Summerlicious 2014 – North 44 º

Running a bit behind again with the reviews, but hope everyone had a great Summerlicious event and look forward to the rest of the writeups for future references! Continuing on with a dinner at North 44:

Was quite excited to return to this top tier restaurant for Summerlicious after the raving review I gave it when I first visited during the past Winterlicious (North 44 Winterlicious review here). It was definitely my favourite restaurant last time, so I definitely came in with high expectations again this time. I found the menu to be quite similar to last licious event, so I guess I was looking more for getting the same great quality tasting foods as before.

The outside of the restaurant always gets me because you really wouldn’t stop at the front and think, oh, this must be a Canadian celebrity chef restaurant owned by Chef Mark McEwan. It’s not flashy at all and you can’t even really tell it’s a restaurant, so you really gotta know about it. But the inside is a gorgeous classy restaurant, and I even got to experience the second floor this time that I didn’t even know about! I had a great meal at this restaurant with a lovely atmosphere, but I’m going to warn you now that I’m afraid this time it didn’t live up to my heightened expectations…

And here you’ll find out why :)

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Yaay. The outside of the restaurant.
Yaay. The outside of the restaurant.
View from the stairs of the main entrance and first floor seating
View from the stairs of the main entrance and first floor seating
Second floor private dining area
Second floor private dining area
Second floor lounge/bar area
Second floor lounge/bar area
Menu - The same sparkly hardstock style as last time!
Menu – The same sparkly hardstock style as last time!

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The basil daiquiri was deliciously savoury and sweet, very refreshing and just the way I like without being able to taste much of the alcohol. Very pina colada-like with a twist from the basil. The honey ginger drink was a mix of honey Jack Daniels and ginger beer. Pretty interesting and super refreshing as well. Mint makes drinks pop so well in freshness and gives it such a nice after taste!

Dinner Cocktails - (Left) Honey Ginger Julep; (Right) Basil Daiquiri
Dinner Cocktails – (Left) Honey Ginger Julep; (Right) Basil Daiquiri

Both breads were soft chewy and yummy. I tried the olive bread even though I don’t like olives, and I was completely cool with the taste of it! Not strong at all so I could definitely take it!

Plain bread and olive bread with fancy balls of butter
Plain bread and olive bread with fancy balls of butter

The deep frying on these dumplings were done really well because they were all so crisp and crunch on the outside, while being soft in the center and the base. The chipotle gave it a really strong spicy kick, but I was able to handle it… because it was delicious! A very traditional asian dish done right, but with an added fusion twist with the sauce and the filling (traditional chinese usually has pork mixed in and the veggies are not as mushy-like). I actually really enjoyed the Western restaurant fancy-style take of this originally simple not-so-special asian dish.

Appetizer - Crispy Chinese Dumplings
Appetizer – Crispy Chinese Dumplings

Mmmm, a repeat appetizer order from an earlier Summerlicious restaurant (see Sassafraz review). Which means we’ve got some comparisons available! This dish was a little smaller than Sassfraz’s, and the tartare was of course quite different. The one here was very meaty and the flavours of the ingredients used were very distinct. I quite liked how this one gave a good meat texture and strong taste of the FRESH RAW STEAK *carnivorous eyes*. The mustard to go with it was a little too strong though and I preferred to have it without that extra sauce. I very much enjoyed this tartare, but I have to say personally, I liked Sassafraz’s steak tartare a bit more in terms of a better fuller mixture of ingredients and tastes. I couldn’t take my hands off that one, but I’d be very willing to share this one around.

Appetizer - Steak Tartare
Appetizer – Steak Tartare

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Steak was not bad last time around so decided to try it again. Was looking forward to having their unforgettable potatoes… but BOOHOO they switched around all the sides this time around… to things that were much more… bland. Seems like the steak portion was larger than last time, and the steak was similar to last time. Maybe I’m a little biased because of previous expectations, but I felt super underwhelmed still. Was hoping to have it at least as good as last time, but I feel like although it was good steak, it wasn’t as good as before. Exactly same style as before though, no sauce, yet felt like it wasn’t as flavourful as last time.

Entree - 6oz Steak
Entree – 6oz Steak

Was also really looking forward to the chicken ballotine since this was ALSO on the menu last time and they did a superb job. Pretty much the same style again except with a different sauce and sides. Once again, they killed it for me last time… but wasn’t up to par this time. Quality-wise, the chicken was still done very well in terms of tenderness and cooking style, but still wasn’t as good as I remembered it last time. The sauce this time I also wasn’t so fond of at all. I mean, it could have had to do with the fact that mushrooms aren’t my favourite foods ever, but even so I’m not picky enough that if it was done well I would still enjoy it. I felt like this sauce was too strong and it felt like they formed too much of this alcohol-ey taste to it that came out from the mix of ingredients. Not a great summery dish for me.

Entree - Roasted Chicken Ballotine
Entree – Roasted Chicken Ballotine

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The sorbet came out to be much better than I expected, especially since I don’t normally pick sorbets given a choice of cold desserts. It was definitely very summery and tropical. I couldn’t determine exactly the flavour of it, but it was definitely something unique and maybe a mix? Possibly a guava / passionfruit-like style of taste. Very soft and subtle but fruity. Not too icey. And the rest of the dessert was just a bed of regular fruits.

Dessert - Mix Fruit & Berries Sorbet
Dessert – Mix Fruit & Berries Sorbet

This was the dessert I was definitely looking forward to when I saw it brought out to another table even before I ordered my food. The description on the menu really had me drooling, and this was the saving grace of the meal that night. Coconut ice cream and havana rum (really? alcohol was in the yummy sweet sauce???) glazed bananas went together so well. The best part was definitely the perfectly crispy flaking off layers of the banana roll… strudel thing in the center. Wow, I think I could eat another 3 of those. The flakes were so thin and blended so nicely with the warm soft bananas in the center when it was bit into. *drools thinking about this* It almost reminded me of baklava pastries, but less sweet and replace everything with bananas. Probably my favourite dessert in all of Summerlicious 2014 :)

Dessert - Banana Strudel
Dessert – Banana Strudel

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Very nice dim-lit atmosphere. Definitely people dressed in semi-formal clothing enjoying a nice dinner, but also saw some more business casual get-ups for a summer weekend night out dinner. Most people tend to be more dressy here though.

Dress Style - Business / Fancy
Dress Style – Business / Fancy

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Unfortunately not the same raving excellent review I had hoped for when I decided to dine here this time around. Which also means I might give this place a break and try some other new things, especially if they won’t be changing their menu around much for licious events. I’m hoping that this was just them being lazy this time around and not putting as much finesse to their dishes as much as other places would do. But for now, I’m looking for more unique dishes and consistent quality in future picks since I’ll be doing this over and over and over… so need to keep things fresh!

Chow Down Time,
Dreamz*

http://north44.mcewangroup.ca/
Restaurant: North 44º
Winterlicious: $45 Dinner
Reservations: Wasn’t too full on a Friday evening upstairs (but downstairs filled up for dinner). Probably want to reserve ahead for good time slots, but could probably still snatch something up throughout the event.
Attire: Business/Dressy

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