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A Splendid-o Sunday Suggestion for Superb Service (lengthy review + pics)

Thanks to all the CHers out there that suggested Splendido for a wonderful evening out on a Sunday. The family came in from out of town and we all sat down for a stellar meal. They came in with high standards as they frequently dine in the best restaurants around the world, and in their hometown of Vancouver. They are even acquaintances of Chef Pino Posteraro and thus Splendido had its bar set quite high in terms of Italian-based fare. Apologies ahead of time as well due to the low-lighting of the restaurant as the photos are not of the quality I would have liked. The rating scale is based on my expectations for a restaurant at this price point, as well as a comparison between each of the dishes.

The table decided for a mixed ordering of plates: Half went with a la carte choices, the rest for the tasting menu. Little did we know we were in for a very long evening, but we had a wonderful experience and were even treated to a nice tour of the kitchen by the talented Chef de Cuisine. As one can tell, I guess I can be pretty verbose so this probably contributed to the 4hr meal.

Before we were presented with our menus, we were treated to a ‘pre-amuse’, or Canapé selection. Included was a puree of squash that was mildly spiced, a wonderful and light-tasting white bean puree and finally a ‘cheese puff/cracker’ (I forgot the exact names). It was a great way to whet the appetite before taking on the daunting task of navigating the menu.

Canapé: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

After selecting our courses, we were presented with our amuse: a wonderful piece of seared fish atop what appeared to be glass beads, but it was just beautiful and well-formed foam.

Amuse: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

Next up, David’s charcuterie platter. The highlight was the foie gras sous-vide of course. But there was another liver side that was amazingly rich and soft as well. I believe you can see it melting on the serving platter. The brioche was light & fluffy - a much better pairing than the typical toasts. The salame and prosciutto were very flavourful as well, but were similar to what you would receive at Nota Bene. Rating: 4/5

Charcuterie: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

The room itself was very understated and nothing at all what I would have pictured for one of Canada’s best restaurants. I am used to more ‘over the top’ glamour, I guess. It was intimate and very warm.

Room: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

The tartare was the first course to arrive. Utterly amazing. The texture is rivaled only by the exquisite dish I had at Jean Georges in NYC. The taste though bested JG’s version IMO. It was very luxurious from the avocados, yet subtly sweet due to the saucing. The quail eggs were a marvel. They were perfectly prepared with its centre slightly oozing. There were not too salty and the flavours paired so well, as did its texture, with the tartare. Perfection! Rating: 4.75/5 (okay, so maybe not completely perfect, but a Solid A+ effort). Texture is what set it apart from NB’s version IMO.

Tartare: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

The plating at Splendido is very similar to Nota Bene. One can interpret that as they may. I did not get to sample the beet salad, but I reckon it would be similar to the one offered up by Nota Bene (at least in terms of quality of ingredients). Rating: N/A

Beet Salad: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

Even though my SO had all intention of sampling each others dishes and diversifying our “Splendido menu-portfolio” we accidentally duplicated a number of courses. I guess our attention to detail for menu items needs to be taken up a notch. Here is a repeat course of the Charcuterie platter: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

The lobster course was to follow next. Butter poached, which I guess is a nod to Keller’s invention, the lobster was sweet and succulent. The texture was spot on and the flavours were very strong. Not to mention that there was a shaving of truffle atop this already rich dish to take it up even further. Talk about guilding the lily, but I am never one to turn down truffles, nor say anything negative about a dish that includes them. Suffice it to say, this was not a shy dish in the least! There were too many things happening with this dish, so I couldn’t give it a higher rating. It was simple, and what it was doing it did well. I just would have wanted something a bit more exciting so took marks off for creativity. Rating: 3.75/5

Lobster: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

Next up, Scallop Gnocchi: The scallop was perfectly seared and formed a magnificent crust. Inside, the scallop was sweet and a touch raw – just the way I like it. I love it when the centre is left uncooked and it is still cold. The sweetness of the natural scallop is really allowed to show through. The Gnocchi themselves were also amazing. Great textures and fun to eat. This was the second dish that I ordered in error that matched my SO’s. My only consolation? Even more truffles… Rating: 4.25/5

