the chefs' house


What? The chefs' house for Winterlicious lunch
Where? 215 King st east (504 King streetcar, or 5min walk from King station)
Price? $15 (Winterlicious lunch, 3 courses)
The skinny: In short, the chef’s house is the restaurant of the George Brown College Chef’s School. Student chefs hone their skills in the kitchen here while gaining in a real, dining environment.

It’s that time of the year again! Winterlicious is here. It comes and goes in about two weeks. Winterlicious and Summerlicious are both collaborations of the city of Toronto and a myriad of restaurants spotted all over the city, all offering prix fixe menus. They range from $15 lunches to $45 dinners. As well, there are culinary events. 

Over the 10 years that the 'licious events have been running, many new restaurants have been added to the list. They mutually benefit the restaurant—bringing in business at a usually dry time—and curious diners who want to try something new but don’t have the means to shell out the big bucks. 
Contemporary design in the dining room.

What’s important is restaurant etiquette. By that, I’m mainly talking about tips. Recently, I’ve been seeing some articles floating around about a new minimum 20% tip. All you need to keep in mind is that even though the food is “cheaper”, a lot of work, resources and time is still spent on your food so don’t skimp out when tipping. ;)
I love the lights! They look like like pearls of light just dangling from the ceiling.

Okay! So that was my spiel! I tried to lay off going to restaurants for winterlicious this winter but I somehow find myself with reservations to three haha No self-control. 

The chef’s house is my first stop, and on the first day of the event too! (keener much?). I came here for lunch with my boyfriend. I promised him not to post a photo of him—which is a shame since it’s hilarious! 

Along with the winterlicious menu, they were also offering another prix fixe menu, from student Brian Cheng (who spent several months in Italy). I went with the former and Victor went all the way with the latter. 

Bread time. At first I thought “oh that’s creative!” in regards to the napkin turned bread “basket”. And then it reminded me of the napkin origami you’d find at Chinese restaurant…yeah maybe it’s not so great after all. The bread was pretty chewy and fresh. 

Our appetizers came out pretty quickly. I’ll go through the Winterlicious portion in its entirety first.

Starter: Warm baby octopus salad, chorizo, olives, fennel
Ever since I had that one octopus starter at Enoteca Sociale, I’ve been craving good octopus. I can’t say that this dish can compare to that…the octopus wasn’t warm, and the chorizo didn’t have enough kick. All in all, kind of a lackluster way to start the meal. :(

Main: Squash & ricotta tortellini, hazelnuts, beurre noisette
Upon hearing that the tortellini is made in-house, I decided on this main. The tortellini was really delicious! I like how the hazelnuts gave the dish some crunch but I wonder how it would’ve been if there was an element of bit in the tortellini itself. 

Considering we are in a restaurant where those working in the kitchen are still learning, mistakes will be made. The first time this dish came out, most of the tortellini was undercooked. This is the first time I’ve ever sent food back and I felt bad for that but at the same time, I know that’s what they’d want too. For all the effort they already put in, they wouldn’t want it to be wasted like that. 

Anyways, they were very gracious about it and promptly brought out a new dish for me. :D

Dessert : Sticky toffee pudding, salted caramel sauce
It’s not a fussy dessert but I love it. Sticky toffee puddings are one of my favourite desserts. It’s like three layers of sweetness! :D haha The caramel was quite luscious. 

The pudding itself wasn’t all that great though. Not that there’s anything with this, but you can clearly tell that they baked it in a muffin tin! (I thought that was kinda cool since I did the same! Check out my version.) The texture of the pudding wasn’t dense enough for me though. It was a little too light. The Biff's Bistro version is still at the top for me.

So that was my meal! Definitely some good elements here and there but nothing truly spectacular. Next up, I’ll quickly show you Victor’s meal. Chef Cheng’s (he’s still a student but it’s still the right address, right?) menu had a 3 course or 4 course option. Victor went with the latter. “Gotta support your fellow Chinese” as he put it. :)

Mortadella e Bigoli Verza Ripieno
(mortadella & chard stuffed cabbage). Not too sure what I’m looking at haha. Good robust flavour but it’s not the most appealing presentation with everything covered in sauce. Victor really liked the cabbage acting as the wrap. 

Tagliatelle con Vongolie
(tagliatelle, clams). Nice, it’s not drowning in sauce. The pasta was perfectly al dente but if you look close-up, the pasta seems like it was close to cracking…in the sense that it was rolled and left out too long. 

The clam juice in the sauce, awesome. We both agreed that the pasta being served hot definitely added to its appeal. Unfortunately, the bit that I tried had some grit in it. 

Branzino al Forno
(pan-seared branzino, baked potato, onions, pine nuts, olives). Right off the bat you can tell that the skin’s all nice and crispy! :D Victor really liked the fish, saving the crispiest part for last. Yep, I totally stole a nibble. 

Papaia e Tartufo Sorbetto
(papaya & truffle sorbet, candied nut crunch). I thought this sounded great. Victor thought otherwise and he was absolutely right. Yeah, this was no good. It had an offputting taste. The lady beside us said it tasted like “gasoline!” Harsh… Well, the texture was nice?

Ontario apple frangipane tart, cheddar cheese ice cream
A man came over—I’m guessing he is one of the managers—and offered Victor a choice of one of the winterlicious menu desserts to make up for the disaster that was the sorbetto. This was his clear choice. Yeah, it’s not everyday that you have cheddar cheese ice cream. 

I didn’t find the dessert all that special. Hot + cold = amazing. However the buildup for the cheese ice cream proved to be futile. It tasted like vanilla ice cream that been rolled in shredded cheese. 

Verdict: I came here expected something great, a meal that would really impress me. That didn’t quite happen but the professionalism with which the students conduct themselves with was unexpected. I’ve been wanting to come and try out the food and now I can check that off my list.

3 out of 5 NOMs
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