Date Night: NaanOLicious and Ice on Whyte

I found a great excuse for Mack and I to finally try NaanOLicious on Friday, New Asian Village’s casual establishment that opened in the fall. It is billed as offering Indian fusion dishes in a funky, hip atmosphere, fitting for its Whyte Avenue location – at the very least, it is a different addition to the spectrum of Indian eateries that already exist. I was planning to follow-up the meal with a walk to Ice On Whyte, so NaanOLicious’ proximity was perfect for that warm winter night.

We took the bus over to Old Strathcona (I checked first to see if the streetcar happened to be running in conjunction with the festival, but I think it was just a special feature of last year’s festivities). Taking our chances without a reservation, we found the restaurant about three-quarters full at the dinner hour. We were greeted promptly and led to a table, and from that vantage point, were able to marvel at the seductive interior. I don’t know what led me to expect a more bare-bones décor scheme (maybe it was the “naan bar” connotation of functionality over form), but with stone accents, rouge carpets, and Bollywood dance videos displayed on the screens and piped through the speakers, it felt like a plush lounge. That said, the room is anchored not by a traditional bar, but a long, open kitchen. It was great to see the chefs at work, and especially to listen to the reassuring sound of naan dough being moulded by capable hands.

I wished the menu was as congruous as the interior, however. While it featured brightly-coloured pages, fun word puns and some photographs, not much thought seemed to be given to the organization and flow. Appetizers were scattered throughout the menu, and it wasn’t clear from the description whether certain dishes were meant to be shared or acted as individual entrees. As a result, we took more time with the menu than we usually do (the servers came to take our order three times before we were ready to do so), but we weren’t the only ones –the pair next to us were similarly confused by the layout and dish descriptions. NaanOLicious, at the end of the day, presents fusion flavours – Indian-spiced pizzas, pastas, and other fun interpretations using familiar spice profiles.



Mack  ended up with a coconut shrimp shooter ($3) to start, a fun two-bite treat served in a shot glass full of mango chutney. Mack enjoyed it, but I’m not sure it was worth the price, though it is unusual to see such small single-serving items on menus in the city.


Mack with his shrimp shooter

We split two dishes, one being the clear winner. We’ve found butter chicken wraps at Origin India and at Remedy, but NaanOLicious was the first to present us with a panaani ($15) – butter chicken, cucumbers, tomatoes grilled between fresh naan. The naan was perfectly crispy, the heat level just right in the creamy sauce with the vegetables lending additional texture and pop. The panaani was served with potatoes and a salad.


Butter chicken panaani

The server had asked us about the preferred heat level of our entrees, and we requested medium spicy for both. So it was surprising that the Deccan meatloaf ($16) was so much spicier than the panaani. I would have preferred a creamier sauce, and a firmer texture for the meatloaf – it crumbled when cut. The dish was accompanied by a generous serving of vegetables and potatoes.


Deccan meatloaf

Service was disappointing. The ratio of servers to chefs was easily 2:1, but they tended to disappear for long periods of time. The food (understandable given said ratio) also took quite a bit of time. We also anticipated that the shrimp shooter would arrive first, but instead, all three dishes were delivered one after the other.

Without question, we would return to NaanOLicious, especially knowing that a craving for their butter chicken panaani is bound to crop up in the future. But we’d likely call ahead for takeout instead.

After dinner, we walked over to End of Steel Park to take in the 10th edition of Ice on Whyte. I made sure to bring a 2-for-1 coupon with me, which cut down the admission cost for us from $10 to $5. Though it’s great that the funds collected likely contribute to the sustainability of the festival, we wondered if the fee (in the face of free winter festivals like Deep Freeze and Silver Skate) heightens expectations for other patrons, as it did for us.

Ice on Whyte 2013

Hands off my honey!

The temperature extremes that week, swinging thirty odd degrees, did not treat the ice sculptures well. Most were visibly damaged (one ice mammoth was missing a tusk, while an ice gymnast had lost a leg), but lit up after dark, the sculptures were still a sight to behold.

Ice on Whyte 2013

Love the sense of motion

To help commemorate its 10th anniversary, carvers recreated one sculpture from each of the past festivals (though not necessarily on the same scale). It was neat to see some of the familiar sights again!

Ice on Whyte 2013

The dinosaur remained intact

Of course, the ice slide was ever popular. It just seems to grow every year, with six slides built into the main attraction (and even more smaller slides in the children’s area).

Ice on Whyte 2013

Ice slide!

Unfortunately, we had missed the programming (which ended an hour before the gates closed), though we did hear the tail end of the karaoke taking place inside the tent. Though we’re sure more must go on during the day, it was such a stark contrast to the variety of activities offered at Deep Freeze.

Ice on Whyte 2013


We’ve been to Ice on Whyte every year for a while now, and though the sculptures are consistently stunning, we’ve found there isn’t much more than that to see or do. And not every festival has to grow or be all things to all people, but for us, it won’t be something we continue to return to, year after year.

10331 82 Avenue
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2012 Ice on Whyte

Mack and I braved the cold conditions tonight to take in Ice on Whyte. Had we known in advance exactly how cold it would be (-32 with windchill!), we may have thought better of it, but ignorance is bliss, right? So, with our warmest socks and thermos mugs, we were off.

First, we walked over to the Legislature to check out the special displays north of the river, which celebrate the twinning of our province with Heilongjiang, China.

Ice on Whyte 2012

Legislature grounds

Some signage would have been helpful, both in reaching the festival grounds as well as to guide us to the non-descript entrance. No admission was required for this portion of the event, and in spite of the weather, there were a number of people touring the snow and ice sculptures, and more in the heated tent where the Cygnets were performing on stage.