Scallop Gnocchi: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
Regular a la carte Gnocchi: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

Sweet potato agnolotti’s stole the show in the next dish. The pulled duck confit was forgettable and did not have a great texture. It was also salty against the already salty broth of squab. It was a bit tough, but if it were crispy, it would have been an excellent foil to the silky smooth texture of the agnolotti. The pasta saved the day due to its sweetness. Without this contrast to the salty broth, the dish could have been ruled a bit of a failure. But the pasta… amazing! It was like eating candy it was so sweet. The texture was amazingly refined as well. On its own it too would have been too sweet, but alongside the broth, it was a marvelous creation. I guess that was always the intention of the creator – that they would be consumed in unison. Rating: 4.5/5

Agnolotti: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

The Chef created and presented a complimentary course to follow the agnolotti. It was a classic Italian pasta with a topping of braised ox tail - a very simple preparation. The textures of the ox tail were perfect and had touches of the fatty gelatinous pieces I have become familiar with in Chinese interpretations of this dish. The pasta was skillfully prepared (al dente) and provided a nice bite to go with the oxtail. A touch salty, but who can complain about a complimentary course? Rating: 3.75/5 (but I guess 4/5 because it gets points for being free

)

Ox Tail Ragu: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

The mains came next. The sea bass was very buttery and the skin was exceptionally crisp. This dish was perfectly executed. Dollops of caviar punctuated the white of the dish. However, since it wasn’t my dish, I didn’t get to sample those jewels (darn). SO had the bison. This was the true revelation of the meal. I have never sampled such a tender piece of bison in my life before that moment. I didn’t realize a beast could be responsible for generating such textures. It was much like a veal it was so tender. But the flavours were much more pronounced than the subtly sweet veal’s meat would have been. It was served wrapped in bacon, which I guess added a textural component to the buttery-smooth tenderloin. As well, alongside it was a segment of boudin noir (which I was introduced to in NB’s tarte version). The braised red cabbage was also a nice semi-sweet, yet bitter side to add depth to the dish. I had ordered the lamb, even though I was so tempted to try the much touted Steak by JustPete. In retrospect, I should have ordered the steak as I only enjoyed 1 of the 3 preparations of lamb in my dish. The tenderloin was melt-in-your-mouth tender, however, the saddle was a touch tough (especially when so easily juxtaposed against its neighbour) and the neck was not as exciting as it sounded. It was apparently cooked two ways, with one being fried. It was crispy, but not enough to justify all the work that apparently went into it IMO. The flavours came out nicely due to the nature of that cut of meat and the preparation method, but it was still just “okay” for me. I love neck, but this was just nothing special. Rating: Bison: 4.75/5, Sea Bass: 4.25/5, Lamb: 4/5

Bison: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
Pickerel: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
Sea bass: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
Lamb: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

Next came the wonderful kitchen tour. Earlier in my meal, I had merely been looking toward the kitchen and pointing ever so subtly trying to estimate the size of the kitchen. Our waiter was so perceptive that he came over and immediately inquired if I had any questions. He then answered my inquiry and offered to arrange a kitchen tour with the Chef de Cuisine later that evening. I was so impressed.

