North 44º

Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Had a second Winterlicious dinner tonight at Mark McEwan's North 44º, again $45 for three courses:

Steak Tartare

For the first course, I was really undecided because all the choices sounded so good, but steak tartare won in the end (other choices are beet salad or crab chowder). Finely chopped raw beef, firm but tender, mixed with slightly crispy fried capers. The mild sweetness of the beef works incredibly well with the far more pungent salty-tart flavour of the capers to create a most addictive tartare. Served with thin slices of baguette toast; add a smear of mustard, a scoop of tartare, and top with a slice of radish. A most harmonious combination of flavours and textures. Almost like a ceviche, but stronger and with more depth. A good portion size, too.

Roasted Mushroom Chicken Ballantine

I was tempted to get steak for the main course, but as I had ordered the steak tartare for my first course, I decided to get the chicken ballantine as my main (the other choice is pan-seared rock fish). The chicken was just so perfectly cooked, so juicy and so tender, that a knife wasn't even needed to cut into it. It was stuffed with crisp mushrooms, and served in a deliciously creamy curry that had just a touch of sweetness (perhaps coconut?). Served with chopped vegetables and squash, and topped with roasted okra with the perfect crispy exteriors that added a lovely smoky sweetness. I absolutely loved this course. I don't usually opt for chicken dishes because I tend to find most of them boring, but this one was wonderfully executed.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Finally, for dessert, I got the sticky toffee pudding. And given that all three of us ordered one of each of the desserts, I can say with confidence that I chose the best offering. The cake was, as expected, sticky and moist, served warm with plump prunes and dates. I don't normally like prunes or dates, but they worked really well here, adding a nice fleshiness and sweetness that worked well with the deeper toffee flavour. What made this dessert perfect, though, was the vanilla bean cream served on the side. It was chilled, but not frozen; the consistency was somewhere between whipped cream and gelato. I think the pudding on its own might start to taste too monotonous, but the cream just added such a nice boost of flavour that it became really addictive.

In general, North 44º has a more laid-back feel that makes it more comfortable to eat in despite its prestige and high ratings; it's sophisticated and elegant with a modern twist, but it's not obnoxiously trendy. I felt like our food was all excellent quality and executed really well, even for the Winterlicious menu (a lot of restaurants order in bulk for Winterlicious so the quality isn't as good as their regular menu). I am also glad to report that the service tonight was fantastic. No snobbery or pretentiousness. Our server was nice and sweet and attentive without being overbearing. She made us feel comfortable and made sure we had everything we needed and came by during every course to see how our food was. No giving us attitude for not ordering wine, no looking down on us for being there for Winterlicious (and their regular menu is a lot more expensive than Nota Bene), no grief about how we wanted to pay the bill at the end. Oh, and there's no stupid water fee here, either. All in all, a wonderful experience. It is the best Winterlicious experience I have had to date, and I'd definitely be more inclined to splurge $100 on a meal here on a regular day. 

North 44º
2537 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON M4P 2H7
(416) 487-4897
4 comments on "North 44º"
  1. Damn, I am salivating and it's only 10am! Will definitely have to keep this place in mind for future outings!

    1. LOL, doesn't matter if it's midnight or 10:00am, always get hungry after reading food posts! :P

      And yes, you definitely should, it's been on Toronto's "Best of" lists for years!

  2. I just had lunch and I'm hungry again. Damnit, Denise.

    1. Lol, consider it payback for posting all those baking diary photos on Instagram. :P


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