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If you can only (and have to) choose one , Susur or Splendido?

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Xmas for three, one of them is vegan who can't have any garlic or onion, and another one is
vegetarian. We are looking forward to see what high scale restaurants can come up with when asked to do a different tasting menu.

Susur guarantee creativity, but also -- well, i'll just say the possibility of bad service.

Spendido seems to promise an overall wonderful dining experience, but...what if we are just satisfied with the food, not thrilled?

Vegetarian or not, any suggestion, opnion or past experience will help.

p.s. Three of us are all chinese, so we would especially love to know what other Asians think of the dishes in Susur, but again...any suggestion is welcomed. It's already Dec 7th, and time is running out!!!

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  1. I've been to both restaurants and am Asian, so I guess I fit your profile! But I do have to caveat that I went there about 4, 5 years ago so things might have changed.

    If I would pick one, I would go for Splendido. Susur did not wow me because IMO his fusion food weren't that exciting. I did not think that the dishes were very creative, and it definitely had something to do with the fact that I was so familiar with the Eastern ingredients. For instance, the starter I had was a spicy seafood soup which was very delicious. However, having had Thai tom yum soup like thousand times already, I did not find the soup very interesting (but it was very delicious tastewise).

    Splendido, on the other hand, is purely food done right. The dishes and ingredients, though not very creative, were excellent. I enjoyed my meal there very much.

    1 Reply
    1. re: kobetobiko

      Thank you so much for your two replies.

      "having had Thai tom yum soup like thousand times already, I did not find the soup very interesting"

      This is exactly what my concern is. Maybe that's also why i never really like fushion cuisine --- or at least not enough to pay 200+ for it.

    2. I, too, have been to both restaurants a number of times. I would go to Susur for artfully executed dishes with unexpected (but spectacular and memorable) flavour combinations. And I have always had impeccable service.

      Splendido is also excellent, but I have been underwhelmed there (considering the amount of money I was paying for dinner), which has never been the case at Susur.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Full tummy

        "And I have always had impeccable service."

        oh wow, i must say that i'm surprised. I don't usually see "good service" and Susur in the same sentence, not to mention "always".

        I have read similair comments about Splendido. It is one of the reasons that I have not made a decision of going there for xmas dinner.

        Mind if i ask you a question? What is your personal experience in Canoe?

        Thanks!

        1. re: shinian

          Alas, I haven't eaten at Canoe.

          The last time I ate at Susur, Kelly was our waiter. When one of the servers knocked over my glass of port (which was, I think, the cheapest they had on offer), Kelly rushed over, apologized, removed the glass, covered the area with a fresh cloth napkin, and promptly brought me out a glass of vintage port on the house.

          Maybe I have been lucky with service when I've gone.

          The first time I went to Splendido was for a Toronto Life food & wine event, and the meal was amazing. This prompted me to make reservations for their special Valentine's dinner, which was $120.00 or so, per person. Unfortunately, my husband and I left feeling that it just hadn't been that special, on a day when we had hoped (and expected) it would be.

          Either Splendido or Susur is capable of excellence, but maybe only if their mojo's really working that evening.

          1. re: shinian

            I have been to Canoe a few times at lunch and the service is exceptional there. The food is very good too.
            I have not been to Susur or Spendido, however, I have been to Lee and I really enjoyed (no, I'm not Asian). I think if food is done really well, it doesn't have to be foreign to you to be a great experience and to blow you away. The service, by the way, was very good and we had a part of 8. There was not a lot of alcohol ordered and I don't feel like they held that against us at all. We were not rushed, however, that may have to do with the fact that our reservation was at 9:15.

        2. I have been told (by my parents who have been to both) that while Susur has slightly better food, in terms of surprising and clever ingredients, and unusual taste combinations, Splendido's has the better overall dining experience. The service is excellent, and the sommelier humored my dad's interest in wine. By the way, if you are into wine, the sommelier at Splendido's is very knowledgeable and personable, and that might significantly bump up the experience for you if that's what you're into.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ascendance

            thanks for sharing!
            One of us is very interested in wine. I'm sure he will find your post very helpful in terms of deciding which one to go.

