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Nov 16, 2008 06:30 AM

Best Fine Dining Options - updated list?

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.


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  1. 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

      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. 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

        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. 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


          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

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

        2. 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

            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

              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

                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?

                1. re: BokChoi

                  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

                    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

                      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

                        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

                          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

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

                            1. re: tjr

                              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

                              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

                                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.

                  2. re: BokChoi

                    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

                      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?


                      1. re: BokChoi

                        Tasting menu hands down! With wine pairing even better!

                          1. re: Charles Yu

                            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

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

                              1. re: 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.


                    2. 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

                        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

                          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

                          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.