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Best Fine Dining Options - updated list?

BokChoi Nov 16, 2008 06:30 AM

Hi All,

I have a guest that will be coming in from Vancouver within the next few weeks and he requested a fine-dining experience here in Toronto.

To give some background, he has had a lot of experience eating at Michelin-starred restaurants around the world and currently lives in Vancouver. He originally wanted to book Susur, but I notified him that he has unfortunately packed his bags for NYC. Since he is from Vancouver, he has access to great Chinese food and lots of fresh seafood, so his top priority is to try something more 'meat and potatoes', with signature "Canadian-flare"/Westernized.

Does anyone have any suggestions? I do not want to disappoint him. Price ranges are probably on the higher-end, since Susur was his original choice. I was thinking of Splendido, because it is on my list of places to try, but a close acquaintance keeps warning me against it (so I am a bit hesitant). But I love Nota Bene, so I am really torn. We want something a bit adventurous (so no steak houses), with interesting preparation methods. But of course, consistency is KEY. I was thinking of Colborne Lane, but the same dining companion has recommended against going there as well because their experience was very lack-lustre. What is everyone's thought on Chiado? I was not impressed with Perigee on my last visit (when Chef Riley was there), nor George, so I won't be returning to those places.

Another inconvenienece is that he is only available on Sunday, since he is only in town for the weekend (November 30th - so the Italian Seasons festival will be over by then). I know, the kiss of death for a good experience at Fine Dining restaurants, but we have no choice.

Thanks in Advance, folks.

Cheers!

  1. skylineR33 Nov 16, 2008 06:39 AM

    Have you seek advise from your close acquaintance ? Where does your close acquaintance suggest you to go ? I am wondering what she consider good in Toronto when saying experience in Splendido and Colborne Lane are very lack-lustre.

    1 Reply
    1. re: skylineR33
      BokChoi Nov 16, 2008 06:47 AM

      I guess the dining acquaintance was just expecting "more" at those prices? They had the taster menu at Splendido but when a la Carte with CL. I have had molecular gastronomy in NYC at WD50, so I don't know how CL compares to it. I asked dining companion, and they suggested Splendido, but just reminded me to keep my expectations in check.

    2. s
      Snarf Nov 16, 2008 07:22 AM

      It's a step below the exalted pricing of 'fine dining', but Zucca is usually open Sunday nights, and serves some of the more innovative Italian cuisine in the city. Service is generally good, though not as pandering as the really high-end places.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Snarf
        BokChoi Nov 16, 2008 02:11 PM

        Thanks Snarf. I actually planned on going there next week for the Italian Seasons Tasting menu. So two days in a row is probably a little much. Thanks for the suggestion.

      2. a
        auberginegal Nov 16, 2008 07:49 AM

        maybe Truffles? a food-loving friend went there recently and loved it and i trust her judgement. i've also heard good things, from other posters on this board too.

        2 Replies
        1. re: auberginegal
          BokChoi Nov 16, 2008 02:13 PM

          auberginegal,

          Once again, incredibly coincidental! My week's dining plans (birthday dinners, SO coming to town and friend from Vancouver all this upcoming week) are as follows:

          Friday: Truffles
          Saturday: Zucca
          Sunday: Need the suggestion...

          So I doubt I would fit in another Truffles or Zucca meal. I should have put that into my request! It is just so funny that those two came up immediately. Truffles is very solid, so I would agree with your friend.

          Thanks though

          1. re: BokChoi
            BokChoi Nov 16, 2008 08:00 PM

            Correction,
            Friday and Saturday of this week. Sunday the next. Sorry for the confusion.

        2. Charles Yu Nov 16, 2008 01:05 PM

          Sunday evening 'Fine Dining'?! Splendido or Truffles, period! Nota Bene is not in the same class as Splendido when comes to defining the total 'fine dining package' experience. Wine selection and service of the latter is way way superior. Colborne Lane's food is good and interesting, but unless you have their tasting menu and sit at the chef's table, the whole dining experience cannot be catagorized as fine dining. More like fun dining.