          2. I too am Chinese and is fortunate to have eaten in a number of Michelin Star restaurants all over the world. To me, Splendido is the closest 'Michelin star caliber' restaurant in town, with food, wine, service and ambience to match. Susur's food could be spectacular at times, but too 'Chinese', in terms of ingredients used and taste, for my liking. Furthermore, Splendido will guarantee to offer you a much better 'food and wine pairing' experience! Unless you would like to spend some 'mega-bucks' on some 'glorified' modern Chinese fusion and potentially inconsistant service, I would definitely give Splendido the thumbs up!

            2 Replies
            1. re: Charles Yu

              Thank you for your post. I'm not crazy about east-meets-west type of food, but Susur himself is from and had worked in Hong Kong, so i assume that he has enough knowledge about handling eastern ingredients. I'd like to see how he incorporates Asian flavor into western dishes, but at the same time, i don't make enough money to spend it on bad service.

              There is one one sentence i don't fully understand in your post:

              "To me, Splendido is the closest 'Michelin star caliber' restaurant in town, with food, wine, service and ambience to match."

              Does it mean that in your personal experience, Splendido has Michelin star quality, or that among the restaurants in Toronto, it's the closest one?

              1. re: shinian

                Based on my experiences eating in Michelin star establishments in France, London, New York, San Francisco..etc as well as other culinary stalwarts in Hong Kong, Tokyo... I would rank Splendido a 'good one star', similar to say, a Daniel Boulud in New York or Fleur de Lys in San Francisco. I would also like to add that, no matter what Michelin claims about their star system being focus entirely on food quality and presentation, secretly, they definitely consider wine, service and ambience in their evaluation criteria. Consequently, Susur's 'kitchen' may be of Michelin star standard but, in my opinion, not the 'whole' restaurant. On the other hand, the complete package of ( food,wine,service,ambience ) offers by Splendido would definitely propels it to star status. I hope I have answered your queries.

            2. "p.s. Three of us are all chinese, so we would especially love to know what other Asians think of the dishes in Susur"

              What difference does race make to the taste of food or quality of service?

              2 Replies
              1. re: andreas

                Hi Andreas,

                Please don't get me wrong. I do not think that race will make a difference in taste of food or quality of service. Rather I think it is the food that you are accustomed to that may affect your opinions on food. Don't get me wrong, I think both Susur and Splendido served very delicious food and both had quality service. But people often associated Susur with creative, "fusion" cuisine by incorporating Eastern ingredients into fining dining. When I had dinner at Susur, these ingredients are things that I grew up with and therefore not too intriguing to me. For instance, when chefs first incorporated Litchi or Schezhuen peppercorn or miso or lemongrass into Western cooking, people found them to be creative, exotic, and exciting. To me, it wasn't something very special at all because I am so familiar with these ingredients. The much hyped sashimi with jalapeno in NOBU was underwhelming to me because it is not that different from what I have everyday.

                That's what I felt about Susur's dishes. When Full Tummy put this comment: "I would go to Susur for artfully executed dishes with unexpected (but spectacular and memorable) flavour combinations". That is exactly what I think would make a difference if you are accustomed to Eastern ingredients. People who are less familiar with Eastern flavers may find Susur "unexpected flavour". To me personal, it is just not too special because I have this kind of flavor everyday when I grew up.

                So in conclusion, I think it is not really about race, but more about more types of food you are familiar with and your expectation of Creativity based on your profile.

                1. re: andreas

                  It changes the meaning of creativity.

                  For example, up until just a few years ago, that green paste called pesto was very, very, very, very exotic to me.

                2. Given your group's profile, I'd say try Susur. I think they'd do better with a vegan that doesn't eat onions or garlic, and their dishes are more suited for having a tasting menu that is different among 3 people.

                  That said, my personal preference is Splendido. Maybe it's because I am chinese, maybe it's just the food, but I find Susur so hit and miss on flavours, and the dining room too much of a 905 show for my preferences. Splendido is more people who are solely into good food.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: orangewasabi

                    "the dining room too much of a 905 show for my preferences. Splendido is more people who are solely into good food"

                    can i ask you to tell me more about it?