For dessert, I ordered a cheese plate tasting. For demonstration purposes only (oh why couldn’t I get a knife and fork to just dig in?) an entire tray of luxurious cheeses were presented and described to us. I was too lazy to try and pick a few to try that I ordered a half serving of each. SO had the apple crumble that came with their taster and the other dining companion offered up their dessert because by now they were much too full to even consider eating a final course. All the better for me! I substituted the crumble for a soufflé. Unfortunately, the desserts were a let down. The apple crumble was similar to something I would find at a much lower-class restaurant. It was unremarkable. Solid, but not something I would order again. The soufflé also fell flat for me, both in taste and touch in presentation. Maybe it was late at night at the pastry chef had packed up and left for the evening, but that was my experience. The cheeses were all a delight and it was exciting to sample each one. I noted that a few were similar to ones offered on the cheese plate at Nota Bene, including the Tiger Blue. Why I got an order of the Beemster, I will not understand, as I already know I enjoy that cheese and could have just gone to SLM or the Cheese Boutique to pick up a wedge for a fraction of the price. Oh well! I guess the same could be said for the rest, but I wanted to sample them all – I was being greedy I guess. The toasts they were presented with were brushed with olive oil and well crisped. The cheeses were presented with sliced apples to cut the richness and introduce a touch of sourness. I am a huge fan of their wooden plank/trunk on which the cheeses are presented. I need to buy one for myself. Rating: Cheese 4.5/5, Soufle 3/5, Apple 3/5

Cheese Presentation: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
Souffle: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
My cheese plate: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...
Apple Crumble: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

And I cannot leave out mention of the service. The service was truly second to none. I was in awe at how capable every single staff member was. They knew their roles and each added their personal flare. I noted that when one staff member started describing the components of a dish, but a similar dish was presented at the opposite end of the table, by perhaps a more seasoned server, the junior staff quickly bowed out and allowed the more senior one to fully describe the dish so as to not confuse the table. The glasses were always kept filled. As a game I started counting how long my glass would stay empty before a waiter came by to refill it – I got to about 5 seconds as the longest duration throughout the evening before someone came by! Utterly amazing IMO. Everyone was so knowledgeable of what they were presenting. Everyone was also so well-mannered and eloquent. Due to my terrible memory, I requested a listing of the cheeses I sampled in order to write it down for my records. Our head waiter later presented a itemized list with descriptions of each cheese and their country of origin. It was above and beyond what I had requested and is a vivid illustration of how amazing the service is at Splendido. My dining companions from Vancouver were so impressed with the service that they commented several times about it during and after the meal. They were very pleased with my restaurant selection mainly as a result of the service they received.

In summary, we all thought the food was great at Splendido. The dishes were classic and ably prepared. However, my only complaint would be that I would have wanted more excitement. The meal did not blow me away in terms of tastes, but the service no doubt did. I think if you chose your dishes well, you could have a remarkable meal at Splendido. If I were to do it again, I would order the tuna tartare, agnolotti and the bison (or steak, if I’m feeling gluttonous), skipping dessert. My dining companions also felt the food was a bit lacking compared to other places they have been, mostly comparing the pasta dishes to Cioppino’s in Vancouver. I felt the food was of course a class above Nota Bene, but considering the price difference, I don’t think I can say it provides value for the premium. I kept my expectations low based on a friend’s recommendation and as a result was pleasantly surprised by the food. The service though is unbeatable and created a very memorable experience. This is not a restaurant that I would return to regularly, mostly because the price is outside my comfort zone and the food is not really up my alley. But for what they do, they do it quite well: Classically prepared Italian inspired dishes. The portions are generous and you live completely satiated. The service leaves you wondering why no one else seems to be able to get it this right in the city? I guess that is why Splendido has built such a reputation for itself over the years in terms of quality of service. All I can say is that we were all happy with this recommendation and my dining companions returned to Vancouver with a very pleasurable dining experience.

Cheers and Happy Eating!

88 Harbord Street
tel 416.929.7788

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  1. thank you so much for the review! Its my birthday this weekend and I think my boyfriend will be taking me there, so now I know what to try/avoid. Question: You mentioned the desserts weren't too fabulous.. was there a choice for the dessert at all with the tasting or do you just kind of get what you get?