          19 Replies
          1. re: Charles Yu
            BokChoi Nov 16, 2008 02:15 PM

            Thanks Charles. Since I am heading to Truffles on Friday, I guess Splendido is in the front running for Sunday. I find Truffles to be very consistent, but it doesn't excite me. I am thinking Splendido is about the same (the menu is a bit... traditional for my tastes), but I guess it is the safest choice. I guess I always expect 'more' when paying that price. Something that really challenges me and gives the experience that "wow" factor. I guess that's why Scaramouche has always just been 'okay' in my book. It was solid, safe, but boring IMO. I hope I am pleasantly surprised on Sunday though!

            Thanks for the advice on CL. I will keep that in mind for next time.

            1. re: BokChoi
              skylineR33 Nov 16, 2008 02:51 PM

              If you are a diehard fan of the food at Nota Bene, I don't see why you can't be wow by the food at Splendido, they are David Lee's higher class creation. Personally I found the fois gras sous vide, pork belly and souffle really nice at Splendido eventhough it is not a "wow" for me.

              1. re: skylineR33
                BokChoi Nov 16, 2008 03:42 PM

                skylineR33, I love Nota Bene because of the price range in conjunction with the level of food and service that I receive there. I think it is a nice balance. In my mind, it is a perfect exchange. For something like Splendido, I would of course expect much more. Those dishes sound nice - what are your thoughts on the taster menu versus the a la carte option?
                Thanks.

                1. re: BokChoi
                  skylineR33 Nov 16, 2008 06:00 PM

                  The dish in my post are in the 20s range, with quality of food and service of Splendido, it is a great exchange eventhough things are not perfect ( and I doubt there is any that exist). It is always expensive to dine in this class of fine dining restaurant, considered as the best restaurant in Toronto by many, with tasting menu less than $150 and mains in the $50 range, it is about right and even cannot be considered expensive in this class imo.

                  I like both a la carte and tasting menu, but I had some of my favourite dish at Splendido with the a la carte option.

                  1. re: skylineR33
                    BokChoi Nov 16, 2008 07:42 PM

                    Thanks skylineR33. Only the foie is still on the menu of your suggestions, unfortunately. Too bad. Pork belly is always something I tend to enjoy. Is the souffle you mention the dessert one? Or is it savoury?

                    Thanks for the suggestion. I will check back with my visitor to see how long they have for a meal. Due to time constraints, we may be forced to have only the table d'hote and not the tasting. Good to know their individual dishes are just as strong as their tasting menu. It's nice when a restaurant pays as much attention to their average diner as their big spenders.

                    1. re: BokChoi
                      skylineR33 Nov 16, 2008 07:57 PM

                      No problem. The souffle is the dessert one in the a la carte. I had the mini souffle in the tasting menu one time and it is not good. Just for reference, the left pic is the souffle from Splendido and the right one is the one from Truffle and I think they charges the same price. I am sure other people have much better souffle at Truffle.

                      The pork belly is gone ?! I still remember the nice strong aroma from the applewood smoked Yorkshire pork belly, which is super tender, with a very nicely roasted corn agolotti on top !!

                      Wish you have a nice meal there if you end up going to Splendido.

                       
                       
                      1. re: skylineR33
                        BokChoi Nov 19, 2008 10:43 AM

                        Surprising that the a la carte version could be so different from the tasting menu souffle. One would think that they use the same technique - but perhaps the variation in size threw them off? Suspicious for such an established restaurant!

                        I am headed to Truffles in a few days, and I will try their souffle based on your recommendation and will report back. Thanks for the photos.

                        I checked the online menu and did not see the pork belly. Perhaps the current menu is different, or maybe I am just mistaken. Too bad I will miss the opportunity to sample it. It sounds great from your description.

                        Thanks for the well wishes skylineR33. I'll report back after my meal. I read evanl's post just now and it's got me really nervous about this meal.

                        1. re: BokChoi
                          skylineR33 Nov 19, 2008 11:40 AM

                          Hi BokChoi, I actually do not recommend the souffle at Truffles, the one I had that night is not good (as you can see in the picture, it also looks pretty ugly), but I think other people may have different experience with their souffle, this is what I mean in my post above... But if you are going to try, please let us know if it turns out good and of course with your pictures ! thanks.

