[Recap] Winterlicious 2016 – America

I know… it appears I’ve gone to this restaurant for every single licious event… but their food is just spectacular, consistently tasty, and different every time. There’s always something on their menu that I want to try and it’s always different than all the other menus out there. What’s more, there’s always somebody that wants to try the good food at this restaurant together as well. So it all works out that I get to go here again! However, with the latest crazy politics that’s been going on south of the border, I think I’ll give them a bit of a rest this year haha! But here’s their 2016 winterlicious lunch review:

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There really isn’t anymore new restaurant pics that I can take that I haven’t already taken in my 749583745 other reviews lol. I always love their gorgeous menus.
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Drinks - Lychee Paradise (left), Mimosa (back center), Vanilla Orchid (right)
Drinks – Lychee Paradise (left), Mimosa (back center), Vanilla Orchid (right)

All these drinks were very tasty. The special cocktails were very candy-like. One was like a sweet candy drink, while the other was more of a sour candy drink!

Sourdough & Cornbread & Soft Butter
Sourdough & Cornbread & Soft Butter

As always, their cornbread is still my favourite cornbread EVER EVER EVER. Their butter is also so super soft and warm too :)

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First of all, I need to give them major props for actually waiting for me to return to my seat before serving my food when I had gone to the bathroom. Instead of making the other guests wait, or leaving my food sitting out, they actually kept my food warm in the back and brought it out for me when I had gotten back to my seat. What impeccable service and that’s why I love coming to this place again and again!

Appetizer - Whitefish Doughnuts
Appetizer – Whitefish Doughnuts

This was a super interesting dish and we all couldn’t wait to see how it would come out! The dish was absolutely delicious and everything went together very well!

Appetizer - Baked Potato & Raclette Soup
Appetizer – Baked Potato & Raclette Soup

The soup was tasty and had some sour veggies, but it didn’t take away from the potato soup itself. It actually literally tastes like a baked potato but in soup form! All the flavours in a deliciously filled baked potato were all there!

Appetizer - Crispy Beef Andouille
Appetizer – Crispy Beef Andouille

Inside the Crispy Beef
Inside the Crispy Beef

The crispy beef was very interesting as well! The meat inside was nice and soft and not dry at all. The crispy parts were just enough to add texture to the meat to create a unique meat appetizer. All the fine details in every little accompaniment was just right and made for a fun experience pairing it altogether! The accompaniments are another thing that America consistently does a lot of and does it well!

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Entree - Smoked Chicken Pappardelle
Entree – Smoked Chicken Pappardelle

The pasta dish was the most normal out of all the dishes in the entree section, but nonetheless it was a very tasty dish with a delicious sauce and well cooked meats. The pasta was a good al dente level. Absolutely nothing to complain about!

Entree - Grandview Farms Meatloaf & Hunter Sauce
Entree – Grandview Farms Meatloaf & Hunter Sauce

The meatloaf dish was also done very well. Again the sauce and accompaniments were all done right and the meat was cooked deliciously! A huge filling meal!

Entree - Northern Woods Mushroom Potato Bake
Entree – Northern Woods Mushroom Potato Bake

I have to say this is probably one of THE BEST licious dishes on my list. First of all, I don’t like mushrooms, but I do love potatoes. This glorious block was created with thin, smooth, creamy layers of potatoes stacked atop one another. If I had to describe it, this would be the perfect softness and tenderness of a delicious cake except in savoury form! The sauce was also so tasty and perfect. I think I wanted another one of this already after taking one bite. Perfection.

Entree - Spicy Salmon Tartare & Wild Rice Cake
Entree – Spicy Salmon Tartare & Wild Rice Cake

This dish was very interesting and unique indeed, but not my favourite. Only due to personal preference of not being a spicy food person, and also not being a wild rice kinda person either. Also maybe because the ingredients reminded me a lot of the asian cuisine I commonly have, but not made in the same way. Mind you, the tartare was still tasty, and the wild rice cake was crunchy and airy as you’d expect, but a little on the hard side). The combination didn’t come together as perfectly as the others for me though.

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Another one of my favourite sections to look forward to at this restaurant as they always come up with new and tasty desserts every time! And their presentations are always top notch, just like all their food presentations too though.

Dessert - Bourbon Chocolate Tart
Dessert – Bourbon Chocolate Tart

A delicious tart…err…block for the chocolate lovers! What else to say but tasty, tasty, tasty! Full of smooth chocolatey-ness!

Dessert - Jasper Hill Cheddar Whiz
Dessert – Jasper Hill Cheddar Whiz

When you think of cheese, this is definitely not what you would think of! First time having cheese in this form and type I think! It was super light, almost like having whipped cream but it was cheese! I thoroughly enjoyed it and it wasn’t too stinky for me!

Dessert - Mulled Pear Upside-Down Cake
Dessert – Mulled Pear Upside-Down Cake

I was expecting this cake to look much crazier for some reason, but it definitely delivered on the taste in terms of the expectations. A solid cake that wasn’t too hard nor too soft, with a yummy pear flavour that came through without being too strong. A very well-made upside-down cake! Wish I had a bigger slice :P

Complimentary - Coffee Chocolate Medallions
Complimentary – Coffee Chocolate Medallions

As always, America provides complimentary chocolate at the end of each meal when you pay for the bill. This time they were coffee flavoured chocolates for everyone! A sweet and happy way to end the meal!

