To indulge in more Winterlicious, Abe selected North 44 for us to try. The main attraction for this restaurant was that it was owned and operated by Chef Mark McEwan. Comparing the Winterlicious offerings of North 44 and Bymark (another McEwan restaurant in downtown Toronto), we were unanimous in selecting North 44. This was because of the words braised short ribs on North 44’s menu.
For the night, I was going to dine with Abe and Diona. As the restaurant was north of Yonge and Eglinton, I opted to take the subway. I was pretty sure that the walk north was just about 10 minutes but it felt longer as I was holding on to my patience in anticipation. The minute I was standing in front of the restaurant, Diona’s timing for texting me to ask whether I was at the restaurant was stellar. I waited for her to walk right up to me and we went in North 44 together. It sure did help to be prudent about reservations as the restaurant was bustling and full and it was 7:30pm. We waited for a few minutes and was directed to a table close to the kitchen.
As Abe was running late, Diona and I were able to go up and down the menu and considered trying the mock cocktails to start our meal. I selected their Mint Lemonade while Diona went for a Pink Grapefruit cocktail. Minutes later, Abe walked in and we found out that we were all choosing the same starter and mains. How could you not think that a starter of Seared Ahi Tuna and a main of Braised Short Rib with risotto would make the dinner absolutely amazing? The dessert though we clearly were divided. I opted for the Chocolate Pot de Creme, Abe went for Winter Spice Cookie with Caramel Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream while Diona chose Pavlova.
As we waited, we were given a tray of bread slices and I must say, I enjoyed the crusty bread with its bursts of olive nuggets. It surely did whet the appetite. It didn’t take too long when our plates of seared Ahi tuna arrived. Each bite was absolutely memorable with a good balance of smokiness, freshness from the cilantro and the sweetness of the Japanese Pear and yuzu marinade. I certainly cleaned up my own dish to the last morsel.
The next dish took time to arrive and we were given more of the crusty bread to tide us over. As we were handed each of our Braised Short Ribs and risotto plates, it was definitely worth the wait. Not only was it visually scrumptious, every forkful I savored slowly. The meat was perfectly tender and paired with the risotto was absolutely delightful. I looked at Abe and Diona and they were both just as speechless as I was, relishing the experience the same way as I did. For the first time, I saw two of my friends who both have great palates to be devoid of any criticism.
As we waited for our desserts, when Abe ordered cappucino, I could not resist asking one for me too. As expected, the quality of the coffee was impressive. The cup arrived with candied orange zest. Abe told me to pair one bite of the candied orange zest with a sip of the coffee and it certainly elevated the experience of drinking the coffee. Simplicity at its finest.
The three desserts arrived and of course we all shared tastings. No matter how much enjoyment I had from the pop rocks that came with my Chocolate Pot de Creme, I lusted for Abe’s Winter Spice Cookies. It was definitely more of my taste as I have a love for ginger cookies. Abe too wished for my dessert as he always had a weakness for anything chocolatey and decadent. I think it was only Diona who was properly matched with her dessert as she finished her plate.
This was absolutely the most memorable Winterlicious that I have experienced. Would surely indulge again with a McEwan restaurant in the future Winterlicious/Summerlicious events to come. I am definitely a bigger fan of Mark McEwan now after this delightful meal.