                          1. re: skylineR33
                            t
                            tjr Nov 19, 2008 12:56 PM

                            Was the soufflé fallen? Kind of looks like it from the picture. I'm kind of surprised they'd serve it!

                            1. re: tjr
                              skylineR33 Nov 19, 2008 07:15 PM

                              Yes, this is what they serve after waiting 15 mins for them to prepare the souffle. I guess a solid restaurant is not that solid afterall, the souffle at l'atelier de Robuchon cost the same as this one but look and taste very different.

                            2. re: skylineR33
                              BokChoi Nov 19, 2008 06:23 PM

                              Thanks for the clarification skylineR33. Sorry, I misunderstood your first post. I'll definitely report back when I try out Truffles. I cannot recall if I have ever had their souffle on a previous occasion. Terrible memory affliction I seem to have.

                              1. re: skylineR33
                                BokChoi Nov 21, 2008 07:02 PM

                                Tried the souffle. It was quite impressive. The rest of the meal fell far short of expectations though, unfortunately. I'll make a longer post in a bit when I have more time. Our souffle was a bit nicer looking than yours, and the grand marnier flavouring was quite strong. A strong dessert. Worth the price? I am still deciding that.
                                Cheers!

                  2. re: BokChoi
                    Charles Yu Nov 16, 2008 03:23 PM

                    CL's food creativeness is great by TO standard but it'll be unfair to compare it to the likes of Eleven Madison Park or wd-50. Aprile though good is no Dufresne!

                    Splendido's food though a bit 'traditional' is more tasty,IMO. Its like Gramercy Tavern or Cafe Boulud of NYC. On top of SkylineR33 's list, I would also like to mention David Lee's fish/seafood creation, in particular those involving the rare, plump and sweet Golden mussels from BC, wild prawns from the Gulf or line caught fish from the east coast. I also found that, after David Lee's trip to Singapore etc some of the sauces/marinade he uses in some of his ' sashimi/cerviche' dishes were simply amazing!! BokChoi, next time you go to Nota Bene, do try out the 'Wild sea trout sashimi' and you know what I mean! Sooooo Good!

                    1. re: Charles Yu
                      BokChoi Nov 16, 2008 03:45 PM

                      Charles, that sounds fair. I guess I will remove CL from my list. I ran out of time on my last visit to NYC - went to Degustation instead of Eleven Madison Park. I am not sad at all about that substitution though because Degustation turned out to be my favourite of the ones that I tried. I will have to go back and try them all again, just to be sure what my favourite is again LOL.

                      I loved the sashimi. It was perhaps my favourite appetizer of the bunch actually. Quite impressive. The sauce on the tartare was quite nice as well.

                      Thanks for the suggested dishes - as well, what would you recommend? A la carte or tasting menu?

                      Thanks

                      1. re: BokChoi
                        Charles Yu Nov 16, 2008 04:30 PM

                        Tasting menu hands down! With wine pairing even better!

                        1. re: Charles Yu
                          BokChoi Nov 16, 2008 04:45 PM

                          Thanks Charles Yu.

                          1. re: Charles Yu
                            Bueno Nov 16, 2008 05:48 PM

                            As usual, I agree with Charles 1000.817%

                            My meals at Spendido have been comparable to Gramercy Tavern, Blue Hill, Momofuku Ssam, Irvine Mills, and Esca. In speaking in terms of the overall impression they left me with, the number of high points reached, the (very few) number of lows experienced, service, price, and quality of ingredients. Spendido, in my opinion, also thrives on consistency, which is an enormous factor in the world of fine dining. Have an awesome meal!

                            And while I have your attention, you really need to post BIGGER photos. They're always so mouth-watering, but sooooo tiny. Many times you can't even make out ingredients, and it's a crying shame.

                            Cheers mate!

                            1. re: Bueno
                              Charles Yu Nov 16, 2008 06:17 PM

                              Hi Bueno! I'm just curious! Why 1000.817% and not 1000.818%!! Ha! To Chinese, the latter is luckier! Cheers!

