10 Most Exotic Toronto Winterlicious Dishes


Winterlicious is already underway and with more than 200 participating restaurants, 370 menu offerings and over 3,800 individual dishes, it’s easy to miss out on some of Toronto’s culinary gems. Food-obsessed Torontonians have been making reservations since January 16 and because the festival wraps up on February 13, it’s vital to know which places to visit and which ones to pass up on. And since the event proves to be the perfect opportunity to take advantage of flavourful, exotic dishes at an affordable price, we’ve broken down a list of 10 to help with the decision-making process. 

Salmon Tartar

With Salmon Caviar, Chervil and Celery Salad

Restaurant: Célestin ($25)

For those of you with expensive taste, Célestin is the one and only restaurant to offer salmon caviar to Torontonians during Winterlicious. Caviar, a European delicacy and symbol of wealth, provides an explosion of flavour in every bite. Add to that the texture of salmon tartar and you’ve got a memorable oceanic lunch appetizer that is sure to impress even the more distinguished of palates.

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Tamale Criollo 

Tamale with Spanish Mixed Vegetables Stew (Pisto)

Restaurant: Bloom ($35)

Tamale is a traditional South/Latin American dish made from maize dough in a leaf wrapper. Tamale Criollo is known primarily as a traditional Peruvian dish, but Bloom offers its Cuban pork-based version with pork and vegetable stew in the mix. 

To view the complete menu click here

Pan Seared Calves Liver

With Caramelized Onions, Port Wine Reduction, Polenta and Sautéed Vegetables

Restaurant: Cantine ($25)

Looking for a classic dish that your grandmother would have made? Calves liver is Cantine’s homage to North American cuisine circa 1925.  With the addition of the port wine reduction and polenta, this dish is the ideal companion on a cold winter evening.

To view the complete menu click here

Kal Guk Su (Vegetarian)

Bean Flour Pasta Dough, Vegetable Stock, Grilled Golf Potatoes, Carrots, Asparagus, Mushrooms, Spinach Sauce, and Parmesan Chip

Restaurant: Cabal ($35) Dinner only

What makes this dish different from your regular noodle soup is the intricate, multi-stage preparation of both dough and broth. Not to mention, the whole thing is brewed for hours to obtain its savoury flavour. What’s interesting is that it’s known as a summer dish in Korea, yet it’s offered for Winterlicious. But then as long as it’s good who cares?

To view the complete menu click here

Pan Seared Rockfish 

Blistering Tomatoes, Mussels, Coconut Milk, Reduced Broth and Basil Shoots 

Restaurant: North 44 ($45)

North 44 is the only restaurant offering its patrons the Rockfish during Winterlicious.  The Rockfish is native to North America and earned its moniker by spending most of the time on rocks near the bottom of the ocean. This fish has a unique sweet taste that pairs perfectly with coconut milk.

To view the complete menu click here.      

Chicken Xacuti (Shakuti)

Spicy, Full of Flavour, this Coastal Dish is Prepared with Medley of Twenty Five Roasted Spices and Coconut

Restaurant: 259 Host ($35)

One of the more complex Indian dishes from the Southern Goa region, Shakuti uses over 30 ingredients and takes several hours to make. 259 Host offers Chicken Xacuti on their dinner menu along with 14 other options for the main course.  

To view the complete menu click here

Braised Beef Cheeks (Local)

Duxelle Mash, 100km Black Kale and Black Pepper Jus

Restaurant: Crush Wine Bar ($35)

Most restaurants have accentuated locally farmed ingredients on their menu, but only Crush Wine Bar is serving Ontario grown beef cheeks.  Braising beef cheeks for several hours results in a tender, melt-in-your-mouth exotic beef delicacy.  Beef cheeks are becoming increasingly popular in North America because of their flavour and texture so don’t miss your chance at discovering what all the hype is about.  

To view the complete menu click here

Grey Owl Goat Cheese (Vegetarian and Local, Lunch Menu and Dessert) 

Medjool Dates, Pistachios and Meadowview Honey

Restaurant: Luma ($20)

You only have to travel a few hours east to find one of the most unique and creatively named ingredients of this year’s Winterlicous. Made in Quebec’s Fromagerie Le Détour by a husband and wife master team, this sweet cheese was created in 2007 and uses milk that comes from the Swiss breed of goats called Saanen, which are also raised locally. It was profiled by the Globe and Mail back in 2009 and has since earned a steady following.

To view the complete menu click here

Bacon-Onion Marmalade Crostini

With Smoked Pork and Foie Gras Terrine

Restaurant: Habits Gastropub ($25)

Bacon marmalade – need we say more? Habits Gastropub seems to rise head and shoulders above its competition by providing unmatched meat-centric dishes to Torontonians.  If bacon marmalade hasn’t spurred your interest then the menu also features marinated beef heart. If you’re an adventurous carnivore this restaurant will surely satisfy. 

To view the complete menu click here

Salad Olivieh (Lunch Menu Appetizer)

Potato Salad Iranian Style with Cornichons, Carrots, Green Peas, Turmeric, Saffron, Served with Nigella Seed Barbari Bread

Restaurant: Banu ($15)

This is one of the most popular and best-known Russian dishes, invented by Belgian Chef Lucien Olivier working in 1860s Russia. Banu’s version of Salad Olivieh adds a Persian twist with saffron, turmeric and other spices. This variety of the dish is popular in Iran, parts of India and Pakistan.

To view the complete menu click here

So whether you want to be adventurous by ordering braised beef cheeks or trying your luck with pan seared Rockfish, this year’s Winterlicious is delivering exotic dishes to please even the boldest of foodies. For more information on the event and if this is your first year partaking then make sure to read this comprehensive Toronto Winterlicious Guide. And don’t forget, if you know any fearless food lovers then make sure to share this post with them.

About the Author: Alexander Soibel writes on behalf of DishMash, which provides unique coverage of food events around Toronto. You can follow DishMash on Facebook and Twitter


Alex Soibel