From my personal experiences, the Toronto Winterlicious event (150 restaurants offering a 3-course prix-fixe menu for two weeks) means sub-par food, small portions, grumpy service and general disappointment. In the wise words of my friend Jason: “If I want to try a fancy restaurant, I’d rather go during lunch.” So Jason and I decided to take our anti-licious stance and go to Sidecar (577 College St.) for their Sunday to Wednesday Prix Fixe Menu (on all the time for $24 — less than a Winterlicious dinner!).
Ever since one of the editors of toronto.com casually told me this was their favourite restaurant in Toronto, I’ve been sending people here for date nights and celebratory dinners. And everyone’s always come back with rave reviews.
Sidecar’s 3-course prix fixe begins with a basket of Ciabatta bread with garlic butter. And believe me, things are off to great start. The generous slices are warm to the touch and the butter is soft and spreadable. Normally I don’t like to fill-up on bread before a big meal, but these were so doughy and divine that we polished them all off before our first course arrived.
There are three appetizers to choose from: Daily Soup, Sidecar Salad featuring chopped vegetables, feta cheese and creamy oregano dressing or the one I went with, Romaine Hearts. This is basically their caesar salad and was the only dish that felt simply average. While the dressing was fine, and the slivers of cheese and crispy pancetta added texture and saltiness, there was something off about the crostini. The ricotta topping worked against the dish and we both would have preferred a plain crostini.
In terms of main entrée, Jason and I decided we could try the Crispy Oven Roasted Chicken, Fettucine with Black Tiger Shrimp or Atlantic Salmon another day. We couldn’t resist the Steak Frites, featuring an 8-oz. sirloin with red wine compound butter, fries and smoked pepper mayo. As you can see from the photo at top, this isn’t some wimpy, skinny steak — this was thick, incredibly juicy and tender, and the spices they used were as close to perfection as you can get. For the price, this might be the city’s real winner.
Last is the dessert course that’s the chef’s choice. Usually this makes me a bit nervous, like they’ll bring out cheesecake (I know, I know, it’s blasphemous and you can alert the Golden Girls. I’m the only person alive who doesn’t like cheesecake.) But thanks to paranormal phenomenons, it all worked out. Jason and I looked over Sidecar’s regular dessert menu and telepathically sent messages to the chef to choose the Flourless Chocolate Cake. And look at that, he did! With a zigzag of raspberry coulis and spoonful of cream, our meal was punctuated with a rich, chocolatey period. It was so rich it was like eating an excessively large piece of chocolate.
The thing I appreciate most about this prix-fixe meal is all items are also on Sidecar’s regular menu, so you’re not getting downgraded dishes in terms of quality. If I ordered these same items à la carte, it’d come to a total of $36, so $24 all in is really a steal. Plus, the service is attentive without being overbearing and the intimate vibe is perfect for a good date, celebratory occasion or friendship catch-up. The only negative point is the tables are a bit too close together. It’s easy to hear your neighbour’s conversation which can be distracting. Then again, the terrific food is also distracting. A word to the wise, no matter who you go with and how much you want to talk to them, it’s your meal that’s gonna take first priority.
Sidecar / 577 College St., Toronto
416 536 7000 / Hours: 7 days a week, 5pm-10pm, $25 Prix Fixe Sunday to Wednesday