                              1. re: Bueno
                                BokChoi Nov 16, 2008 07:46 PM

                                Bueno,

                                Consistency is key for me. Seems like it's the clear winner in this thread so far. Thanks for the comparisons and good wishes! I will report back after the dinner.

                                Bigger photos, eh? I would, only that it would take many hours to load each time I eat out! And unfortunately, I do that too often for my own good. If you need any specific photos of higher resolution, send me an email sometime and I'd be glad to provide them. I am so happy you enjoy looking at them all. I just added a bunch more yesterday/today. Have not had a chance to write them up yet, but I will soon.

                                Cheers!

                    2. t
                      Tatai Nov 16, 2008 03:23 PM

                      I'm surprised that George always slips under everyone's radar. I have found the food to be superior to that at Splendido, and the service is impeccable.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Tatai
                        Charles Yu Nov 16, 2008 03:29 PM

                        Ah! But George closes on Sunday!
                        BTW, I don't think any restaurant in Toronto can touch the level of service that Splendido has to offer. Especially when co-owner Yannick is there to oversee the dining room.

                        1. re: Charles Yu
                          justpete Nov 27, 2008 08:19 AM

                          I second that. The service at Splendido is impeccable and un-matched with any restaurant I've ever been to in the city.

                        2. re: Tatai
                          BokChoi Nov 16, 2008 03:46 PM

                          Hi Tatai,

                          George was actually mentioned in my original post. I really did not enjoy it when I went a couple of years back. Maybe they were just 'off', but at those prices, I really do not give restaurants a second chance. I have heard so many good things, but I really don't want to risk another 'average' meal.

                        3. estufarian Nov 17, 2008 05:14 AM

                          Don't rule out Chiado - nothing like it in Vancouver.
                          Their 'modern' Portuguese dishes are superb, although some of their 'traditional' dishes are a bit stodgy. And also ask for the 'bar' menu which are their tapas-style dishes.
                          Of course, you can never go wrong with Splendido!

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: estufarian
                            BokChoi Nov 17, 2008 10:36 AM

                            Thanks estufarian. I will definitely request the bar menu when I try them out. Good to know.

                            1. re: estufarian
                              s
                              syrahc Nov 17, 2008 10:47 AM

                              Absolutely agree. You can never go wrong with Splendido. Their ingredients are ingrained with Canadian feel so there really is no other. I cannot see how you wouldn't like Splendido if you are so enthusiastic about Nota Bene.

                              1. re: syrahc
                                BokChoi Nov 19, 2008 10:43 AM

                                Thanks syrahc. Sounds like a winner.

                              2. re: estufarian
                                Charles Yu Nov 17, 2008 02:59 PM

                                Great recommendation Estufarian! Totally forgot about this gem! The amazing selection of Portuguese wine is also second to none!!

                              3. t
                                tjr Nov 17, 2008 09:58 AM

                                I'll second, third, or fiftieth Splendido; it's the best Toronto has to offer in this category. Go with the tasting menu (with wine pairings, if you enjoy wine), and enjoy it (I know you like Nota Bene as well, so the food at Splendido will likely appeal to you as well).

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: tjr
                                  BokChoi Nov 17, 2008 10:37 AM

                                  Thanks for the input, tjr. Seems like it's time to make a reservation!

                                2. s
                                  Sweetcakestoo Nov 21, 2008 08:19 PM

                                  You should try Jamie Kennedy...he is the darling chef of the Toronto food scence.

                                  18 Replies
                                  1. re: Sweetcakestoo
                                    BokChoi Nov 27, 2008 06:58 AM

                                    Thanks for the suggestion Sweetcakestoo. I unfortunately have not been a fan of JK. Gilead is not bad, but I had a terrible experience at JKWB and would not return. Doubt I would try his new place, but maybe circumstances would arise when I would get the opportunity to sample it and I will report back.