    3 Replies
    1. re: hungryabbey

      hungryabbey,

      I hope you have a wonderful birthday celebration - Happy Birthday! In terms of dessert, as Charles Yu mentioned below, many have thoroughly enjoyed the desserts (souffle) in the past. However, for me they weren't anything special. But it could have been an off-day (late in the evening because I ended up taking too long with my meal). Apple crumble came with the tasting menu, however upon quickly inquiring of our server if we do a substitute for a different dessert (because we always share, it would be a shame to repeat the dessert), they graciously accommodated my request. I requested the souffle that you see in the above pictures. They are so wonderful there and they will try to make you happy any way they can. So please do speak freely and make your requests. They were so accommodating last time, I think you'll have the same experience.

      Cheers and Happy Eating!

      1. re: BokChoi

        Thanks for your reply. Good to know that they may substitute. I'll report back if we end up there on the weekend. Seems theres some serious discrepancies about this place right now.

        1. re: hungryabbey

          It's good that discussion has been generated. Nice to know that people are starting to challenge the status quo more openly now. Maybe it'll force restos to step up their game? I still think it's a nice place to get spoiled, if that's what you're looking for.

    2. Interesting your comment about their souffle is 'Forgettable! Nothing to write home about'! Both skylineR33 and myself both had GREAT souffles there!! Same pastry chef? I wonder?

      1 Reply
      1. re: Charles Yu

        I am not sure if the pastry chef changed, or perhaps the pastry chef was just fed up with me taking so long to consume my meal and headed home for the day! Or maybe the desserts just weren't done the way I prefer. I just remember being very underwhelmed with the desserts. Tip to those that go, ease up on the bread. I think that was my fatal mistake. Perhaps I did not leave as much room for dessert as I had thought....

      2. I was at Splendido this past Wednesday actually. The room was actually filled with more tables than I remember from 2.5 years ago (I felt like we were the sole diners in the middle of the room...actually, I think we were...) If memory serves me correct, there were more chandeliers so the room wasn't as dim this time around.

        I agree for the most part on your impressions of the dishes, although the scallop, gnocchi and wild mushroom dish was my personal favourite. Based on Carlo's suggestion (we asked for a sweet wine of Alsatian-ish origin), we ordered a bottle of the 2006 Riesling from Weingut Geheimer Rat (Pfalz). Last bottle! He said it would pair well with the tuna tartare, lobster, and scallop but I thought it was the most wonderful with that gorgeous foie gras.

        I too was underwhelmed by the apple crumble dessert (not to say it wasn't tasty though). I remember being more impressed with the taste combination and execution last time.

        The service however was great, if not even better than I remember. My SO and I went for our anniversary and our desserts arrived with dark chocolate plaques saying "Happy Anniversary." We even got a card signed by our server, the chef and the manager! What I really liked about Splendido this time around though was that they included a mini menu detailing our dishes so we can follow along during our meal. Why don't other restaurants do that!

        And BokChoi, your family knows Pino Posteraro! Wish my family in Vancouver knew such cool people, hehe. What stood out for me at Cioppino's was the ossa bucco. Have yet to try a version from David Lee, so I'll hold off judgement until then...

        6 Replies
        1. re: gijoeanne

          The place was also full (on a Sunday no less!) when we were dining there. Considering the current state of the economy, this is quite a feat.

          The gnocchi's were wonderful, weren't they? I think I enjoyed them as one of my favourite dishes as well - SO was less than impressed. I tried to incorporate their ratings into my overall review as well (averaged our scores). I was so happy that I ordered a second plate of it (by accident) because there would not have been enough if we were to share that one dish. But then again, I think I ended up eating my SO's portion as well....

          Yes, the mini menu was a wonderful touch. Truffles did that during our last taster menu as well - unfortunately their meal was a terrible disappointment. It was great to follow along - like acts of a play, no?

          I must make my way out there to sample the food at Pino's. I have heard such great things, but the last time I was in Vancouver it must have been close to 15 years ago. I will keep that dish in mind during my visit.

          Cheers!

          1. re: BokChoi

            The upstairs dining room wasn't completely full when I went on a Wednesday, but apparently E had trouble getting a reservation any later than 6. It turns out that there was a CIBC party downstairs (I thought they were the Canadian bank that got hit the hardest with these ABCP thingers???), so yes, a feat indeed!

