By Lori Bosworth
Now that the winter blahs have set in, we all need a reason to leave the warmth of our homes and celebrate our exciting city. This is where Winterlicious comes in. The 10-day festival involves Toronto restaurants offering prix fixe lunch and dinner menus in the dead of winter! It’s a great opportunity to visit restaurants you wouldn’t normally try. I was fortunate enough to be invited to try the Winterlicious menu at Azure Restaurant at InterContinental Toronto Centre this past weekend. By the way, Winterlicious takes place January 26, 2018 to February 8, 2018.
As we entered Azure Restaurant and Bar, we encountered a huge, open space provided by the restaurant’s enormous glass atrium facing Front Street. Contemporary tables and chairs, suspended ceiling lights and luscious plants gave the room a modern feel. This Saturday was not particularly sunny, but I can only imagine the illumination of the room when the sun is reflecting off the glass. We were seated at a spacious open-style booth in the elevated section of the restaurant towards the back. Our table provided a feeling of exclusivity since the next table was several feet away – how luxurious!
Our server appeared immediately and took our drinks order. Neither of us ordered wine – water only for us ladies! We then perused the three course Winterlicious menu, which is $33 for lunch and $53 for dinner. Lunch appetizers included Crab and Avocado Parfait; Baby Kale and Endive Salad; and Maple Roasted Parsnip and Cauliflower Soup. This was a no-brainer for me: I order soup whenever I can and I was really looking forward to the combination of parsnip and cauliflower. My dining partner, on the recommendation of our server, ordered the Crab and Avocado Parfait.
Our server asked us if we wanted our appetizers right away…we said ‘yes’!
I was delighted with the the Maple Roasted Parsnip and Cauliflower Soup, which was topped with horseradish cheddar and double-smoked bacon. The texture of the soup was silky while the sweetness of the maple turned these vegetables from bland to grand. The horseradish cheddar and bacon added the necessary smoky-spicy flavour to balance the nutty sweetness of the parsnips.
My dining partner enjoyed her Crab and Avocado Parfait, which also included frisée (curly endive), celery root, pickled ginger remoulade, lime, and salsify crisps. She noted that the crab tasted fresh and the avocado was perfectly ripe. The crisps provided some welcome crunch to the softer textures while the celery root’s sweetness blended well with the saltiness of the crab.
Next, our server brought us our mains: Pan Roasted Arctic Char with fennel purée, rapini, orange salsa, raisins, and pine nuts for my dining partner and Bradford Bay Grilled Chicken with fingerling potatoes, acorn squash, spinach, and pomegranate yogurt for me.
My dining partner really enjoyed her Arctic Char and loved how the citrusy orange salsa complemented the fish. The fennel puree added some creamy texture to the plate while the pine nuts and raisins added some sweet and nutty flavours.
My chicken was beautifully grilled, leaving it succulent. The perfectly steamed spinach was tucked underneath the chicken to keep it warm. I also really liked the baked acorn squash as it provided some sweetness for this chicken dish. The pomegranate yogourt was a brilliant addition, keeping the chicken moist and providing a tasty dip for the crispy potatoes. I couldn’t finish all of the chicken as it was a sizable portion.
For dessert, I ordered Sorbet and Berries while my dining partner ordered Flourless Chocolate Cake with lime custard sauce, candied orange, candied lemon and blood orange peel.
My dining partner found the flourless chocolate cake a bit dense although she liked the fact that it wasn’t too sweet. She did enjoy the touch of sweet tartness from the candied fruits.
My Sorbet was refreshingly sweet and the fresh raspberries and blackberries were perfectly ripe. A great finish to a wonderful lunch.
Enjoy the Winterlicious menu at Azure Restaurant, InterContinental Toronto Centre, 225 Front Street West, 416-597-8142 until February 8, 2018. Prix fixe Winterlicious lunch menu is $33; prix fixe Winterlicious dinner menu is $53.