, with 175 participating restaurants. Lunch costs $15, $20 or $25, and dinner will set you back a mere $25, $35 or $45, depending on the venue. For full details, visit the Winterlicious website. Here, our picks for the top five meals at buzz-worthy destinations.

Housed in the ultra-chic Thompson Toronto hotel, Scarpetta will be one of the sought-after reservations this year. Dinner ($35) starts with polenta with a fricassee of truffled mushrooms, braised beef short ribs or an autumn veg salad. The main course options include spaghetti, simply prepared with tomato and basil; roasted organic chicken; or Mediterranean branzino featuring mussels, Tuscan kale and salsa verde. Wrap it up with coconut panna cotta, chocolate cake or honey-roasted pear in crispy phyllo.

Fabbrica, Mark McEwan’s latest venture, serves authentic Italian cuisine made with imported ingredients. Its Winterlicious lunch card ($20) includes margherita pizza, garganelli pasta or prosciutto panini, and dinner ($35) offers up camaroli risotto, braised veal breast or striped bass. At both meals, you’ll also choose a starter plus either pumpkin cake, chocolate torte, gelato or sorbet for dessert.

At Lee Restaurant, Susur Lee’s dining room on King West, dinner ($35) starts off with gingery butternut squash soup, pear-and-beet salad or pot stickers with salted chilies; moves on to your choice of mahi mahi crusted with ginger and onion; confit of jerk chicken with sticky rice and ginger mango compote; or Chinese black pepper steak pot pie. Your stupefied taste buds then get to try mascarpone with lemon sorbet; crème caramel with chocolate mousse; or vanilla panna cotta with fruity accents.

The financial district is where you’ll find Bymark, also a Mark McEwan restaurant. Lunch ($35) offers the mouthwatering eight-ounce Bymark USDA Prime Burger – which is usually $35 on its own, so it’s like you’re getting the starter (romaine hearts, roasted root-veggie salad or crab cakes) and scrumptious dessert (apple crostata, gingerbread cake or orange Nanaimo brownie) for free. At dinner ($45), main courses include dry aged P.E.I. striploin and braised short ribs; pan-roasted salmon; and Cornish hen with chorizo.

Helmed by executive chef Corbin Tomaszeski since last November, c5 Restaurant Lounge at the ROM is serving up a $25 lunch. You and your date can discuss how much you love (or hate) the infamous crystal over appetizers (creamy cauliflower soup, mixed greens and shaved root veg salad, or beef carpaccio), rehash the museum’s current Maya exhibit over the main course (bowtie pasta with veal and pork Bolognese; vegetable cassoulet; or chicken pot pie with Ontario root vegetables), and ponder the end of the world over dessert (baked apple with crumble and vanilla ice cream; panna cotta with citrus accents; or peaches and cream plus a buttermilk shortcake and Ontario peaches).

Image courtesy of Michael Coppola.

This is a test