            I forgot to mention that my amuse bouche was something different. It was octopus from a very specific region served atop spinach puree. The octopus was unlike any other I've ever tried - almost meaty! And foaming of flavours was a technique reiterated throughout the meal - it wasn't there when I first visited Splendido. I encountered it in multiple dishes while dining at Manresa in Los Gatos. Wonder how long this trend will stick around...

            Hopefully the mini menu will catch on and become a staple in the Toronto dining scene...

            1. re: gijoeanne

              The octopus sounds very interesting. I don't remember much about the amuse at all. I just thought the foam was prettier than most of the foam that I have seen around my plate as of late. It wasn't like a whipped foam - almost like someone took trouble to pump air into a liquid, then scoop it out onto my plate. I think foam works - it is one of those techniques that are not just gimmicky. I believe they help mellow out some powerful flavours by making it less concentrated. As well, the foam helps make the sauce more aromatic - like a diffuser of sorts. So I hope this one trend sticks around, but only if it is used purposefully.

              I love a good octopus when it is executed well. I had a wonderful one at the aforementioned Degustation in NYC. Excellent, texturally and the flavour accompaniments - amazing. It was slightly charred and so aromatic as a result- it tasted so incredibly fresh.

              1. re: gijoeanne

                I had that same Amuse bouche last week and didn't enjoy it all that much... probably the first dish I've had there that I didn't overly like. I thought the Octopus tasted like canned Tuna (gasp!).. but I'm not that overly familiar with Octopus, so it may have just been me!

                1. re: justpete

                  From the sounds of it, there might be some inconsistencies from night to night. For example, Bokchoi noted that IF the duck confit was crispy, it would have been a great foil to the agnolotti. In fact, my duck had a nicely crisped top which I found to be a delight with the consomme. Or perhaps it wasn't enough crisp for BokChoi's liking...?

                  The thread has become about comparing Splendido to other restaurants on the world stage. Has anyone else seen the "Opinionated about Dining" survey results? Splendido's score was actually pretty high up there, with the likes of other legendary North American establishments...

                  1. re: gijoeanne

                    Maybe it was just overly tough on top of crisp. For me, those two should be distinct textures, but I often see them going hand in hand unfortunately. I enjoy crisp + light.

                    I would rate it (in terms of taste) better than WD~50 in NYC, which is a 1-star. But in terms of unique offerings, well then WD~50 in a class of its own. The meal came in at about $140 for the tasting as well. It just depends on what you're looking for and what tastes you prefer. I know that estufarian had a wonderful meal at WD~50 and would probably disagree with my statement.
                    Cheers!

          2. Thanks for the great review. I look forward to trying Splendido myself. You seem to echo what alot of others were saying. Great food, but not the best in the city, but impeccible service.

            11 Replies
            1. re: stonedtoronto

              If you head in with moderate expectations, I am sure you will have a wonderful experience. The service is what really set this establishment apart from the rest. The food was not really 'up my alley' because I think I prefer more Asian-inspired herbs and lighter preparations for high-class fare, but that's just me. My favourite restaurant for the past couple of years has been Clio in Boston, so that may give you a gauge of what truly wows me. Another recent discovery was Degustation in NYC. But to each their own. I had a great time, but for the price, I don't think I would return often. It was a great sort of one-time experience for me since the food is not exactly what I enjoy. I hope you have a great time though when you do make it out there.

              Cheers!

              1. re: BokChoi

                BokChoi, what are some of your favourite restaurants in TO? I'd also like to know! Have you been to Perigee yet?

