Winterlicious 2011 – 93 Harbord

Winterlicious is here!!! Every time I get the email letting me know that one of the ‘licious events is on its way I get nothing but excited to try new restaurants and indulge in some delicious food! This year I have three dinners booked and you never know if there will be any last minute additions! First up on the list is 93 Harbord with my favourite dining partner Miss Furtado – I think she’s the only other person I know that has the love affair with food that I do!

93 Harbord serves up a modern interpretation of classic Middle Eastern cuisine in a small yet upscale environment located (obviously) at Spadina and Harbord. The venue is long and narrow but inviting with the cozy/dim lighting. The tables are relatively small and close together but provide an intimate setting for a date night or a group of people. There is an open style kitchen at the back and the exposed brick walls adorn photography of Middle Eastern people and cities. If you’re like me then you always check out the menu before going out to eat and while doing so I came across an abundance of reviews for the place all of which rated it at least 4 stars or more. Needless to say we were excited to eat and to see what all the hype was about.

On the Menu:

Beef and Lamb Kufta Kabab, Grilled Pita, Harissa Spiced Tahini Sauce
Grilled Calamari, Turkish Fig Salsa

Chicken Tagine with preserved lemons and olives and steamed couscous
Lamb and Shiraz Fig Tagine, Ginger Red Wine Coulis, Sauteed Greens

Apricot Almond Tart
Walnut and Pear stuffed Phyllo, Honey Date Syrup

Upon getting seated we were promptly asked for our drink order and before we could even take our jackets off and settle in, a complementary platter of warm pita and crushed olive spread arrived at our table.

We ordered our wine and our courses for the night and awaited anxiously to try the food which sounded so flavorful and exotic. Our appetizers came out shortly after our wine arrived and they were both bursting at the seam with a blend of spices and flavors.  I’m not the biggest fan of grilled calamari as you may have read in my past posts but the Turkish Fig Salsa that it was draped in was to die for. The Kabobs were a little on the dry side but again the spiced tahini was a perfect companion and we literally wiped the plate clean.

Both of our mains were a dish called “Tagine” which I learned actually has its origin in Morocco and is named after the special pot in which the meal is cooked. The pot is made almost entirely of clay and acts as a sort of slow cooker for all the meat and vegetables that are part of the meal. Our tagines arrived with a side serving of a couscous mountain and greens. I ordered the lamb which again is not usually my meat of choice but when it arrived I was pleasantly surprised. The lamb was so soft and tender that it literally melted in your mouth with the help of the Shiraz Fig/Ginger Red Wine reduction. The chicken on the other hand was accompanied with olives and lemon which gave it a tart flavor that blended wonderfully together. No doubt that neither of us could clear our plates. We literally fell back on our chairs because we were SO full.

On to dessert – my favorite part! I think I may have set a record at how fast I ate.  The stuffed Phyllo with pear and walnut was almost like a Baklava but without the heaviness. It was perfect. The Apricot Tart was sweet but definitely not my fave.
Overall the meal was great and service friendly and quick. I’ve been to a few Middle Eastern restaurants and although I can appreciate the cuisine and enjoy it, I can’t say that that it’s one of my favorites. First Winterlicious meal and I’m a happy camper. The full menu at 93 Harbord is made of some amazing choices which sound like a fusion of traditional fare with some modern updates so it sounds like a great option outside of Winterlicious.

Address: 93 Harbord

Parking: Plenty of street parking
Price: $25 Winterlicious Dinner, $$ – regular menu
Service: 7.5/10
Food: 8/10
Ambiance: 7/10

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