I forgot to put in the reviews for this past Winterlicious! I only went to three places in January: The Strip House, Bymark and Corner House
I hope I can remember everything! But if I don't remember, then take it as a sign. ^_^
The Strip House (11 Duncan Street, 416-598-3638) is at the top of a skinny building, off of Duncan Street. It kind of feels like an alley. You have to walk up three flights of stairs, past Filet of Sole (seafood restaurant) and the Whistling Oyster (oyster and raw bar) on the lower levels. It's advertised as a steakhouse, but it amounts to a fairly small room with interesting decor. I went with HL, and we ordered everything un-steak related. I was surprised by HL's pasta choice, since she is such a major meat lover. Unpretentious staff, not shamed by not ordering a glass of wine with our meal, the $20 lunch was about right for my experience. The food was O-K.
I ordered the house salad, crab cakes and a chocolate mousse with whipped cream for dessert. The house salad was the kind with the bitter greens that I don't like, and there was just a lot of greens and cabbage. The crab cakes were quite good initially, but I found them to be overly greasy and heavy as a result. The chocolate mousse was the redeeming point! But it doesn't really take much for me to be satisfied when it comes to chocolate. It might have been nicer in the evening, in terms of the decor, because the streaming afternoon sunlight diminished the heavy draperies throughout the room and the translucent wall covered with pinpoint lights.
Overall, 7 out of 10.
Bymark (66 Wellington Street West, 416-777-1144) is on the concourse level of the TD Tower. I ate here with MN, and it was quite difficult to get a reservation. We had a choice between a 5:30PM or 9:30PM dinner on a Monday evening. After I was even able to get past the "busy signal" when placing my many calls. But oh! It was worth it.
Being in the yuppie section of the downtown core, I expect to see a lot of "suits". Surprisingly, there were lots of women. Tables of friends, girlfriends eating together. A few tables had one or two men, but it looked like it was mainly the fairer sex was out to enjoy some good food and company.
Immediately upon entering, our coats were taken and a coat check ticket was issued. We were guided to our table on the side of the restaurant. It's quite narrow, but the high, high ceilings give the impression of space.
MN and I decided fairly quickly on our orders, but our orders were only taken after waiting for quite a while. I would guess at least 15 minutes were spent trying to catch the waiter's eye. After that initial blip, it was smooth sailing.
MN started with some sort of cheese ravoili, followed by roasted chicken and truffle risotto, with a glass of chardonnay, and chocolate paradise cake. My decadent meal began with surprisingly large pieces of seared tuna. A fan of sashimi, I don't shy away from the barely not-raw. (Unlike E!) The details of the experience are gone, but I remember being very happy. My entree of beef tenderloin, on a paper-thin ravioli containing shredded beef (?) and onion, was divine. Divine divine divine oh so fine! I don't usually use the word divine (EVER), but the tenderloin literally melted in my mouth. I tried to eat it with agonizing slowness in an attempt to enjoy it as long as possible. They gave me what was basically a butter knife to cut it and the knife just slipped through it as though it was melted butter. It was that good. I enjoyed that with a glass of something red. Perhaps a merlot. I'm not much of a wine connoisseur, so I just requested suggestions for a red that is not very dry. Like MN, I had the Chocolate Cake with tahitian vanilla sauce. It was quite nice. Not too rich or heavy, so a suitable ending to a wonderful meal with good company!
Beyond the initial waiting to order, the service was good, attentive without being hovering. And I really like their washroom. You know those thick towels that you can use to dry your car? They have something like that to dry your hands. They take good care of you.
Bymark! The best 'Licious experience so far! (of my approx. 15-20 visits thusfar)
Overall, 10 out of 10.
Last but not least, The Corner House (501 Davenport Road, 416-923-2604), has been ratest the Most Romantic Restaurant. So I embarked on this experience with E. The Corner House is actually a house, on the corner of Davenport Road and Madison Avenue. As you step in, you are practically in the kitchen. It has the feel of a small country house. Quaint. Walking through requires hugging walls to let people get by. We had a small table on the ground floor. Very small table, knees knocking, etc. But it could have been quite intimate. Aside from the larger party in the same room. And the kitchen being about 7 feet away.
E ordered the crab cakes which come with avocado (yum) and a chipotle aioli, New York striploin with potato mash and chocolate raspberry cake. I started with a baked pear filled with goat cheese (slightly tangy) and pine nuts. Next up was the seared scallops with couscous and citrus fruit, completed with a maple creme brulee. I enjoyed my baked pear very much, the scallops and citruc fruits less so. Too much sourness with the surprise pieces of grapefruit. Not a lot of scallop. However, the meal was rescued by the creme brulee, because I like cracking the surface. I liked my dessert more than E's.
I guess it could be viewed as a "romantic" restaurant, the way that the whole place is laid out. I think I am more impressed by yuppie places with extravagant decor. If the food wowed me over, that would have had a greater impact. The service was fine, except when they dropped a glass that shattered close to our feet. And when they "discreetly" placed the bill on our table while we were still enjoying our desserts. No one likes being rushed through a meal. I know that we were paying "discounted" prices because of the Winterlicious event, but this was their chance to entice new customers, allow them to experience restaurants that they may normally avoid due to high costs. Win them over to think of the restaurant the next time they want a special evening.
So because the food was good but not great, the service was lacking and I didn't get to appreciate the quaintness of the restaurant due to multiple extenuating factors, I would give this place a 7 out of 10.
I was disappointed, because my foodie friend highly recommended The Corner House! Usually I am quite pleased with her recommendations, but perhaps she received better service during her visits.