                1. re: justpete

                  justpete,

                  There are a few that I treasure, but I would honestly have to say nothing near the price range of Splendido. I enjoy more casual dining at moderate (OK great value) price points. I frequent, more than anything else, many ethnic eats around town. Everyone I am sure if familiar with my constant praising of Grand Chinese Cuisine for dim sum (great value - you can dine very well there for about $24 a head), Nota Bene (great value for great food and great service), as well as more recently Zucca for pasta. I enjoy a meal at Le Paradis because I only have to spend $17 for a main and the service is always capable and you know what you are going to get since the menu doesn't change often. And I cannot forget Weezie's (though I was disappointed with their burger on my last visit). For value Chinese food, I head up to my area for Fantasy and Ruby Chinese Restaurant because I know what to order and very seldom am I ever disappointed (especially knowing that the cost is < $20 a head for dinner). I have another favourite for lunches, but I am still working on that review right now. Of course I enjoy a lavish night out once in a while, but I find that oft times I am disappointed in Toronto. Hence my constant gushing about how NB satisfies my desires for good food at reasonable prices. Of course, I'm keeping things in the perspective of being a Torontonian in Toronto. I would not imagine even comparing things to what I have experienced in NYC or Boston. Splendido was a one-off occasion for me because I had family coming in from out of town and they wanted an impressive evening. For me personally, I have been disappointed time and time again with couture foods in Toronto. Perigee was unfortunately a disappointment for me last year when I went, but it could have just been an off-day for them. I had a mediocre and overpriced experience at George about 2.5 years back as well and haven't returned ( I ordered a la carte at each place to 'test them out' - but I am not making excuses for them because I think a diner should be treated with the same respect if they came in dropping $1K as if they had ordered just $50. Classy establishments should act as such IMO. If they disagree, that's fine. I can choose to take my money elsewhere.). Scaramouche was okay, good at what they were trying to do I guess, but just not my cup of tea (I would say they're in the same boat as Splendido for me in terms of food though of course I was more impressed by Splendido's tastes and service, but we paid quite the premium for that).

                  I have therefore decided that for spectacular food, I am saving my money to eat in NYC and Boston and elsewhere around the world. But I will definitely frequent places in NB's price range, or less because I don't feel like I have been robbed after dining there.

                  I hope I've conveyed what I was trying to and not coming off sounding too negative. What are some of your favourites?

                  1. re: BokChoi

                    I posted a list in another thread.. I think you may have even commented on it, for my favourites. I've not been to Zucca or Paradis, but I am looking forward to going in the near future. I"m also headed to Perigee on Saturday. I was debating between that and Scaramouche but the menu at Perigee was more appealing, even though we'll probably end up doing the tasting menu!

                    I heard it is worth a visit Despite Pat Riley's departure. So hopefully they don't have an off night!

                    That's the thing about Splendido's, before I was a regular customer. If I was spending $50 on a steak or $500 on a tasting menu, the treatment is the same. oh, and just wanted to relate a story. I went in the other night, just for a steak, and I had a look at the desert menu, couldn't find anything I liked (I despise orange and chocolate, and it was the only chocolate item on the menu - I'm a chocolate fanatic). So, after the gracious server went through and made up a desert, he found after going to the back, that they had a special cake available for an event in the private party, and could give me one of those cakes. It was a great chocolate cake. While leaving, he suggested that if I wanted, as long as I make a reservation, that they will have the cake available to me when I come in, ahead of time.. just in case there's nothing on the desert menu that's satisfactory. Simply awesome!

                    1. re: justpete

                      I hope you have a fun evening there. I was not at all impressed when I went last year around this exact time. I found the temperatures of the food a bit off as well not that I try to think back and picture the meal. Everything was very cold when it arrived if I remember correctly.

                      What great service you received! I am not surprised though in the least. I was so utterly impressed I was almost speechless after my meal at Splendido when it came to discussing the service. They truly go out of their way to make your evening as memorable and as wonderful as possible. I could not find any fault with the evening's service. Amazing.

