Saturday, July 19, 2008

Summerlicious '08, Part I

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With my impending move to Toronto fast approaching, I've been pretty busy of late trying to get everything organized. However, with my hectic schedule, it didn't stop me from taking some time to check out a few restaurants around the area during the annual Summerlicious event. One great thing about moving to Toronto is the fact that Toronto is a foodie's paradise, with its countless number of great restaurants. Summerlicious, now in its 6th season, is a popular event for foodies and tourists alike. Twice a year, over 100 restaurants in Toronto participate in this ever-popular event, creating a special 3-course prix fixe menu for lunch and/or dinner, all at a very good price. It's a great way for patrons to try out new restaurants around the city, especially some of the top-name restaurants, without having to burn a hole in their wallets.

One of the restaurants I was excited to try out this year was Canoe Restaurant & Bar. For a while, I didn't quite understand all the buzz created around Canoe. I checked out their menu a few times in the past and while it was impressive, it always seemed to miss the "wow" factor to truly draw me in. However, I thought that Summerlicious was a great opportunity to finally find out for myself why Canoe had the reputation that it does.

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Chilled Maritime Shrimp & Scallop Salad with Northumberland Whelks, Summer Wax Bean Vinaigrette & Grain Mustard

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Chilled Wild Leek & Potato Soup with Pingues Niagara Pancetta & Organic Canola Oil

Despite my initial impressions of Canoe as being an overrated restaurant, I came to realise why it is such a reputable restaurant that evening. Firstly, the setting of the restaurant is absolutely beautiful. Situated on the 54th floor of the Toronto Dominion Bank Tower, its height is certainly incomparable to the CN Tower a few blocks down; however, its unblocked view of Lake Ontario is absolutely stunning, and provides a scenic and romantic backdrop. With contemporary decor, the place was spacious, although much smaller than I thought it would be. The restaurant is split level, allow patrons seated near the back of the restaurant to still have an opportunity to see the beautiful view from the massive windows facing the lake.

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Broiled Fillet of Cherry Snapper with Stewed Ontario Heirloom Tomatoes, Sweet Basil & Chickpeas

The dinner menu looked pretty impressive, with 3 starters, 3 entrees and 2 desserts to choose from. I thought that Canoe's menu has a good variety on it. A soup, a salad and a goat cheese souffle for the starters, lamb, fish or ravioli (perfect for the vegetarians) for the entree, and a chocolate cake or lemon tart for dessert.

The food also lived up to all the hype I've heard about Canoe, even with it being off the Summerlicious menu. I had the soup for the starter, deliciously savoury and rich in flavour; the pancetta added an extra layer of flavour to the soup, as well as a nice texture contrast to the smooth silkiness of the soup. For the entree, I had the lamb rump, with its gorgeous presentation. The lamb was beautifully cooked and tender, although I wished there was a more pronounced flavour of black pepper and maple. Surprisingly, the show-stopper was the minted prairie grains; it was so full of flavour and made an perfect accompaniment to the richness of the lamb.

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Black Pepper & Maple Spiced Ontario Lamb Rump with Minted Prairie Grains, Sugar Snaps & Garlic Rosemary Jus

The meal ended with dessert of course, and I opted for the Soma Chocolate Truffle Cake. The cake was decadently rich and silky, although a bit on the sweet side. With such a rich chocolate cake, I often like it to be semi-sweet or bittersweet so that the chocolate takes centre stage, particularly when a high-quality chocolate is used. The accompanying toasted almond ice cream though was absolutely delicious, and the flavours of almond and chocolate complimented each other nicely.

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Soma Chocolate Truffle Cake with Ontario Strawberry & Toasted Almond Ice Cream

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Caramelized Meyer Lemon Tart with Basil Meringue & Blueberry Lemon Ripple Ice Cream

So was Canoe worth staying on the phone for over an hour and half just to book a reservation for the Summerlicious event? For $35 a head, I say it was definitely worth it. If anyone can show me where you can get a 3-course dinner at a upscale restaurant along with a killer view for such a steal, please let me know. But it's not just the fact that the Summerlicious event is such a great deal; the food was really amazing, and proved me wrong about how Canoe is merely an overrated restaurant. Despite the slightly hectic atmosphere due to the event, the serving staff remained attentive and friendly to all the tables, and such is dining experience is bound to draw patrons back to Canoe to dine from the full-price menu. Sometimes I hate being proven wrong, but in this case, I'm glad that I was; it only made my dining experience at Canoe that much better.

Name: Canoe Restaurant & Bar
Address: 54th floor, Toronto Dominion Bank Tower, 66 Wellington St. W., ON
Cuisine: Canadian
Price Range: Entrees $35-40
Accessible: Yes


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