                                    1. re: Sweetcakestoo
                                      justpete Nov 27, 2008 01:48 PM

                                      I used to love his Sunday brunch, and go every few weeks... but I was there a couple of weeks ago, and everything's gone to the dogs. He's not even serving freshly squeezed orange juice anymore. They gave me Tropicana. The washroom absolutely stank. It hadn't been cleaned in weeks. It was truly disgusting. I won't be going back anytime soon.

                                      1. re: justpete
                                        Charles Yu Nov 27, 2008 04:04 PM

                                        Are you referring to Gilead or JKWB? Either way - Wow!!!!

                                        1. re: Charles Yu
                                          justpete Nov 27, 2008 09:54 PM

                                          JKWB... No Joke.

                                          1. re: justpete
                                            Charles Yu Nov 28, 2008 04:55 AM

                                            I guessed right!
                                            Actually food too, went down hill big time the last time I was there! ( may be a month ago? )
                                            Hope JK is reading our posts. Pity to see a TO fav whithers away!

                                            1. re: Charles Yu
                                              estufarian Nov 28, 2008 05:08 AM

                                              I know Jamie Drummond reads them - he's contacted me in the past after my unfavourable review. Since then I've had an even worse meal there - but do admit that he has one of the better winelists in town. But in the past 2 years I've had 1 great lunch there - and everything else was from bad to worse. So have to admit haven't been back in over 6 months now.

                                              1. re: estufarian
                                                BokChoi Dec 5, 2008 01:01 PM

                                                It really is too bad that they went downhill in such a hurry. I had a few nice meals there in the past. I was looking forward to my birthday dinner there earlier this year, but was very disappointed. Being upset on one's birthday is never a good way to start the year!

                                                Also, thanks to everyone that suggested Splendidio for a fine-dining experience on a Sunday evening. My family, and guests from out of town, all had a wonderful time. The food was solid, and the service was second to none. Amazing evening. Though the final tab was steep, my guests had a very enjoyable experience and commented that it was amongst the best service they have ever received in a restaurant. Judging from their dining history, this is quite the compliment!

                                                A longer review to follow when I get a chance, perhaps this weekend.

                                                Cheers!

                                                1. re: BokChoi
                                                  justpete Dec 5, 2008 03:02 PM

                                                  So glad to hear it. I love that place. Did anyone have the 18oz ribeye?

                                                  1. re: justpete
                                                    BokChoi Dec 5, 2008 05:34 PM

                                                    justpete - I was THIS close to ordering the steak based on your recommendation. Unfortunately, the lamb spoke to me like a steak never could. The steak has my name on it on my next visit.

                                                    1. re: BokChoi
                                                      Charles Yu Dec 5, 2008 06:53 PM

                                                      Next time try their tasting menu with wine pairing for the ultimate 'Toronto' experience. ( at least for now )

                                                      1. re: Charles Yu
                                                        BokChoi Dec 7, 2008 12:28 PM

                                                        I did sample the tasting menu this time as well (SO and I share our meals to sample as much as possible). It was excellent. Thanks for the suggestion.

                                                      2. re: BokChoi
                                                        justpete Dec 5, 2008 07:02 PM

                                                        You made me go to Splendido tonight, shortly after I wrote that. I just had the steak again (works well paired with the Baco Noir from Henry of Pelham). I'm convinced that everyone needs to have that at least once in their life. Service, as always, was utterly exceptional, and the food was incredible.

                                                        I've also had their tasting menu.. it's what made Splendido my fav restaurant in TO to begin with.

                                                        1. re: justpete
                                                          BokChoi Dec 7, 2008 12:25 PM

                                                          I sure did twist your arm on that one, eh? I just have this belief that a steak is a steak and if they use Cumbrae's that I can do a similar job at home if I do it well - am I completely off my rocker? What makes them so special, I guess? Maybe that's a better question - technique, additional flare, marination, unique aging techniques...?

                                                          Thanks

                                                          1. re: BokChoi
                                                            justpete Dec 7, 2008 03:06 PM

                                                            I get the same steak from Cumbrae's. It's something about their technique - or maybe they age it more, not sure.. in any case, I can't duplicated it, although I do try! And my steaks are quite delicious.. but not nearly as good as the ribeye at Splendido. They have a special, inexplicable touch!