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Attire - Business / Cocktail
Attire – Business / Cocktail

This place is so elegant in a trendy way, and the service is so high class that I would feel disrespectful wearing anything too casual.

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As always, America restaurant delivered to the high standards that I’ve always held them at for licious events again and again! The licious price tag is definitely worth every bit of the excellent food experience you get here. This restaurant continues to be at the top of my recommendation list, and continues to impress me with its unique and delicious food. There’s always something great to come back to and they haven’t skimped on anything over the years. I hope they will continue to provide this great service and amazing menus at such a high quality. Silly enough, its name and location is a bit of a laugh right now, but hey, good food is good food and if they consistently deliver that, then they deserve the praise as an excellent restaurant in Toronto.

My food does not represent my political opinions,
Dreamz*

http://americarestaurant.ca/
Restaurant: America Restaurant
Winterlicious: $28 Lunch // $45 Dinner
Reservations: Definitely do so since they are not a super large restaurant. Dinner services are always full. However, I’m not sure if they are still as popular right now due to its location and politics… hehe.
Recommended Attire: Business / Cocktail

[Recap] Winterlicious 2016 – Rosewater

Rosewater has been hovering on my licious list to try for a while since it was so close to work, had gorgeous photos of tall booth seating, and seemed to have a pretty good review for their food menu. So we booked a lunch outing to try this place with some foodie work friends! To our surprise, the place was empty when we got there for lunch, and didn’t really fill up completely even though it was in a core business area. For some reason, the place also didn’t seem as grand as I had pictured it to be from their website and online galleries. Not sure if it was a due to the fact that it was a lunch service, but it definitely felt quite casual from the decor placement to the wait staff attire and attitude, as opposed to the very fancy vibe you get from their marketing material. An interesting first impression, but here goes the review:

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We sat right behind this interesting rose glass panel.

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Snuck a quick shot of those super tall booths I was excited about. But it didn’t seem as grand in person – seemed a bit old and fading compared to the fancy looking photos online! Also… we didn’t get to sit in one since we were a large group… we just got regular chairs at a regular black wooden table in the center :'(

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I think I expected something fancier for menus and placement sets too… I think I was just deceived on my expectations the whole time.

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Basket of Mixed Bread & Lots of Butter Balls
Basket of Mixed Bread & Lots of Butter Balls

Everything came out really hot – which is nice because cold bread is always a bummer. Enjoyed their interesting pointy crunchy crisps things that you don’t normally get at restaurants!

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Appetizer - Sesame Prawn Toast
Appetizer – Sesame Prawn Toast

The food also all came out really hot. A little too hot I’d say to be ready to enjoy. Got a warning from a fellow diner at the table to be careful not to burn yourself by being too excited to eat your food! The toast here was a bit hard, but the dish had the right flavours of what you would expect to get. The sauce was an Asian style sweet and sour sauce that kinda reminded me of cheap spring roll dipping sauce. The fanciness is really going out the window at this point.

Appetizer - Butternut Squash Purée
Appetizer – Butternut Squash Purée

Also came out a bit too hot for people. The soup was not very dense nor heavy as butternut squash purée normally is expected to be. The flavour wasn’t very strong either so this is preferable for those looking for a lighter butternut squash soup.

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Entree - House Made Papardelle
Entree – House Made Papardelle

A nice solid plate of pasta here, although a little too peppery for the guests that had it. Good al dente texture and a good balanced mixture of sauce.

Entree - Duck Confit Shepherd's Pie
Entree – Duck Confit Shepherd’s Pie

The pie was quite tasty but a bit too greasy. There was a good amount of filling to be sure to make you full. The salad was pretty normal.

Entree - Line-Caught Pacific Cod
Entree – Line-Caught Pacific Cod

Unfortunately the fish was a bit bland, but the artichoke purée was very tasty! The fish was cooked well too, but just wished there was more seasoning to accompany all of it!

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Dessert - White Chocolate Banana Cream Pie
Dessert – White Chocolate Banana Cream Pie

The pie was VERY MUCH banana cream flavoured above anything else. For once I think it overpowered the white chocolate component completely. It felt more like a buffet-style cloned dessert to me so it wasn’t anything special in experience, but just a regular dessert of sorts with heavy banana.

Dessert - Cranberry Apple Bread Pudding
Dessert – Cranberry Apple Bread Pudding

This dessert was my favourite of them all. It was a great bread pudding consistency for me, and had a yummy mix of fruity flavours. Everything was a complement and nothing overpowered in this one. Yum! Except the extra random fruits thrown in on the side… those can go in terms of being useless for plating and for accompaniments. lol

Dessert - Trio of House Spun Sorbets
Dessert – Trio of House Spun Sorbets

The only thing anyone could really say about this one was the sorbets were just… really really hard. I mean they look a bit iced over even in the photo, so maybe they needed some more time for them to sit so that it’s actually edible and not teeth breaking. Otherwise… it also felt like they threw together a random mix of things to make a “dessert” dish.