                  2. Been to both, asian also and lactose intolerant. Beautifully executed meals at both Susur and Splendido. Susur's tasting menu won hands down for creativity. I think he appreciated the challenge of reinventing his tasting menu for a lactose intolerant. He may have some fun with your vegan and vegetarian. Splendido's tasting menu was wonderful but on the safe side. There was a lot of substitution of butter for olive oil instead. My SO (non-asian and not lactose intolerant) found it was the opposite for him. He preferred his meal at Splendido over Susur ;-) Either way, you're in for a treat.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: fickle

                      "I think he appreciated the challenge of reinventing his tasting menu for a lactose intolerant."

                      That's what i have previously read about Susur, too.
                      Do you remember what you had in Splendido?

                    2. I haven't yet tried Splendido, so I won't compare. However, I do know that Susur can do a fine job of vegan and vegetarian options, so that's something to consider.

                      1. I have to say I have been lucky enough to dine at Susur and Lee at least 10 times this year. I really have no clue at all where the bad service comments come from? Really.

                        I am not sure what people expect or if they create their own misfortune, but I have always been very pleased with the service - both when a guest or the host of my dinner groups.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: deelicious

                          I don't expect the waiting stuff to dance around me or to treat me like a queen, but I've read many complaints about weird seating, attitude, and mostly, that they felt rushed. It is the last one that makes me uncertain about going to Susur.

                          What do you think about it?

                          1. re: shinian

                            It is only my hunch, but i spose its possible that if you aren't ordering wine, you aren't welcome as long...just a guess. Taste menu lasts hours in my experience. I have had that experience at North 44

                            1. re: shinian

                              I have never felt rushed at Susur, and, no, I wasn't ordering a lot of wine (one glass is enough for me). But, yes, they may have more than one seating, which means that your table may be reserved later. If you don't want to worry about this, then check if this is the case when you make your reservation, and, if so, book the later time. It has happened to me numerous times at various restaurants in Toronto that the table I am reserving is reserved for someone else later, but I have always been told this in advance.

                              1. re: Full tummy

                                I have not been to Splendido so can't compare the two, However, I have been to Susur several times and each time was highly enjoyable in terms of food and service. I too only reserve for the second seating if possible, at any restaurant, to avoid being rushed. My last visit to Susur was with a large group (I think 12 people). This of course creates challenges in terms of timing, and we made it more difficult by ordering different levels of tasting menus. Two of us were vegetarians, one had an allergy to something I can't remember. Most of us were couples, and Chef made sure that each couple got different dishes.The special requests were superbly accomodated. We ordered very little wine, and stayed till after closing hour. The service throughout was impeccable (but also really friendly), as it always has been in my experience. In fact, we had a similar spilling experience as one of the posters above, and it was dealt with in exactly the same way.

                                As to food preferences, I agree that what counts what 'unique' and 'unusual' depends on your sense of the familiar. In fact, I often get silently annoyed when recommendations are made on this board for more 'exotic, different, ethnic tastes' assuming that the poster is anglo-cdn. as this discussion has shown, there are lots of us 'ethnics' here (similarly for the blind spots on what cdn cuisine is - the logic of it inevitably produces many of us and our food as non-canadian).

                                having said that, i seriously doubt that susur's food will be found boring by those raised on cantonese cuisine. i eat at my mother-in-law's house on a regular basis, who only cooks standard cantonese fare (and it's delicious). but, while many susur dishes are based on well known cantonese dishes/flavours, he does so much more with them. One perusal through his cookbook testifies to the difference between his and home cooking - there is simply no way that regular cooks have the money and time to source half of the ingredients he uses. While traditional Chinese food is delicious, what Susur does with traditional dishes is the surprise. It is surprising to me to experience a dish that I am familiar with, yet that tastes or feels so different from the expected. For what it's worth, my group consisted of 10 Chinese and 2 non-Chinese diners, all of whom were very familiar with Cantonese food, and all of us were duly impressed.

                                Final note on the ambience - I like the room a lot, and most times the other diners were far enough away that I was able to ignore them. Once we were seated to a really obnoxious couple (were complete assholes to the waiter which made me admire the level of professionalism in the room that much more - I would have lost it on them). Generally, the clientele is mixed - young and old. Most look moneyed or exec types, although there are always some people who are clearly out on a special night (we're in this category). In general, it's not my kind of crowd, but the stuff is always so welcoming that I never feel uncomfortable.

