I have wanted to eat at Aria Ristorante since I read it was one of Toronto’s best new restaurants in 2012. So I jumped at the opportunity to eat dinner there during Winterlicious. I’m pretty new to the concept of Winter/Summerlicious, having only been to my first last summer at Toula. My advice to anyone gluten free or with other food intolerances/allergies, do not be scared of the prix fix menus. You’d be surprised at how many of the participating restaurants have at least one naturally gluten free option available for each course. All it takes is a quick phone call to learn about your options, every restaurant that I have called has been more than willing to make me a safe, delicious meal. Don’t let gluten hold you back!
To me, the biggest appeal of Winter/Summerlicious is being able to test out a new restaurant. You don’t always order an appetizer, entree and dessert at each meal out, so it’s always a treat and a great way to taste the menu. With that being said, I have heard of some restaurants skimping out on their prix fixe menu so that your meal does not accurately represent a typical dinner at that restaurant. Thankfully with Aria being such a high class restaurant, they wouldn’t dream of skimping out and in fact the $45 menu isn’t much of a discount from their main menu. Reviews were always good so I thought it would be a nice date night.
The atmosphere is beautiful and very chic, my only complaint was that sitting by the window gave you a strobe light effect because of the jumbo TV projecting the Leafs game and various other ads and bright lights within Maple Leaf Square. It’s not the most relaxing setting for a romantic meal.
The food, however, was very good as to be expected. To start I had the Sicilian salad with oranges, fennel and radicchio, saffron chili vinaigrette and basil. Don’t get me wrong, the presentation looked spectacular, and together the flavours were interesting, however it wasn’t really special.
The entree was very good though. Ry and I both ordered the Cornish rock hen served with roasted cauliflower, polenta and wild mushroom ragout. The hen was scrumptious! The skin almost seemed like it was fried in duck confit because it was so succulent and the meat was so tender, with no trace of fat. And my word – the polenta! I love me some good polenta, but this was the first time I had ate it served soft with roasted cauliflower stirred into it. The flavour and texture combination was divine. It was my favourite part of the meal.
For Ry, the dessert was the show stopper. Since dessert always tops off your meal so perfectly, it’s a wonder why we all don’t order dessert after each meal! We both ordered the flourless walnut cake with frangelico anglaise and espresso gelato. Ryan took one taste of the gelato and immediately said, “you won’t like it.” I don’t drink coffee so the flavour of the gelato was too strong for me, but Ryan being an espresso aficionado was in heaven (especially when I gave him some of my gelato). But the flavours of the custard and gelato mixed with the delicious, moist walnut cake were so good. I’ve ate a lot of flourless chocolate cakes since going gluten free, but I now admit that flourless walnut cake is even better! The last time I had flourless walnut cake was in Zagreb, Croatia, and boy did it bring me back.
All in all, it was a really nice meal, but it didn’t completely heighten our senses as we anticipated. Maybe there was too much hype around it. However, we had a great night out, especially because we didn’t have to do any dishes!!
25 York St.
Toronto, ON M5J 2V5