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Missing wardrobe photo as it was a work lunch
Attire – Casual

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Overall consensus with the group was that this place’s food was good enough, but it wasn’t amazingly great at the usual licious level. For the price, it might make more sense to just drop in for a regular meal on any day or night and just order the things that interest you for a cheaper price rather than a full set course. And definitely the place is not as fancy as you perceive it to be. Mind you, the environment is still pretty nice, and I think maybe at night everything looks a bit grander, but it’s also a fine casual dining place as well. The desserts were subpar for me. Would I come back? Probably not for licous and not that interested in returning for the food after this time. But by all means, it’s not a bad restaurant at all! I would just put them more on the average level given my expectations (which may have started a bit higher than expected unfortunately). I think they would need to keep up a bit with the more modern food palate and better presentations that restaurants are focusing on nowadays, in order to stay relevant and fancy.

We Dine On,
Dreamz*

http://www.rosewaterroom.com/
Restaurant: Rosewater
Winterlicious: $23 Lunch // $38 Dinner
Reservations: A known but not a very popular restaurant for licious, so they still had openings especially during a weekday lunch.
Recommended Attire: Casual / Business Casual

[Recap] Winterlicious 2016 – Cluny Bistro

It looks like Cluny continues to be a crowd favourite every licious event! There’s always more people who want to come and try it out, and as a place with consistently good food and just such a unique beautiful environment, I just couldn’t turn down another Cluny outing to introduce more people to this place! And here we have another lunch review from 2016:

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Trying to shoot some different environment shots every time since I’ve reviewed this place so often in the past!

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Drinks - Pomegranate Blueberry Juice (left), Guava Strawberry Orange Juice (right)
Drinks – Pomegranate Blueberry Juice (left), Guava Strawberry Orange Juice (right)

Always fresh and delicious!

Basket of Mixed Bread & Butter (a bit hard)
Basket of Mixed Bread & Butter (a bit hard)

There was lots to choose from in this bread basket – one of them had a slight chili taste, another was multigrain. The bread seemed to be left out and was a bit hard and cold this time around, but the insides were still soft and fresh.

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Appetizer - Barley & Red Lentil Soup
Appetizer – Barley & Red Lentil Soup

This soup had lots of ingredients, so much that it was almost stew-like! The base had an unexpected sourness to it, maybe there’s some sauerkraut in there somewhere? It came kinda lukewarm though, not hot.

Appetizer - White Truffle Brulée
Appetizer – White Truffle Brulée

I wasn’t sure what to expect for this dish, but when this showed up I was pleasantly surprised! The focaccia bread was absolutely amazing. It had some garlic inside and tasted sooo good even on its own. The brulée was very hummus-like in texture and looks. Super creamy and tasty. The pear was sweet and cold and everything just went together nicely for a perfect summer appetizer! Top pick!

Appetizer - Escarole, Goat Cheese & Pear Salad
Appetizer – Escarole, Goat Cheese & Pear Salad

A standard salad – the leafs were a bit bitter and peppery to me. The brittle was sweet and added a nice crunch to everything.

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Entree - Chili Marinated Grilled Head on Prawns
Entree – Chili Marinated Grilled Head on Prawns

The veggies and the grits in the sauce were very flavourful and tasty. The very large prawns were not too spicy. There was a good balance of sauce and flavours on this plate for sure.

Entree - Beef Tongue Pastrami Tartine
Entree – Beef Tongue Pastrami Tartine

The beef tongue was very chewy and tender (maybe a bit too chewy in some parts). The mustard sauce that went with everything had a sweetness to it that made it extra tasty. The bread was nicely toasted. And of course their fries are perfect every time I have a dish with that on it :D

Entree - Baked French Cassoulet
Entree – Baked French Cassoulet

Inside the Cassoulet
Inside the Cassoulet

So there were lots of beans on the bottom of this. The breading on top was crunchy like bread crumbs. The duck meat inside was soft and shredded easily, being kept warm and soft inside the pot. This was full of very strong flavours of all the different ingredients mixing together. Something a little different on the licious menu! Definitely a good dish for people that enjoy the heavier stuff!

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Dessert - Bittersweet Chocolate Macaron
Dessert – Bittersweet Chocolate Macaron

This was definitely a very dark chocolate macaron and was made very well. The sauce was very sour in contrast. Definitely a dessert to please the palette of those who are not fans of the sweets!

Dessert - Raspberry Profiterole
Dessert – Raspberry Profiterole

I like that they brought back their signature profiterole dessert on their licious menu, but it’s also a different flavour than before. The raspberry one this time was very light and fluffy and not too sour like the real fruit. The chantilly and chocolate and crunchy topped it all off nicely! Loved it just as much as the first time I had it a year prior!

Dessert - Poire William Sorbet
Dessert – Poire William Sorbet

This sorbet was just as if you took a very very sweet pear and mushed it into yummy ice form! The pear flavour was super strong and tasty. The sorbet was not too cold nor too icy – just the perfect mixture. You also get a very very large scoop!