                          2. Neither, both are over rated hard!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: The Macallan 18

                              I'm curious to find out the rationale behind your harsh comment. Are you comparing the two with some other restaurants else where in mind? And if so, which ones?, so that I can understand more about other fellow chowhound's evaluation criteria about a really 'good' establishment. Cheers!

                            2. When I lived in London, the two seatings a night policy in many/most of the more popular restaurants was reason enough for me to avoid them and to go find other quality places that had not been overrun by the in-crowd. I'm doing the same with restaurants here in Toronto. I can't stand to be rushed. It's annoying for the guest and embarrassing or the wait staff.

                              Thankfully there's enough good restaurants around who have different policies.

                              1. I said earlier my parents experienced bad service at Susur's. I guess I should be more specific. Basically, the problem wasn't with rude wait staff or anything like that. It was more with food timing. Some courses took very long to come out, while at other times, it felt rushed. Might have something to do with the fact people ordered different selections from the tasting menu.

                                1. ok coming from an asian perspective.

                                  I found Susur to be competent, but missed a certain "je ne sais quoi" that could've pushed it over the edge. Comparing it to other Michelin star establisments I've been lucky enough to experience (French Laundry, Le Bernardin, etc), it is simply not on that level.

                                  The food was consistently good, but nothing triggered an eye rolling moan of ecstasy! The closest it came was a seared foie gras dish, but that probably had more to do w/ the fact it's foie gras. It's pretty hard to prevent a food induced coma when foie gras is present, for me at least.

                                  I am not a service freak, in general I let things slide as long as the food is worthwhile. I can see why folks complain, as they do tend to clear the room out in time for the 9pm 2nd seating. Our server seemed to be distracted, perhaps she had some personal problems on her mind that day. She repeatedly forgot to describe our wine pairing for each course. It happened w/ 3 different wines. Not a big deal to me, since I've developed a fondness for the obligatory brusque service at Chinese restaurants (cough Magic Wok cough). However, the board reflects I'm in the minority as most westerners rank service highly. There's a plethora of Susur service hate on the board already, no need for me to cite exhibit a-z as proof.

                                  http://www.flickr.com/photos/aser/276...

                                  1. I'm kinda skeptical there is a particular Asian perspective. I mean, I'm Asian. As are my parents. If we're going to a Michelin star place, we do want good service. There is such a thing as an overall dining experience, especially for my dad, who's meticulous about his wine, and wants an excuse to talk about it with someone knowledgeable.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: ascendance

                                      I'm Chinese and a professional cook (aka. chef de partie if you wanna be all proper frenchie lol) and can understand what kobetobiko is trying to say. A Chinese/East-Asian person going to a place like Susur or Rain or whatever East meets West fushion restaurant may not be as overwhelmed by the experience as a Westerner because most of the exotic elements of the food is due to the Asian ingredients being used, which for a Asian person is nothing special, because we grew up eating a lot of it regularily as a child, and also sometimes the ingredients could be used in a way that we would probably deem incorrect, but to a westerner who has never tried it before it's completely new and exciting and will get more out of the experience.

                                      But if an Asian goes to a place like Splendido or Marc Thuet's place or whatever more European influenced restaurant it would be more exciting for us than a place like Susur, because of the techniques and ingredients used would be more foreign than what we're used to. Stuff like foie gras, truffles, cream sauces, and even butter and cheeses are ingredients and tastes that I'm really not used to...so for most Asians it would be very new and more exciting.

                                      I'm personally not a huge fan of Susur and most fushion cooking. So I'd probaby pick Splendido over Susur. Though either would be a good choice. Susur is creative, but I don't really salivate over any of his dishes and from what I hear things can be a hit or miss with the food, like any fushion cooking, the chef is taking risks with the flavour combinations, and like many cooks might say, "fushion is confusion". Also, from many reviews, you hear that service can get pretty bad at Susur's (rushed service, rude waitstaff, etc.)

