It’s winterlicious time again in Toronto and this year I decided to try something different. I usually visit 2-3 restaurants every time the “licious” season rolls around but that means by now I’ve tried a lot of the staples (Canoe, Auberge de Pommier, etc.) and have loved some, been disappointed at others. For the loved, I’d rather go back to taste their normal menu so this year my plan is try the restaurants with good reviews, lower price range, and that I’ve never heard of before. Habits Gastropub fell nicely into these criteria.

Atmosphere: The restaurant lives up to their marketing, it feels like a bar with high tables, stools, flat screen TVs showing the hockey game behind the bar but also refined with stainless steel and wood finishes. Using a large chalk board area was cute near the plating area and with events such as live music, I could see it being a lively venue for a couple of drinks.

Service: Our server was really friendly and patient with us while we talked instead of looking at the menu. Each course came out quickly from the kitchen and dishes were cleared.

Food: What makes me choose a restaurant for winterlicious is a smaller menu, 3 or 4 entrees, where I want to try everything. The dishes are being mass produced each night and with fewer options, I feel like more time and energy are focused into each dish. For appetizers, we ordered the Rabbit Terrine and Waldorf salad. While the rabbit was good, I enjoyed the salad more. The celery root added a great crunch and the blue cheese dressing was very light. A sauce with pistachios was served with the terrine and I thought the flavour of the pistachios really didn’t match with the sauce or protein at all making the dish a miss for me.

For entrees, I had the pork tenderloin over sweet potato mash with dried apricot jus. My friend had the roasted pickerel fillet over lemon risotto. Both dishes were amazing; flaky fish and moist pork. I could have eaten a whole other bowl of just the risotto or sweet potato mash, they were both very creamy and rich. A complete bite with pork, mash and pieces of apricot hit all points for savoury sweet and a touch sour. We both ordered the creme brulee for dessert and it was good. Again, rich with a smooth custard. My favourite part of creme brulee is the burnt top layer so I would’ve loved to see a crispier top, but it was a nice finish to the meal.

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