                                                            1. re: justpete
                                                              aser Dec 14, 2008 12:38 AM

                                                              I highly doubt they have any specialized touch. I know they dry age their beef extra long, 60 days if I recall. That's the main difference as the steak you buy from Cumbrae's is only 30 days dry aged. My friend works grillardin/poissonnier there, he'll probably laugh at the suggestion he has this "inexplicable touch".

                                                              1. re: aser
                                                                justpete Dec 14, 2008 06:14 PM

                                                                The steak I get from Cumbrae's is aged 60 days. I ask for it specially. You're right, they probably don't have a special touch. That's why it's one of the finest restaurants in the city and has an outstanding reputation - because they cook and use flavours and techniques that everyone else does.

                                                                1. re: justpete
                                                                  aser Dec 14, 2008 07:41 PM

                                                                  I"m sure they do for other dishes, but it's a steak, there's only so many ways you can cook it. It's all about the dry aging.

                                                                  The 60 day age stuff isn't what's regularly offered at cumbrae's. Most other resaturants in the city using cumbrae's are serving the 30 day stuff.

                                                                  1. re: aser
                                                                    justpete Dec 14, 2008 08:19 PM

                                                                    Yes, Thank you. I realize that the steak they have available to anyone is the 30 day dry aged stuff. But, if you ask nicely, they will give you the 60 day aged steak. I go there about once a month and get it (if I don't go to splendido's during that time, of late). And no, it's not the regular 30 day dry aged steak at all.

                                      2. BokChoi Dec 7, 2008 02:34 PM

                                        Thanks for the suggestion of Splendido everyone. My dining companions were all quite impressed. I've typed up a longer review of my experience here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/578152

                                        Thanks again everyone.

                                        Cheers!

                                        1. e
                                          embee Dec 8, 2008 10:54 AM

                                          We have been thinking about this a great deal lately. My wife is not a foodie, much less a 'hound, but she appreciates a great meal. I am, of course, obsessed. We are close to giving up altogether on "fine dining" in Toronto.

                                          We have both had memorable fine dining experiences elsewhere in the world, but no Toronto restaurant has ever come close to this level. Maybe we've just been unlucky, but most of our best experiences net out as "that was good, but not a life experience". In most cases, we've both ended up feeling that the meal had cost too much for what it delivered. We're not all that fussy about ambiance. We mainly want wonderful food.

                                          We've had many delicious meals in Toronto. The majority of these have been at relatively inexpensive (sometimes outright cheap), often "ethnic" restaurants.

                                          Perhaps we're just jaded, but we both have found (more and more with passing time) that Toronto's fine dining experiences always seem to be missing something. When we were asked at a recent chowmeet to name our favourite "moderate" restaurants, defined as about $100 - $150 for two, with wine, we couldn't think of anyplace that we find really special.

                                          I'll admit that I'm a good (some say better than that) cook. Certainly we'll continue to eat out on special occasions or when I don't feel like cooking and/or she doesn't want to deal with cleaning up. And we're always up for a unique or unusual meal. But spending $75 for a meal that I can reproduce for $10, or $300 for a meal I can make for $40, has become, dare I say, boring.

                                          When I eat out, other than for convenience, I'm looking for one of three things:

                                          - Something delicious that I couldn't possibly make myself;
                                          - Something that I could prepare, but which would require more effort than I am willing to make;
                                          - Something (perhaps very simple) using ingredients I couldn't get, prepared perfectly

                                          It just doesn't seem to happen all that often. Comments welcome...

                                          17 Replies
                                          1. re: embee
                                            foodyDudey Dec 8, 2008 11:11 AM

                                            My experience is similar to yours. I have a wife who doesn't cook but loves good food, so it's my job to have dinner ready when she gets home. Since I'm pretty good at it, I also have high expectations when we go out. I was recently wondering why I have to spend over $200 (with tax and tip ) to eat some decent food these days but it doesn't seem so high when I consider that 20 years ago, it would cost at least $100 to $130.

