Tag Archives: winterlicious

Winterlicious 2015: Bent I Ever Had

Excuse the Drake puns throughout this post – we are fully aware that we might overdo the use of Drake references here *cue the eye rolls*. We have heard that Drake, one of Canada’s treasures and an undeniably talented rapper, is a regular at this restaurant!

There is no question that Chef Susur Lee is a guggernaut in the elite culinary world. I’ve seen him on TV a number of times (Chopped Canada) and read some reviews on the Internet, so I was mighty curious about his restaurants in Toronto and what all the hype was about.

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Named after his wife’s maiden name, Bent is a Toronto restaurant owned by Susur Lee that specializes in seafood and Asian fusion cuisine. I’ve heard so much about Bent and for the last two years, I’ve wanted to visit, but it was never the right timing. However, I planned ahead this year and noticed that I would be in town for Winterlicious, the two-week prix fixe menu foodie event, and Bent was on the list of participating restaurants (yay!). I didn’t have to do that much convincing for my partner-in-crime Ricelessasian to agree to join me, since she enjoys Asian cuisine as well!

The restaurant itself is quite special and unique. From the bar to the chairs to the floor tiles, there is an eccentric, retro-feel to the whole establishment that brings you a little back in time. I guess that is what’s particularly magical about the restaurant – it provides a ethereal escape from the crowded downtown core.

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While there was only one option for dinner at $35 for 3 courses, the portions were rather generous for the price we paid. Our waiter said that normally the Asian Duck Confit would cost around $30 for just that dish alone.

We decided to get different entrees and appetizers (the dessert was the same on the menu), so that we could taste and sample each other’s dishes. I will be the first person to admit that I need a lot of variety when I go out to eat 🙂

For the first course, we chose the Pan-Roasted Braised Beef in Peking Crepe and the Baked Dim Sum Chicken (Siu Mai).

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The crepe was something both of us didn’t expect! We had the steamed type of crepe in mind that is often served in Chinese restaurants, so we were quite pleasantly surprised by this fusion twist! The half-moon-shaped crepe, almost like a empanada, was deliciously crispy and flaky. The braised beef filling was very satisfying and was extremely tender and moist.

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There were so many different elements and layers to the flavours associated with the Baked Dim Sum Chicken (Siu Mai) than the countless ones I have eaten at regular Dim Sum. The Sui Mai was juicy, plump and we were given very generous portions. It definitely had to be the most “Asian”-inspired dish on the menu; we appreciated the accompaniments like the white and black tree ear mushrooms and lap cheung. For me, it was a bit on the saltier side than I preferred. I often eat Siu Mai, so personally I was not blown away. Nevertheless, the dish photographed beautifully with the colourful plating and outstanding presentation.

For the second course, we ordered the Asian Duck Confit and the Roasted Assam Style Halibut.

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After tasting the Duck Confit, we came to a consensus that it was a tad dry (overcooked), which was quite disappointing because we both enjoy enjoy eating duck. The only thing that saved this dish was the cranberry and ginger relish sauce (we would seriously bottle that up if we could!).

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Oh you fancy huh? 

The plating was divine, with the lobster bisque resembling a pond, in which the fish and and tofu were “floating” in. I have nothing negative to say about the halibut. It was cooked perfectly – the “melt in your mouth” – type I’m talking about. We enjoyed the Indian-inspired flavours of the tamarind and chickpeas, which balanced well with the subtle flavours of the halibut.

Lastly, the dessert trio, made up of Chinese Sesame Tong Yuen with chocolate nougat, Passionfruit jelly, and Feuillatine Carrot Cake, was a great way to end our delicious meal.

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The presentation was lovely with the 3 separate sections to showcase the different desserts. My favourite dessert would definitely have to be the Tong Yuen as there was a nice surprise of texture with the crunchy nougat that is not found in the typical Tong Yuen dish. The raspberry and apricot puree also nicely balanced the richness of the chocolate sauce. Unfortunately, the passionfruit jelly was not spectacular, and neither was the carrot cake. I thought I could have gotten these anywhere in the city.

Overall, the service was very friendly – our waiter was very talkative and even made recommendations for what we could order next time. I thought he was a bit pushy in suggesting us to order an “add-on” dish besides the prix fixe menu, but we politely declined. I was worried a bit after reading a few reviews about the ‘cold’ service, but I don’t think we encountered that during our lovely first visit. I guess you could say the servers weren’t on their worst behaviour.

