Summerlicious 2010: the restaurants have been announced, so let’s pick them apart

Summerlicious 2010: the restaurants have been announced, so let’s pick them apart

The view from Toula: be a tourist in your own city (Image: Ian Muttoo)

First things first: there’s not much change under the Summerlicious sun. All of the old favourites are here (including Canoe and Bymark, which always sell out first). Seven Numbers, which by Winter/Summerlicious rules is allowed only one location, has swapped out its Danforth location for its Eglinton one. Winterlicious participant Conviction is out for the summer edition as the second season of Conviction Kitchen films in Vancouver. The new owners of Crush Wine Bar are apparently not feeling the ’licious love—nor is Moroco. And while The Citizen’s digs are alive and kicking under new ownership, its vaunted replacement, Ruby Watchco, is opting out.

The city’s Summerlicious Web site has undergone a change, too. The old vegetarian option carrot icon has been replaced by a little green leaf, and the whole thing is much improved. When we’re trying to scan the list for favourites and favourites-to-be, pictures equal goodness. Happily, we can now sort by cuisine, area and price, though it does look like some restaurants are playing a little fast and loose with the “cuisine” tag. Ultra, for instance, comes in with a whopping seven cuisine types, though its Summerlicious mains are wedding-menu-basic salmon, chicken or steak (rubbing it with chili does not make it “international,” and how they’re justifying the Japanese and Indian labels is a mystery). On the flip side, poke us with Ontario-grown asparagus because Veritas didn’t make the cut for “local/market fresh” and instead ended up as “bistro.”

As for the menus, there are the predictable helpings of mixed greens and pasta primavera, though we did find some more interesting options. The returning Banu, Queen West’s Iranian kebab-vodka (and hookah) bar, is underselling its lush dinners by coming in at the $25 price point. Check out the “salad olivieh”: potato salad Iranian style, cornichons, carrots, green peas, turmeric and saffron, served with sesame barbari bread, followed by murgh chicken breast with saffron-citrus glaze and ending with rosewater ice cream.

At Westin Harbour Castle’s Toula, a 38th-floor view of the city makes it hard to regret spending $20 on lunch—particularly when the options include veal medallions pan sautéed with prosciutto and sage, and a dessert of hazelnut profiteroles. For those looking for more classic artery-clogging decadence, there’s Mistura. The mains are usually in the $30 to $52 range, so the $45 dinner prix fixe seems both justifiable and reasonable.

Why dine on duck confit somewhere expected, like Bodega, when we can wander to Lai Toh Heen, which is back this year with pan-seared foie gras and duck leg confit marinated with Chinese mandarin in pinot noir sauce.

Reliable ’licious veterans La Maquette and Noce have returned for another go. As has Jump—at $20 for lunch and $35 for dinner, it’s least pricey of the Oliver and Bonacini stable (Canoe and Auberge du Pommier are in, but Café Grill is sitting this year out)—which is offering some very tantalizing-looking options, like the big-eye tuna tartare and spicy sopressata followed by piri piri half chicken with smashed fried new potatoes, sweet roasted cipolline and garlic kale.

So bring it on, Summerlicious. Our expectations are set, our mouths are watering, and our credit cards are primed. Time to eat well and tip generously.

See Toronto Life‘s picks for the 64 best bets at Summerlicious 2010 »