                                            We had a great meal on Saturday night at Alice's restaurant. We thoroughly enjoyed the appetisers, mains and desert. The wine we had was very good also, the only thing that disappointed me was when I came home and checked that wine to see if I could buy some, and found that the markup was over 350%.

                                            We have attended all of the winemaker's dinners at Globe Bistro this year. They have all been very good. There is another coming up on Jan 14. Here is the info in case anyone is interested:

                                            Globe is celebrating winter comforts with a special multi-course dinner featuring Henry of Pelham Family Estate on Wednesday, January 14 starting at 6:30 PM. The evening includes a tasting menu highlighting local delights specially matched to Henry of Pelham wines including the Speck Family Reserve ($125 per person - wine, food, taxes and gratuities included). Please reserve with a credit card today by calling 416-466-2000 or email info@globebistro.com for more information. Seating is limited.

                                            1. re: embee
                                              BokChoi Dec 8, 2008 11:30 AM

                                              embee. I would totally agree. I have had several rants about this as well. A few were split off into general topic discussion by the moderator: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/549053 (with the edit that I was very disappointed with JKWB during my last visit in September

                                              )

                                              I am still working on my talents in the kitchen so I still find merit in going out to eat often. And yes, I tend to look for food I cannot prepare myself (or would be incredibly daunting to even attempt - such as dim sum).

                                              But there are still some gems in Toronto. I am on the constant look out for them and will definitely be putting up my reviews of the worthy establishments out there that deserve the attention.

                                              Let me know what some standby's are for you. I always want to learn more.

                                              Cheers!

                                              1. re: embee
                                                e
                                                erly Dec 8, 2008 01:18 PM

                                                embee,
                                                I could have written your post,... totally agree with all of your comments. (except that I do the cooking at home).
                                                I love your three "something's", and have used these exact, or almost exact words.
                                                The best "taste" and value in Toronto is ethnic, but mostly Chinese.
                                                At least 50% of our dining in Toronto is Chinese.
                                                I very much enjoy places like Splendido, but can't ever say "wow".
                                                We are fortunate that travel is a good part of our business, and we find wonderful restaurants sometimes costly, and other times very inexpensive, that we return to often, and can say this was a truly great meal...
                                                Waiting for such a restaurant here.

                                                1. re: embee
                                                  t
                                                  tjr Dec 8, 2008 10:44 PM

                                                  I often feel the same way. I'm also a good cook, and prepare most of the meals at home. That being said, we do tend to go out once or twice a week, mostly on Friday or Saturday. I do lunches out often.

                                                  Compare Toronto's cuisine scene with any other large city in the world (Paris, London, New York, Tokyo) and there is neither value nor impressive food. When I'm in Tokyo, I'd hardly ever consider making food. With a small kitchen and expensive groceries, there's no point in cooking at home, especially when you can get a 3 course prix fixe lunch for $20-30 that would rival many of Toronto's top restaurants. For the price of Splendido (which I consider to be Toronto's top fine dining restaurant), you can go for a 3-star with food that is much better. Sure, there are some bad restaurants in Tokyo, but chances are I can walk into nearly any restaurant off the street and have a good meal for a good price. In Toronto if you walk into any restaurant off the street, chances are you'll get bad food with bad value.

                                                  I'm not exactly partial to things like Indian or Thai, and the one thing I like but can't make is Chinese. Thankfully, Toronto is excellent in this regard.

                                                  1. re: tjr
                                                    skylineR33 Dec 8, 2008 10:54 PM

                                                    Do you mean going to 3* french restaurant at lunch ? If you go for the tasting menu at those 3* at Tokyo for dinner, it may cost more than double of Splendido !

                                                    1. re: skylineR33
                                                      t
                                                      tjr Dec 8, 2008 11:21 PM

                                                      Yes, I meant lunch. The lunch tastings at many Tokyo restaurants are superior to Splendido's dinner tasting, for a fraction of the price. Not a three star, but Pierre Gagnaire's extravagant lunch was only $100/pp. with wine, and would have blown the most recent meal we had at Splendido (last month) out of the water! I also had a dinner at 3-star Quintessence that was only $200/pp.; this isn't such a huge difference in price (at the time, Y100 to $1.00 CAD) for a meal that was more than twice as good, if not three times! Our dinner at new 3-star いしかわ was much less though, nearly the same price as Splendido (only about $20 difference)!