Take Home Goodies from Cluny's Bakery
Take Home Goodies from Cluny’s Bakery

Highly suggest stopping by the bakery on your way out and grabbing some delicious French goodies to enjoy at home later on!

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Attire - Casual
Attire – Casual

A weekend lunch is pretty easy going and comfy with attire, but think of a pretty french bistro kind of decor that you’ll be dining at.

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I remember how Cluny rose to the top of the recommendations list the first time, but didn’t wow me as much the second time during dinner. So this third lunch test was a real test of consistency and to see how their food has changed over the year. I’m happy to report that they are still doing a fabulous job at keeping true to their quality. This is still definitely a restaurant at the top of my recommendations list for anyone going to licious! Just have to make the trek over to distillery district, but you should definitely take the time to enjoy the historical area and unique shops while you’re there!

Sweetest Fooding,
Dreamz*

http://www.clunybistro.com/
Restaurant: Cluny Bistro
Winterlicious: $23 Lunch // $38 Dinner
Reservations: It’s pretty big so they can seat a lot, but they’re always full of people for this event!
Recommended Attire: Casual / Business Casual

[Recap] Summerlicious 2015 – Harlem

This is the last review I have here for my Summerlicious recaps, and as we end here, we’ll be beginning with Winterlicious 2016 very soon! I hope you all have your restaurants planned out for the next 2 weeks, and if not, don’t worry there’s still time to review, research, and pick your favourite ones :)

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Harlem is a cute little gem of a restaurant located a little further out from the usual fancy financial district line of restaurants. It sits in an intersection that’s not very populated (Richmond & Church), but with a name that’s rising in popularity due to its unique style and tastes, people definitely know where to find it. Harlem does soul food and they do it authentically well. The restaurant itself is super cozy, and has their menu on a vinyl record on regular nights (I hope they still do this because it was a while ago since I last went). This was the first time for me visiting the restaurant during the summer, and I’m super happy that I discovered their amazing patio on a beautiful sunny day when I dined there for Summerlicious! The whole restaurant is perfect where it is because it provides the right chillin’ and jammin’ kinda vibe to go with their culture of food. So let’s check out their licious run~

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Outdoor patio seating to the side of the restaurant in an alleyway area between two buildings. Closed off with a bit of roofing to block out some sun.
Outdoor patio seating to the side of the restaurant in an alleyway area between two buildings. Closed off with a bit of roofing to block out some sun.

Gorgeous artwork all over the walls of the buildings where the patio seating was.
Gorgeous artwork all over the walls of the buildings where the patio seating was.

The restaurant probably has one of my favourite unique summer patios in downtown Toronto. Because it’s not located in a busy area of the city, sitting on the streets between 2 buildings outdoors on a nice day really gives you the perfect chilling spot for lunch. You would be surrounded by all the graffiti and artworks everywhere you looked, and it was just so cultural and fun to eat in such an environment. You almost expect a Jamaican band to appear and start drummin’ on the corner of the patio under the sun! And yes, they do have overhead covering so you’re not burning your head off while enjoying your meal :)

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Appetizer - Cornbread
Appetizer – Cornbread

Unfortunately, after having the cornbread from America Restaurant (which I keep raving about in all my reviews that you’re prob sick of it now), this was somewhat underwhelming. I’m not even sure if I can find cornbread as delicious as that anywhere else… even if that wasn’t fully authentic *cries* This cornbread felt a little too dry and the taste wasn’t really there for me.

Appetizer - Pear Salad
Appetizer – Pear Salad

This salad was exactly what you’d expect. A salad – refreshing, crunchy, healthy :) Freshly sliced pears :9

Appetizer - Fried Okra
Appetizer – Fried Okra

Personally, I’m not a fan of okra so I can’t give you an accurate rating of how good or bad this was. But I’m pretty sure this tastes exactly like what it is haha. Deep fried vegetable – not too oily, not too hard. A good balance but I just don’t know what it is about okra that I just don’t really enjoy… its texture or flavour? Deep frying it still doesn’t make me like it =P

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Entree - Roasted Jerk in Coconut Bread
Entree – Roasted Jerk in Coconut Bread

I thought this dish was quite enjoyable. However, it was noted by those who can handle spicier foods that they felt the jerk chicken could use more jerk. For me, it was good enough because I can’t handle foods that are too spicy, but I understand that normally jerk foods are expected to give quite a kick! The coconut bread was super soft and yummy, and the meat was extremely tender. A perfect lunch meal sandwich!

Entree - Caribbean Curried Vegetable Stew
Entree – Caribbean Curried Vegetable Stew

The curry here was very flavourful, but everything else was mediocre in the sense that it was quite average and exactly what you see on the plate in terms of tastes. A solid curry and that’s about it.

Entree - Southern Fried Chicken and Waffles
Entree – Southern Fried Chicken and Waffles

Ahh, the chicken and waffles, a popular dish all around for this event. The deep fried chicken was very tasty. Crunchy on the outside with nice soft chicken meat on the inside. The waffles were also soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside – meaning they were freshly made! A good sweet and sour dipping sauce for the chicken, and of course the sweet syrup for the waffles! Everything delivered to expectations here!

