In the height of summer, foodies across Toronto explore restaurants from East to West trying their hand at cuisine in restaurants they never thought possible. Summerlicious is currently celebrating its 10th year and with over 100 restaurants participating with discounted prices, sometimes it's hard to break down which are the best of the best. In my first Little Red Umbrella column, I've decided to give you the insider scoop on some of the top Summerlicious offerings and guide you to which restaurants to visit during July 6-July 22, 2012.
The first restaurant: Malena Restaurant, located at 120 Avenue Road. This dining room, tucked in a century-old home, offers up a Mediterranean-inspired menu with fresh market bought meats and all-organic vegetables. Our server explained that items that can be made in-house (such as bread, pastries, etc.) are — to keep things fresh. It helps when the best ingredients are being used to build simple yet complex dishes. Just recently, this heritage building was re-done to include an outdoor front patio, which makes for great Yorkville-Annex celebrity spotting with restaurants like Mistura and the Avenue Diner around the corner.
Recommended Appetizer: Prawn & Zucchini Fritters served with fresh dill tzatziki and lemon ($15)
This was absolutely a flavor explosion in my mouth. The dill was not overpowering and tasted as if it was fresh from the garden. The prawn was spot-on cooked, tasting juicy and as it had been caught that day. The serving size was just perfect for sharing or for eating by yourself.
Runner-Up: Atlantic Fluke Crudo served with zucchini, cherry tomato, red peppers & olive oil ($15)
The plating of this dish was a work of art and the dish itself was beautifully executed. The flavor profile was all there. However, it didn't seem like there was enough there for an appetizer plate. I was left wanting more.
Recommended Main: Spaghetti 'Carbonara' made with black pepper pulled pork, fried Quail egg & Pecorino ($22)
If you're a fan of bacon, much like me, then you will love this dish. It reminded me of bacon and eggs in a pasta dish, only a little more high class. The pulled pork had just the right amount of tender juiciness and spice. Combined with the Pecorino cheese, it was pure edible heaven.
Runner-Up: Handmade Gnocchi served with roasted cauliflower, chick peas & fresh mint ($22)
This dish is vegetarian perfection, however the gnocchi was a bit too al-dente. I prefer my pasta to be a bit softer, but I can't knock the dish for personal preference. What I can say is the fresh mint and lemon gave this dish a little extra kick. The cauliflower was perfectly cooked, not too soft but just tender enough.
Recommended Dessert: Lemon Semifreddo served with Rhubarb & strawberry preserves ($8)
This was like biting into a piece of fancy ice cream cake. The lemon was tangy and tart mixed in with with the most fresh rhubarbs, that reminded me of my grandma. I can tell why this is part of the main Malena menu and also why the server told me this was her favourite dessert.
Overall, Summerlicious at Malena is getting top marks in my books. The service is sharp and attentive. The room is gorgeous but more importantly, the patio is perfect for after work drinks, people watching or a romantic dinner. You'll never forget your experience here and you'll be forever thankful you enjoyed Summerlicious (or any other time) at Malena.
Photos by Yuli Scheidt
Amanda (Ama) Scriver is a foodie and music fiend. She is a food writer for Pink Mafia with her 'Eats' column and works as an event planner full-time. She enjoys random adventures that you can follow each and everyday through Twitter (@amapod) or follow through Instagram (username: amapod).