                                      and just as a side note, Splendido's Chef du Cuisine is Asian by the way...David Lee, trained in England, and moved to Canada and worked under Marc Thuet.

                                      1. re: xianzhong

                                        I think you're right, in that the ingredients you grow up with are not likely to seem new or exciting to the palate.

                                        If you grow up with a lot of butter, cheese, cream sauces, truffles, foie gras, lardons, etc, continental food at Splendido, Thuet and Auberge doesn't seem too exciting. Anytime I have ordered off Thuet's classic menu, I've been disappointed, but when I've ordered off his seasonal menu, which tends to be more contemporary, I've usually been quite happy

                                        I'm much more interested in dosas, empanadas, shawarma and tabouli than anything coming out of a French/Western Euro kitchen. That's probably because that is what is new and exciting to my tastebuds right now.

                                        Edit- just realized I responded to a very old comment- oops.

                                    2. We ended up going to Splendido.

                                      The following is the vegetarian menu for that day
                                      =======================
                                      Amuse Bouche:
                                      Nori Salad, pickled ginger, coriander seedlings

                                      Warm exotic mushroom salad, sleger organic greens

                                      cauliflower soup, shaved black truffles

                                      Cookstown vegetables cuit sous-vide

                                      Aloo gobi, zucchini patties, cucumber-mint slaw

                                      Hand-rolled capunti pasta, market vegetable

                                      Fresh fruit and sorbet
                                      =======================

                                      At the first glance, the menu did not seem interesting at all to me, and i honestly wanted to strangle myself for choosing Splendido over Susur.

                                      nori salad, mushroom salad, fresh fruit & Sorbets...boring dishes that i would not pay attention to and least of all order back in the non-vegetarian days. Not that there is anything wrong with it, it's just my personal perferences.

                                      what have i got myself into?

                                      By the end of the meal, however, I can't thank those recommanding Splendido enough.

                                      Everything was done the way it's supposed to. Take the mushroom salad for example, I can't remember how many mushroom i've ate in my life but it wasn't till then that i tasted the complexity and richness in it. All the dishes, the ones that i've had in other place before and had the flavour printed in my brain, simply tasted better.

                                      For the first time i savored food and the logic behind preparation. It was also the first time that i love every single glass of wine they recommended with the food.

                                      Thank you all for replying this topic. Your posts answered many, if not all, of our concerns. Thank you so so so much. We had a fantastic experience.

                                      p.s. Fresh fruit & sorbets turned out to be better than my friend's non-vegan dessert. He had something with chocolate and caramel. It was good enough, but I can't even rememer the name.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: shinian

                                        Thanks so much for responding with your experience. It encourages everybody who contributes here.

                                      2. Have to share a bit of a funny story with Splendido. I had the very good fortune to be invited there for a dinner with some customers. The ambiance and the food were both outstanding. Service was impeccable.

                                        The story really started with valet parking. I left my, much beloved, baby car in the hands of the valet parking person. When I left the restaurant, it was right out front and in perfect condition. So with a healthy tip, I was on my way. Imagine my surprise when an expensive parking ticket showed up a few weeks later in the mail! The valet had pocketed my parking $ and failed to park my car. Took me a few minutes to recall where I was - I just did not want to believe this was the "closest to a Micheline Star" restaurant in Toronto that did this to a guest... and they did!

                                        So much for wonderful service huh? Has left a bad halo around Splendido for me!

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: xssnrg

                                          Are you certain of this? Perhaps a mistake was made somewhere. Not that I am doubting you but I find this really hard to believe. I would definitely give Splendido a call and discuss with them. If an employee is not doing his/her job, they need to know pronto.

                                          1. re: millygirl

                                            I, too, have dined @ Splendido.

                                            And I'm almost certain they use an outside company to handle their Valet Parking.

                                            I'd be interested to hear what mgmt at Splendido has to say about the whole thing! :)

                                            1. re: danthediner

                                              I don't use the valet parking as every time we've dined there, I can find parking within a 2 minute walk of their front door. You should give them a call and mention the ticket.

                                              And to address the original subject, I'd dine at Splendido as I would be sure that we have another great dining experience, which is not something I can be sure of at Susur.