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Dessert - Candied Plantain
Dessert – Candied Plantain

These are my favourite things that they serve here. Their plantains are warm, sweet, soft, and absolutely delicious! This would be the item that brings me back to this restaurant for a craving of this dessert :D

Dessert - Bread Pudding
Dessert – Bread Pudding

I didn’t really enjoy the bread pudding. The raisins were overpowering here, and the textures were not quite soft enough for a good bread pudding. The accompanying ice cream scoop was however very good. Soft and melty, kinda like having vanilla soft serve instead.

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Attire - Casual
Attire – Casual

Very casual and relaxing environment. Look at that young high school girl attire that I’m even sporting there… =_=”

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This restaurant is a great place to dine. It’s such a good deal because they’re on the cheaper spectrum for licious, and totally worth it! You come here to have a great time enjoying good food for a good cheap price, and that’s exactly what they give ya. I think coming here in the summer is a much better choice because you’ll get to sit at the awesome patio that takes you to another place entirely. If you’re looking for some real soul home-cooked kinda southern style dishes, this is the place to be no doubt!

Let the licious continue on,
Dreamz*

http://www.harlemrestaurant.com/
Restaurant: Harlem Restaurant
Summerlicious: $18 Lunch // $25 Dinner
Reservations: Quite a small and cozy restaurant, so not a lot of seats. A couple more seats open up in the summer due to the patio seating. Reservations recommended during busy hours, walk-ins might be acceptable. Restaurant is getting pretty popular lately though :)
Attire: Casual

[Recap] Summerlicious 2015 – America

As promised, I’ll be running my Summerlicious 2015 reviews while we wait for Winterlicious to start serving! Don’t forget that reservations have already opened up for all the restaurants, and some of the popular timeslots for well-known restaurants have been quickly filling up. So take the time to read these reviews if you haven’t decided what you want yet, but don’t take too long :)

As we roll back to last summer, we start off with one of my favourite repeat restaurants – America. Situated on the 31st floor of the fancy Trump Tower in Toronto, we came back expecting no less of the great food we’ve always had at this place, back from since it began as STOCK. Since we came for lunch this time around, the natural lighting really helped with the photo quality! The last time I reviewed this place, all my photos were dark and purple-y, but now you can actually see all their food with the much better lighting! Let’s begin – but first I must apologize for the captions. Because it has been so long, I no longer have the original names of the dishes, so I tried my best to just explain what they are, but I’m sure the original naming was MUCH MUCH MUCH more appetizing and way more creative… totally my fault for not snapping a photo of all the menu items IN the menu!

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Artistic ceiling and wall decor all around
Artistic ceiling and wall decor all around

Yes, the restaurant is actually really nice when it doesn’t come out all dark in photographs :D

Very stylish menus
Very stylish menus

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Drinks (left to right) - African Berry Boat, Alice Mystery
Drinks (left to right) – African Berry Boat, Alice Mystery

Some very delightfully fruity and refreshing non-alcoholic beverages to start.

Jalapeno Cornbread with Butter
Jalapeno Cornbread with Butter

This was the first thing I asked about after ordering. If you’ve read my Winterlicious review for America, you would’ve known how hard I raved about this cornbread. I’m still raving about them. They are the most delicious cornbread I’ve ever had. The end. (Check out my other review if you want more actual info about them… lol)

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Appetizer - Fried Chicken & Matcha Waffle
Appetizer – Fried Chicken & Matcha Waffle

Insides of the Matcha Waffle
Insides of the Matcha Waffle

I knew I was getting this item when I saw the words “Fried Chicken” and “Matcha Waffles” listed under one dish. They’ve put an interesting twist on a very popular soul dish – adding some japanese matcha flavouring into an already well-known dish. It’s like putting two popular foods together and creating a fusion of popularity that people love to eat! I certainly loved eating this! The dish tickled all my taste buds. I could feel the sweet, salty, sour, and spicy all in there. The matcha in the waffle was very subtle. Overall a stellar idea for a fusion dish.

Appetizer - Soup with a side of Pork Belly
Appetizer – Soup with a side of Pork Belly

I know, my fault but I have completely forgotten what kind of soup this was, and my eyes cannot tell from this photo… and I don’t want to just guess and give the wrong info! But we know it’s soup at least! The soup was very very creamy and refreshingly cold. The pork belly was super chewy and salty, which added some contrast to the soup. The vegetables added a nice crunch to the dish. Yum cold creamy smoothness!

Appetizer - Fish Salad with Pickled Vegetables
Appetizer – Fish Salad with Pickled Vegetables

Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to try this dish for myself, but I heard that it was a good standard salad. What you would expect it to taste like by looking at it.

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Entree - Pork Chop
Entree – Pork Chop

The pork chop turned out to be a bit dry since it was a very very large chunk of meat. But it was salty and had a strong good meaty flavour to it. The skin was very crunchy and crispy. All that it needed was maybe a bit of sauce to even out all that meats!