                                                      I think that Splendido is the top fine dining restaurant in Toronto, but I don't believe it can compete with the rest of the world.

                                                      1. re: tjr
                                                        skylineR33 Dec 9, 2008 06:55 AM

                                                        That's for sure. I don't think anyone here is trying to prepare David Lee to Pierre Gagnaire or any 3* establishment, as up to this point, it has no star. Splendido is just a great fine dining restaurant in Toronto that one can enjoy a great meal there with very attentive service with fair pricing that a fine dining restaurant is charging when you go for this type of dinner, as for many restaurants in the world is way more expensive than it, and taste is subjective.

                                                        1. re: skylineR33
                                                          t
                                                          tjr Dec 9, 2008 03:45 PM

                                                          Of course! Now we can just wait until we get a Toronto Michelin guide, and Splendido dials up their pricing accordingly :-)

                                                        2. re: tjr
                                                          Charles Yu Dec 9, 2008 04:03 PM

                                                          Agree!! Tokyo is really something! I recall two years ago, before the Michelin guide, I had a five course lunch ( pristinely fresh fish and nice cut of Wagyu beef ) at Iron Chef Sakai's restaurant 'La Rochelle' for only Can$60/pp (with a glass of wine). Taste and plate presentation was stunning! Why they don't get a star from Michelin, I don't know?
                                                          Anyways, for that price and food calibre I doubt Splendido can match it?!

                                                    2. re: embee
                                                      aser Dec 14, 2008 12:34 AM

                                                      personally, I believe a home kitchen severely limits you in attempting to equal a meal at a fine dining restaurant, or even a Chinese restaurant.

                                                      Thermomix, paco-jets, combi-ovens, 3 day simmering stocks, demi-glace, high btu wok burner. A lot of these things just can't be done at home imo.

                                                      1. re: aser
                                                        justpete Dec 14, 2008 06:15 PM

                                                        lol, you just completely contradicted yourself in record time. Impressive!

                                                        1. re: justpete
                                                          aser Dec 14, 2008 07:44 PM

                                                          that was talking about a steak, which is about as simple as it gets. I would've thought that was obvious. Season, high heat, hot pan, sear, finish in oven.

                                                          most of the other things talked about are hard to duplicate in a home kitchen.

                                                          1. re: aser
                                                            justpete Dec 14, 2008 08:21 PM

                                                            Yes, which is precisely the way I make mine.. but they have this amazing crust on the outside which I haven't yet been able to duplicate. I was so interested in duplicating the crust, that I called and talked to the sous chef one night. It wasn't as simple as I do it (as you described), but there was another of other things that they're doing to make that outer crust. I tried to duplicate it unsuccessfully... so hence the "je ne sais quoi" I attribute to their steak cooking prowess. Globe is also able to duplicate this on a limited basis, but still not as good as splendido...

                                                            Try one, you'll see!

                                                            1. re: tjr
                                                              justpete Dec 14, 2008 10:14 PM

                                                              I've tried Cast Iron, stainless steel, Copper bottom pan... tried with and without oil (although tricky because at high temp it gets really smokey.. etc... I'm no slouch at cooking (also in Chef school part time - just for fun). You really have to try the steak before you judge someone else's ability to make it, methinks. :)

                                                              1. re: justpete
                                                                aser Dec 15, 2008 09:00 AM

                                                                ok I'll buy one from cumbrae's and ask my friend who works meats at splendido to make it for me. I'm sure he won't mind eating it.

                                                                1. re: aser
                                                                  justpete Dec 15, 2008 09:39 AM

                                                                  Please do.. also be sure to make note of every step he takes in making it, and the timings!! :)

                                                                  1. re: aser
                                                                    justpete Feb 7, 2009 02:15 PM

                                                                    Did that ever happen, ps? Was looking forward to the 'instructions' or sorts...

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