Steve Song

The Dish



Winterlicious 2012: our food editor whittles the monster list down to a manageable 11

The spectacular view from c5 (Image: Suzanne Long)

It might be hard to believe, but Winterlicious celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. That’s right: it’s been a whole decade of commoners storming the fine dining gates, not to mention mutual bile and suspicion between restaurateurs and diners. And yet, the annual prix fixe event keeps growing. In its inaugural year, only 35 restaurants participated. This year, there are 175 on the roster, making it tougher than ever to choose where to spend your hard-earned $25 or $35 or $45. So we narrowed the choices down, first to 61 Toronto Life–approved spots and now to just 11 of the best. Because we’re slaves to trends, we focused the list this year on the new and improved—places that recently opened, overhauled or changed chefs—and because we like a bargain as much as anyone, we looked for the spots that offer the very best bang for the buck, which is, after all, what Winterlicious is all about. Start making your reservations now (unless you don’t have an AmEx card, in which case you can wait until Thursday like the rest of us).

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The Dish



Bringing Sexy Back: Chris Nuttall-Smith takes on Aria and Toca

After three years of restaurant restraint, Aria and Toca, two unabashedly flashy new spots, are giving diners a reason to get dressed up again

Opulence, I missed you. I missed high thread-count table linens and hand-blown water glasses and even edible gold leaf a little. I missed the dining rooms whose owners gave carte blanche to talented designers, insisting only on “something grand.” But mostly, I missed gasping when I walked into restaurants—having to stop to take a space in, to admire. Though restraint wasn’t all bad for dining culture these past few years, it wasn’t always easy on the eyes.

Two ambitious, expensive, flashy new dining rooms have opened downtown in recent months, one of them from a hotel chain that’s synonymous with conspicuous luxury, the other from a pair of neighbourhood restaurateurs who’ve come out shooting for the moon. Both are fine dining (more or less), and both are likely to make you gasp when you enter.

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The Dish



Introducing: Aria, the new Italian restaurant by the people behind Noce

Aria’s onyx bar and Moooi light fixtures

For years, Noce has been quietly turning out exceptional Italian food to a loyal coterie of regulars at the corner of Queen Street and Walnut Avenue. Now Aria, the long-awaited sequel to Noce, has opened its doors at a very different location—the main floor of the 30-storey Telus Tower, right next to the ACC. The project is a result of years of planning, which started after the head honchos at Telus, Noce regulars, personally invited owners Elena Morelli and Guido Alberto Saldini to set up a second restaurant in their not-yet-built downtown headquarters.

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