Ice on Whyte 2012

Heilongjiang Provincial People’s Congress Building and our Legislature (I loved the columns on the congress building)

Ice on Whyte 2012


Ice on Whyte 2012

The Cygnets (we loved the dance party to the side of the tent – with people in full parkas on, of course!)

We knew about the free High Level Bridge Streetcar rides available for festival goers to connect to the main site, but it wasn’t as evident in the signage as the Legislature grounds or where we caught the streetcar at Grandin Station. Although we missed the in-car entertainment for the evening (how cool would that be?!), it was still a neat experience to take the streetcar in the winter, after dark.

Ice on Whyte 2012

It was frosty inside the High Level Streetcar

We departed the streetcar at the Arts Barns, and walked over to the End of Steel Park. We’d never seen the festival so empty before (especially compared with last year), though I’m sure there would have been more patrons during the day.

Ice on Whyte 2012

End of Steel Park

The warming tent was a welcome reprieve from the chill, where hot beverages were being served for a donation. Some were less affected by the cold though – there was a little boy who was happily playing with snow blocks, oblivious to the swirling winds around him.

Ice on Whyte 2012


Ice on Whyte 2012


There seemed to be a number of photographers out tonight too, with tripods trying to capture the best shots of the gleaming ice sculptures.

Ice on Whyte 2012

Mack’s favourite

Ice on Whyte 2012

My favourite (you can even see the flower stems in the pot!)

End of Steel Park is noticeably larger than the usual location of the festival, which allowed for a lot more space between sculptures. It also meant a larger ice slide could be accommodated – with four chutes! On fairer days, the line can be quite prohibitive, so we grabbed this opportunity to take a turn down the slide.

Ice on Whyte 2012

Massive slide

Ice on Whyte 2012


Thanks to festival organizers for another great event – and a special kudos to the volunteers who staffed the festival, especially on a night like this.

Check out Mack’s photo set here. And if you do head to the festival, make sure to print off the 2-for-1 coupon here first!

Ice on Whyte 2011

Spanning one of the coldest weekends to one of the warmest, this year’s Ice on Whyte festival has seen it all. Mack and I headed to Old Strathcona on Saturday to check it out, hoping that the ice sculptures hadn’t yet been reduced to puddles.

Ice on Whyte 2010

A part of Winter Light

There were a ton of people out, more than we’ve ever seen at the festival – we wondered if the high attendance numbers were attributable to the weather, or perhaps to the theme?

Ice on Whyte 2010

Large crowds

This year’s festival had a Chinese theme, with nine carvers from Harbin, China having travelled to Edmonton to collaborate on everything from the dragon slide to the pagodas.

Ice on Whyte 2010Welcome

Both the gate and the pagodas were equally impressive (and seemed to be popular photo backdrops), but I had a soft spot for the ice zodiac, and couldn’t help but pose for a picture next to my representative animal.

Ice on Whyte 2010

That’ll do, pig

Mack’s favourite ice sculpture was the Transformer – though we appreciated the abstract and interpretive nature that made up a number of sculptures, it was a nice surprise to see one based on popular culture.

Ice on Whyte 2010


Ice on Whyte appeared to be larger than in past years – there were a number of snow sculptures on display as well.

Ice on Whyte 2010

Still at work

In addition to the always-popular ice slide, there were several smaller ice slides as well in a children’s play area, complete with a small ice maze.

Ice on Whyte 2010


Ice on Whyte 2010

Slide pretty for the camera!

Next up for Winter Light is Illuminations, this Saturday, January 29, featuring a snowball battle, choir performances, and circus pyrotechnics. See you there!

You can see the rest of our photoset here.

Ice on Whyte 2010

Mack and I finally attended Ice on Whyte today, twice in fact. We stopped by this afternoon on our way home, dutifully paying our $2 admission and joined a crowd of adults and young families at Festival Park in Old Strathcona.

At Festival Park

We took our time admiring the ice sculptures, all of which had already been adorned with prize ribbons in both artists’ and people’s choice categories. Mack and I both liked “stretched” – an adult and baby giraffe, complete with frosted spots on their clear ice flesh.



We then walked over the ice bridge to the castle, which, unlike in previous years when I have visited, was complete with ice furnishings! The fountain was particularly neat, where patrons had moulded coins into its surface.

Would you like some ice?

Cooling his hands at the fireplace

Freezing coins into the fountain

The ice maze was probably better left to those under three feet. Though the entryway was accessible to anyone standing over five feet tall, the only through exit was via a small crawl-hole. It’s a kid’s world out there!

Inside the maze

The ice slide was the most popular attraction that afternoon, with adults and kids alike lining up to race each other down the frosty decline on a crazy carpet. It looked like fun, but after my clumsy mishap a few years ago, I avoided a potential repeat tumble.

Even though it was the last day of the festival, several ice carvers were still on site working on various sculptures. It was –19 with the windchill this afternoon, but the carvers did not look like the cold bothered them in the least.

Hard at work

Following dinner this evening, we returned to Festival Park to see the sculptures illuminated at nightfall. I’d never been to Ice on Whyte after dark before, but I was glad we took the time to do so – there was a different vibe on the grounds – it was more relaxed and peaceful somehow.

“aquarium” after dark

“branching out”

Ice bridge

Besides sculpture viewing and the ice slide, there was a blues concert going on in the small indoor venue. As with all festivals, it’s nice to see Ice on Whyte expanding and offering different events.


Make sure to check out Ice on Whyte next year, or if you can’t wait that long – the next Winter Light event is Hearts of Fire on February 13 at the Boyle Street Park.

You can see Mack’s photoset here.