Entree - Pasta Nettle
Entree – Pasta Nettle

So the nettle part tasted (and looked) like a spinach purée to me, but I then found out that nettle is actually a very interesting type of plant (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urtica_dioica). The pasta broth was really really oily, but tasty with the large garlic pieces soaking in it. The pasta felt a tad undercooked to me, but wasn’t to the point that made it inedible. I guess I wasn’t quite expecting this kinda pasta and broth, so the dish was a little surprising. Taste was there, but didn’t really love it.

Entree - Steak with Beans and Rice
Entree – Steak with Beans and Rice

This steak was perfectly cooked – nice and tender. Probably the best made main item of the whole lunch. The sides gave it a Mexican taste and feel – with the spicy beans and rice. Not sure I love these accompaniments with a well cooked steak, but I think I just prefer to have the usual american staples like potatoes and veggies with it.

Entree - Salmon with Grape Sauce
Entree – Salmon with Grape Sauce

I liked that the salmon was topped with preserved grapes, but I didn’t like that the salmon was overcooked :( But as you know if you’ve read my reviews, I have a very specific expectation for fish cooking that most western restaurants do not meet. So I wasn’t surprised, but I very much enjoyed the presentation here that most restaurants do not do with fish dishes, and also the grape sauce was actually super duper tasty! Very interesting and unique sauce choice indeed!

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Dessert - Cheese and Chocolate and Accompaniments
Dessert – Cheese and Chocolate and Accompaniments

This plate was a great choice of sweet and salty for a dessert. The lavender crisp had a nice flavour when eaten by itself, but was sometimes overpowered by the other item’s flavours when eaten altogether. The dark chocolate with pistachios on top was a nice balance of sweet and bitter. The preserved apricot added an intense sweetness to the mix. The American cheese was of medium strength. The honey topping was what added depth to the other flavours in the plate’s combinations. [Courtesy of K2]

Dessert - Keylime Gelatin
Dessert – Keylime Gelatin

Didn’t get to try this one either :(

Dessert - Black Forest Cake
Dessert – Black Forest Cake

The cake was pretty standard. The cherries used were really fresh tasting, and the icing wasn’t too sweet. So I give it an “above average” rating for my cake standards in all black forest cakes :)

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Attire - Business Casual
Attire – Business Casual

It’s a fancy building and they certainly make you feel fancy in there. So feel free to fancy it up when you go here.

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And that sums up my review for America for the past Summerlicious season. Definitely a place to be if you’ve never been. The food is always worth it in my opinion, and it’s always nice to go somewhere that I wouldn’t normally go to for a meal (you’d know what I mean if you look at their regular prices). I haven’t posted up my upcoming list yet for the next event, but it looks like America’s lunch will be back in the mix for me and some friends :) Keep you posted!

It’s bedtime,
Dreamz*

http://americarestaurant.ca/
Restaurant: America Restaurant
Winterlicious: $28 Lunch // $45 Dinner
Reservations: Maybe cuz it’s in Trump Tower, people will hesitate from now on ;) But I’d say reservations in advance is still best, especially for popular dining times.
Attire (Lunch): Business Casual (can get fancier for dinner)

Winterlicious 2015 – Hawthorne

Ahh yes, the reviews are coming in later and later but I’m still going at it! With the goal to get all these done before Summerlicious comes around! LOL. Oh my lazy self just always kicks in, rolling around like a useless ball after having a big delicious meal :’)

And next up we have Hawthorne – also a newcomer to the licious scene this year. Picked this place because I literally work right beside this little gem, and so it would be the perfect spot to try for lunch! Been here before for regular meals, so I know they have good quality fresh food, and the licious menu is definitely a steal for that price for the three courses (cheapest price range what what?)! It’s not a very big place, but you can tell they put a lot of thought into their decor, putting together a unique cozy and simple modern setting to enjoy a good meal at. During the day, their full-length wall-to-wall windows allow you to soak in the outdoors environment and people watch, while people also walk by and glance at you eating your delicious food =P. At night, they dim down their interior lights to give a bit of a fancier intimate dining feel. A very cute place indeed.

I also learned that Hawthorne is part of an organization called the HWTC, where skilled workers come in to work and train in order to better their skills in the kitchen and workplace. I think that’s such a great restaurant community and makes you realize it doesn’t require all top tier experts to create amazing food. More info about this can be found on their website. And now let’s get to what I remember about their dishes!

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Small comfy restaurant and completely brightly lit with outdoor natural lighting
Small comfy restaurant and completely brightly lit with outdoor natural lighting

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A tasty warm mushroom soup. It’s flavoured well so that you don’t only get that strong mushroom earthy taste (which is what I dislike about mushrooms). And those fried enoki bits were a great texture and tasteful addition to the soup!

Appetizer - Woodland Mushroom Bisque
Appetizer – Woodland Mushroom Bisque

Wow, this is probably the best form of gnocchi I have ever eaten. It was piping hot fresh on the plate that I had to blow on it a bit before devouring the pieces. But they were so good it was hard not to immediately bite into the very thinly crispy fried outer layer, which leads into this creamy soft innards of sweet potato-ness. Mmmm, this is waaaay better than sweet potato fries hands down! The addition of the creme fraiche and the bit of veggies helps to even it out so it doesn’t seem like you’re just eating fried pub food – not that the quality would ever make you think that anyway. One of my favourite appetizers of the event for sure!