                      1. re: BokChoi

                        BokChoi, are you referring to the temperatures at Perigee?? If so, I TOTALLY agree!! I thought the meal over all was good, and the service was also generally pretty good. Our server (whom I think was the sommelier) as well, was very gracious and made every attempt to make us happy. He also introduced us to some amazing wines. The Chef (Chris) also came by to say hello after the meal. Everyone was very nice there. The one complaint I do have about Perigee is the varying temperatures of the food. I noted this several times during the meal... they combined hot and cold, a technique (or a mistake) which I despise whole heartedly. I either want all hot, or all cold, or all warm or all cool.. but not together. It was driving me insane. We had the 9 course.. which turned out to be 10 course tasting menu.. there were several dishes that had confusing temperatures that I disliked. But over-all a good experience.

                        They did several things which we did not expect. Firstly, after we did not finish one of our dishes in the tasting menu that we disliked, they replaced it, un-beknownst, and un-requested by us, with another dish. That was rather gracious and was greatly appreciated. Secondly, after drinking full portions of wine (a bargain for 8-9 different wines for $80) and 8 courses, we were too full to have the cheese plate and decided to skip it for the desert. They did us the courtesy of removing from our bill, even though we had said nothing to hint or even suggest anything of the sort. Service was great in terms of customer service, but not equal to Splendido in terms of attentiveness (although, I'm not sure I'll experience the level of service at Splendido in another restaurant anytime soon, so it may not be a fair comparison).

                        Their venison dish was incredible, the sauces were amazing, and they had an amazing soup as well. The dishes in the tasting menu seemed to get better towards the end, perhaps intentionally.

                        I would definatly go there again, but perhaps order a la carte as opposed to the tasting menu.

                        I was also somewhat unimpressed with the decor, as if the interior was confused with it's location, and it's characteristic brick wall. The art left something to be desired and is somewhat tacky (pink flowers!); the tables and chairs and colours are dated. However, having a table-side view of the kitchen in action was enjoyable and both interesting and entertaining.

                        So, a great experience, of which I'd go back (obviously, that was my first time). It was just funny how you mentioned the temperatures, and I could relate immediately!

                        1. re: justpete

                          having had tasting menus with wine pairings at splendido and perigee within the last 3 months (highly unusual for me, but there were some milestone birthday celebrations amongst friends lately!), i will just add a note on service at both restaurants.

                          i'll preface this by saying that i ate both meals with the same dining companions, and that 2 of us in the party of 4 have a few dietary restrictions which we informed each restaurant at the time the reservations were made.

                          while service at splendido was warm and pleasant, i felt they made some very amateur mistakes, and the follow-up was not handled well. the vegetarian in our group was having a vegetarian tasting done for her, the server confirmed what she could and could not eat. our very first course, our plates were put down, and no one explained what we were served. for us meat eaters, the read along menu was available, but i found it shocking that my veggie friend was left to guess what she ate. after the course was done, she mentioned this to the staff and the person did not know what she ate and said he would check. he came back later while we were eating our second course, and said he'd talk to her about both courses after she was finished eating the 2nd course. well, he never came back. the remainder of the meal was ok, but this definitely left a negative impression on me. though this was my first and only time there, and i cannot speak for my mother or my coworker who have also dined at splendido and did not rave about the service or experience overall, count me in the group of the minority who may want to love splendido, but don't. it seems odd that it could have been an off night for me, and also off nights for the people i know who have also dined there (and who appreciate fine dining)...

                          perigee - i think overall the service was more formal and less warm and personable than at splendido. there were a couple times when they almost forgot to serve the wine that went with our courses. for one dish, the server came to confirm if squab was ok for one of us to eat (she mentioned she did not want any game meats) and she confirmed squab was fine. while the other meat eaters had squab, she ended up with chicken?! the chef stopped and chatted with a table that was near ours, and did a very brief hello at our table, so brief that he didn't really even stand still when inquiring how we were, he was literally trying to leave to get to the next table. we were disappointed, since we did want to have a brief conversation with him (and expected to have an exchange since he seemed chatty with the previous guests).

                          food at both places had highlights and low lights, but i've eaten at other fine dining establishments to know that with tasting menus, i might not love every single course. at any rate, with those prices, i think i'm still looking for a fine-dining experience in Toronto that will wow me. maybe i've been spoiled by eating at a couple of michelin star restaurants elsewhere (1 and 2 stars) and it is unfair to compare, but if splendido has been tauted as the best in the city, where do i try next...