There were definitely many highs and a few lows to our first dining experience at Bent Restaurant. However, because the Winterlicious and Summerlicious menus are such great values, we would opt to go again during these times and not during their regular service.

Bent was more than just an option during Winterlicious. It refuses to be forgotten.

-Matchachoco

Rating:

Food: 4.5/5
Service: 4/5
Value: 5/5
Ambiance: 4.5/5

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Winterlicious 2014: Canoe

It was only last December that we ate at Canoe. The first time, we were treated to their regular a-la-carte menu – a combination of entrees and appetizers such as braised Alberta lamb, fresh oysters and smoked duck breast. It was a special occasion and meal for us and ever since, we’ve been comparing other restaurants to this one.

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We never thought our second visit would be this soon. Fortunately, the annual Winterlicious food festival in Toronto has made lunch (and dinner) very affordable and therefore ‘easily’ convincing us to revisit one of our favourite restaurants in the city. Winterlicious (January 31-Feb 13) is really like the Olympics of eating. For two weeks, foodies alike in the city can participate in rounds of eating at the top restaurants the city has to offer. It’s not really competitive, but after a good solid meal, we really are all winners, aren’t we?

The atmosphere was calming, yet there was lively chatter amongst the business crowd and regular patrons. Canoe, one of the eight Oliver and Bonacini restaurants located in Ontario, is renown for its spectacularly breathtaking view of the CN tower and Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. That’s really one of the selling points of this establishment that might keep you coming. Luckily, their food has been nothing but excellent quality and consistency.

The feeling of going up to the 54th floor of the TD Tower Building to the restaurant is rather exhilarating – in a good way. I often refer to it as “going up to food heaven”. (let’s hope there really is one ;))

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We were quite decisive this time about what we wanted to order, having perused the prix fixe menu ahead of time.

To disclose, as a big fan of butternut squash soup, I’ve been hesitant of ordering it when it’s something I could make at home or purchase in the school cafeteria. Besides the fact that it was on the cooler side, I really was pleased with Canoe’s take on a classic – infusing ginger, tarragon cream (yum), and leavened bread croutons – items I would not usually put in my homemade soup. The richness of the soup did not overpower tasting the other ingredients in the soup, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

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Ricelessasian, on the other hand, had the Maple Mustard Pork Rillette (similar to pâté), which was seasoned nicely and fork-tender. It was served with Kozlik’s mustard, hen’s egg, gherkin, and miniature mushrooms which all melded well with the rillette.

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Out of the entrees, we were both drawn mostly to the Ontario Strip Loin with Northern Woods Mushrooms, Layered Potato, & Birch Onion Marmalade. Everything in that description sounded like what I would want to eat everyday. The Strip Loin was outstanding in both flavourful and texture (slightly chewy, yet tender); probably the best that I have ever tasted! The slight marbling on the meat also was what won me over about the dish.

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The onion marmalade was actually one of my favourite things on the plate  – it had that amazing, sweet caramelized flavour which was a lovely complement with the meaty umami flavour of the Strip Loin and sauteed mushrooms.

If you know us, you would know that we usually look at the desserts before we pick our entrees. I’m sure people with a sweet tooth are accustomed to do the same.

Ricelessasian had the Wild Rice Pudding (ironically). The texture of the rice pudding was nice and chewy. The incorporation of the wild rice was a nice touch to the conventional rice pudding. We really enjoy the the mousse which topped the rice pudding. It was light, earthy, and fruity.

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The Niagara Walnut Tart (apple caramel, roasted apple and creme fraiche) was a very decadent way to end the meal. It had a lovely buttery taste and the pastry was crisp rather than flaky. Believe me, it is a richer dessert but so worth it if you’re a fan of apple pie, or tarts in general. The mixture of tanginess from the berry sauce with the sweetness of the roasted apples on top complemented each other well. It was a very generous portion for a dessert to the point where I ALMOST couldn’t finish it! Thank you Canoe for not be stingy with the portion sizes.

Having one of the last lunch reservations of the day, we had the restaurant almost to ourselves near the end of our three-course meal. We thought it was a great moment to capture the view on the other side, something that we didn’t do the last time around.

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If you’re ever in the city, we highly recommend to be wined and dined at Canoe.

Rating:

Food: 4.5/5
Service: 4.5/5
Value: 5/5
Ambiance: 5/5

– Matchachoco