Appetizer - Sweet Potato Gnocchi Fritti
Appetizer – Sweet Potato Gnocchi Fritti

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Didn’t get to personally taste this dish, but my sources say that this was a very nicely cooked and put together dish. Has all the elements of a coq au vin and the meat was tender and well flavoured. Seems to me like a heavier dish – I’d prefer it for dinner rather than lunch. But for those who like their lunches meaty, this is the fancy way to go!

Entree - Mulled Wine Coq Au Vin
Entree – Mulled Wine Coq Au Vin

A very unique type of lunch dish. In fact I found all their dishes on the menu to be rather unique and different and I love that for licious restaurants! The tart looks small but was very dense and filling indeed! That chunk of cheese on top was a little much for me by overpowering my tastebuds, but the tart itself was done very well. The shell was the right flaky softness and there was A LOT of flavours and ingredients going on in the whole plate itself. It was like a little bit of everything thrown in, which is good, but not necessarily fully complementing at all times. I felt I was getting something a little too different depending on how I mixed the bites, rather than a consistent meld of flavours that always worked alongside the main item. However, it was an enjoyable dish indeed… until I got to the salad part xD just kidding! The apples and the dressing made it all good :)

Entree - Rustic Savoury Tart
Entree – Rustic Savoury Tart

The items on the plate seem a little simple and normal, yet arranged very nicely. The sandwich tasted very nice when put together. The brisket was tender and smoked with that bbq goodness in meats. Those crispy onion strings are always welcomed on sandwiches and burgers to take it to the next level. Well flavoured and a very homey feel to a lunch meal.

Entree - Applewood Smoked Brisket
Entree – Applewood Smoked Brisket

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Nicely done creme brulee. Nothing too special about it… did the black walnut stand out or make any differences to this dessert? Not at all, I don’t think I knew that existed… but the creme brulee was a good one nonetheless!

Dessert - Black Walnut Creme Brulee
Dessert – Black Walnut Creme Brulee

Oooo, this was a heavy ending for a lunch dessert, but it was soooo yummy. Soft little pieces of dessert bread pudding drenched in this wonderful sauce and powdered sugar. With juicy plums to give an extra oomph to the dessert. Absolutely lovely~

Dessert - Pumpkin and Spiced Plum Bread Pudding
Dessert – Pumpkin and Spiced Plum Bread Pudding

Awww, such a cozy little dessert that’s also completely different than your typical restaurant offerings. I mean, it’s pretty straightforward I guess, but still a very nice way to end off a meal! *smiling milk moustache*

Dessert - Cookie with Spiced Almond Milk
Dessert – Cookie with Spiced Almond Milk

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Unfortunately I did not get a chance to take my own outfit photo (rush rush rush back to work after a heavenly lunch >__<).

Dress Style – Casual Nice. This restaurant is so chill and cozy that you can walk in with casual clothes and not feel weird about it. I would suggest something a little nicer than mere casual just because the environment is done up nicely (especially at night), and you often get the work crowd in the area in their business outfits in here!

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And that’s it for this quaint little restaurant! Highly recommend coming here for lunch especially, as I think their pricing and portions for lunch are much more worth it for a regular day. Always get top quality and fresh Ontario goodness from this place! If you’re into the smaller and more intimate dining scene, this place is perfect~

Pieceeee (of cake) Outtt,
Dreamz*

http://hawthorneto.ca/
Restaurant: Hawthorne
Winterlicious: $18 Lunch // $25 Dinner
Reservations: They’re very tiny but also not as well known / accessible. Would definitely make a reservation for licious before walking in though!
Attire: Casual Nice

Winterlicious 2015 – Cluny Bistro

Cluny Bistro was one of my last minute picks while I was looking around for newer restaurants to try. Came across a suggestion of this place from a blog, and after finding out they were situated in Distillery District and was a French-style bistro, I decided it was a good new place to try for a cute lunch. This is actually also the first time they were listed for a licious event, so lots of firsts here! Their website actually caught my attention and excitement, then their menu had me jumping up and down so ready to try this place! Needless to say, the novelty of this place and their unique menu definitely made this one of the top restaurants I was looking forward to this whole event. The restaurant was opened not long ago, in the summer of 2014, and headed by Chef Paul Benallick from Ontario, whom worked in many of the O&B restaurants before Cluny. So with little known about this newer place, let’s see how it went!

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I was absolutely blown away by the interior of this place when walking in. I did not expect to be so immersed in an environment that was designed to bring you into a place which is exactly how you would feel like being at a nice fancy bistro in France. The decor everywhere was stunningly intricate and beautiful, and was made to be themed as a comfy bistro situated outdoors in a nice day in France. The furniture, ceiling and walls were all so perfect *o* I was in French bistro heaven!
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The waiters and waitresses would actually go to and from this station to cut up the bread and deliver it to the tables. Loved it!

