Restaurants & Bars Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Winterlicious at Canoe

stonerose | | Feb 3, 2010 06:05 PM

I haven't been to a Winterlicious venue before, nor have I been to Canoe. I came to both with my suspicions, and both were amply confirmed. Take this for what you will.

I hesitated before ordering the unlikely sounding "Fanning Smoked Salmon Caesar, Maple Gastrique, Puffed Rice & Thunder Oak Gouda", but went ahead anyway, feeling a duty as one of a party of 3 to order the third 1st course. The smoked salmon, taken on its own (provided one could dissect it from the dressing) was spectacular. Easily the best I've had, anywhere, anytime. Fatty, salty, rich, ummmmm. However... It sat atop a halved head of romaine that was drenched in dressing, and anchored on either side, flying buttress-style, to the plate, with more of said dressing. And what a dressing! Clearly house-made, but sweet as candy. Not in any sense a vinaigrette. Back atop the salmon... well, it was only after coming home and looking at the menu again that I remembered there was supposed to be puffed rice. What I thought at the time was: "This is crunchy, and I'm expecting big grains of salt, but this is sweet - I guess it's rock sugar." Put the menu and the impression together, and you're left with Cap'n Crunch scattered atop fish, glued to lettuce, roped to a plate.

On to the main. What was advertised as "Fanny Bay Oyster & White Fish Cassoulet, Sweet Shrimp, Mustard Great Northern Beans" was, in fact, a fillet of abusively frozen / thawed whitefish - mealy and weeping water onto the plate, and tasting nothing like the whitefish you've had on the shores of Superior - topped with unremarkable braised cannellini beans, bay shrimp (not P.C. frozen, but still... meh), and a credible but misplaced wine-based white sauce. This was not in any sense a cassoulet, in which ingredients had been melded together into something altogether greater: it was, simply put, banquet food... and bad banquet food, at that. The Fanny (!) Bay Oysters were either missing, or else integrated into bi-coloured blobs of what tasted and looked like caponata and mushy peas.

The service was chilly, earnest at first, ostentatiously performative ("subtle" nods across the table to one another before swooping in with the dish). When things went wrong (I left half of my main unfinished) the service went off the tracks. The waiter said merely: "I have to refer this to someone else." A manager showed up, rattled off a scripted apology, and asked if we wanted another main. I explained that I didn't want to interrupt the flow of my companions' meals, so a glass of wine would be fine. The waiter poured an appropriately generous glass of what I had been drinking (after putting a fresh glass on the table, and after a silent consultation with a colleague, determining that a fresh glass wasn't called for, after all) and stomped off. He was cold for the remainder of the evening.

This recounting risks taking longer than the actual event, so I'll skip past the cheese plate (unremarkable as part of a prix fixe, insulting if you're paying for it.) Oh - the wine pairings were great, and a good value as part of the prix fixe.

I don't have hundreds a month to spend on restaurants. I was basically auditioning Canoe as a "next special meal" place, with Winterlicious as a discount. I don't think I'm their target audience. I wonder how many people on Chowhound really are.

54th Floor TD Bank Tower, 66 Wellington, Toronto, ON M5K 1H6, CA

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