Neat little bread cutting station in the middle of the restaurant!
Neat little bread cutting station in the middle of the restaurant!

Such a classy, yet modern design for their menus and cutlery!
Such a classy, yet modern design for their menus and cutlery!

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Started the brunch off with some freshly squeezed juices. Very refreshing and smooth, and was just pureeee liquid juice.

Brunch Drinks - Fresh Pear Juice & Fresh Pomegranate Blueberry Juice
Brunch Drinks – Fresh Pear Juice & Fresh Pomegranate Blueberry Juice

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Starting the meal off with some pumpkin soup, one of the few dishes I enjoy my pumpkin in (yes, don’t hate me but I never had a liking for the taste of pumpkin pie)! The bisque itself was a well balanced mix of being not too dense and not too watery either. The nuts added a really nice texture to it. Had a good savoury flavour with a bit of sweetness that went nicely altogether as a solid pumpkin soup.

Appetizer - Spice Roasted Pumpkin Bisque
Appetizer – Spice Roasted Pumpkin Bisque

The terrine was very delicious. Nice cold soft chicken meats pressed together with lots of good tasting other stuff! I especially loved the addition of the tomato with what appears to be topped by a soft smooth sardine??? That’s what it felt/tasted like to me, but it was so soft and didn’t have the usual strong fishy sardine taste to it, that I’m not too sure myself. But everything on the plate came perfectly together, giving each bite a wonderful and flavourful super smoooooth blend of tastes.

Appetizer - Pressed Chicken Terrine
Appetizer – Pressed Chicken Terrine

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THIS. WAS. HANDS DOWN. THE. BEST. CALAMARI. I. HAVE. EVER. EATEN. No lie… the first bite I had into this calamari dish, I looked up at my partner before even finishing it and I said “IT’S SO GOOD I FEEL LIKE I’M EATING CALAMARI PILLOWS IN MY MOUTH”. It was the softest and most tender calamari I have ever eaten! I didn’t even know they could be cooked like this!!! My life is forever changed. The calamari itself was definitely the highlight, but the sauce itself was also good because it wasn’t too strong in tomato flavouring, and also at the right consistency for the seafood (not too chunky and not too watery). This was a heavenly dish from the heavenly French bistro.

Entree - Tomato & Saffron Braised Calamari
Entree – Tomato & Saffron Braised Calamari

Let’s see, the meat was super tender, the “slaw”/sauerkraut was good, the pickle was fresh, the mustard didn’t overpower at all (even me the mustard hater could handle it), the bread was like soft milk bun… it was basically just a very yummy meat sandwich! Those fries were also killer addictive! So thin and slightly crispy yet soft, nicely flavoured with salt and spices! The perfect fancy lunch sandwich to be had!

Entree - Alsatian Choucroute Sandwich (braised pork shank)
Entree – Alsatian Choucroute Sandwich (braised pork shank)

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Oh man, such delicious cream puffs (that’s what I call them). Easy to bite into and the creams did not overflow to make a mess. Presented beautifully as well. Carefully stacked with a bit of chocolate and chantilly to hold them together. The centers were filled with a room temperature hazelnut chantilly I believe? The chantilly on the sides were soooo delicious. I was about the lick the plate clean at the end of it all. NEED. MORE.

Dessert - Roasted Hazelnut Profiteroles
Dessert – Roasted Hazelnut Profiteroles

Granita is similar to a sorbet, but specifically an Italian dessert made semi-frozen with water, sugars, and whatever ingredients to give the flavour involved. It’s more icey than regular sorbet it seems. Tasted like a berry/fruity sorbet to me, but a slightly harder texture from the half frozen iciness of it. Was still flavourful though and not icey water tasting at all. A good cold finisher!

Dessert - Pomegranate Granita
Dessert – Pomegranate Granita

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A beautifully decorated restaurant that definitely gives you a nicer vibe. For lunch I would totally come here with colourful nice outfits. For dinner, I can definitely picture a fancier vibe from the decor, even if it’s still very comfortable and bistro-like at its core. Not supposed to be a “fancy” restaurant at all, but the decor can bring dressing it up a notch I feel. I was intentionally dressed for something else that day though, but it worked nicely with the environment for me!

Dress Style - Business Casual / Casual Nice
Dress Style – Business Casual / Casual Nice

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Hands down one of my favourite restaurants this licious event. All the food was amazing with no complaints. The decor still wows me to this day. Definitely a recommendation to all, and I do wish to come back here in the summer. I think it’s the perfect setting being in the distillery district, and I’d love to go back on a regular day just to walk around the area and have their food again. It really was that good and I hear they have amazing brunches regularly as well! Can’t wait to come back to this place and see what great things they continue to offer :) *squeaaaaal*

Absolutely Foodishly Delighted,
Dreamz*

http://www.clunybistro.com/
Restaurant: Cluny Bistro
Winterlicious: $23 Lunch // $35 Dinner
Reservations: Do reserve in advance. Having lots of seats, they were at full capacity for weekend brunch dining already.
Attire: Business Casual / Casual Nice