                          1. re: auberginegal

                            I find it amazing that you experienced what you did at Splendido. I've never had anything but the most exceptional service one could imagine there, and it's not because I go there (somewhat) often, because they don't seem to recognize me often (not that I mind)! But every time I do go there, which has probably been 5-6 times in the last few months, the service is always remarkable.

                            I had much the same experience as you did at Perigee, including the squab dish (which is the one that we did not eat), and although the service is not as warm as Splendido, I still think they went out of there way to make us comfortable, although the wine may have come a few seconds later than the dishes.

                            I think you should give Splendido another try. For my money, there is no comparable dining experience in Toronto.

                            Heading to Colborn Lane this evening for the first... maybe that will compare?

                            Oh! And I was also at "Frank" on Sunday for brunch, and was left unimpressed with the food, and the service was horrible. My main course was presented with a very large, very obvious hair smack in the center of my egg (over steak). They took away my dish and reserved it about 10 minutes later, and left my companion's dish on the table. There was no visit from any manager, and we paid full price for everything on the bill.

                            Hair is one thing (I mean honestly, it couldn't have been much more obvious. It was right in the middle of the egg, and ANYONE that would have looked at it would have seen it - meaning there's no quality control), eating at different times is another, paying full price is ridiculous. They still have much work to do.

                            1. re: justpete

                              justpete, you must be Splendido's #1 customer. Frank was that bad, eh? That's too bad - I read positive things about it. How did Colborn Lane go?

                            2. re: auberginegal

                              It's sad to hear that non-traditional requests can throw such professional teams off their game. Not that coming across diners that are vegetarian , or semi-adverse to eating game meats should be that rare in the industry. Hopefully they will see your post and ensure that these errors do not reoccur.

                            3. re: justpete

                              Great to hear that Perigee was a winner for you. I doubt I'll give them another chance. And yes, I was talking about their temperatures - I thought it was just me being finicky. Interesting that you would experience something similar a year later. I guess it's intentional then. I remember that being the only thing that really stuck with me a year later. I also found the offal dish a bit underseasoned. But I cannot say more, unfortunately, since it's just been too long. I too enjoyed the seat by the kitchen. It was like dinner theatre.

                              Cheers and thanks for the report, justpete.

                2. Just wondering BokChoi, what fine dining restaurants have you been to "dinner" with a similar price range and class as Splendido that you think is better in terms of the whole package ? (1) In Toronto and (2) the rest of the world.

                  15 Replies
                  1. re: skylineR33

                    Well, to be honest, I place more emphasis on food than service. That's just my own weighting system. Clio's service is definitely not of comparison, but the flavours were more in-tuned with what I find pleasurable. Service was definitely better than most restaurants in Toronto, but I guess that does not say much. Same goes for the less than stellar service I received at Degustation, but since I was sitting at the bar, I had no complaints because when the food was done, the chef presented it directly to us. Fantastic food. I cannot wait to return.

                    For service, I enjoyed Jean Georges a bit more, just because it seemed (in my eyes) a bit more polished. The team was lead consistently by the same gentleman who's only job was to describe the food while the plates were placed before us. I enjoyed the consistency and the division of ranks/job description. The lead was incredibly knowledgeable of everything that was going on and described the preparation with each dish along with the ingredients utilized. The presentation was much more fanciful, though unfortunately, the food was a bit too powerful in taste for me.

                    So I guess each restaurant has their faults. And since I place more emphasis on the meal that I am eating than the service I receive (of course as long as a minimum standard is reached), I would have to say I have enjoyed Clio and Degustation more. I also enjoyed the fact that I have spent much less there - about $200 per couple for food at Clio and $150 at Degustation (though we left a bit hungry). I guess that is why those two restaurants are listed as my favourites.

                    In Toronto, I am still trying to decide what provides the 'best' in terms of the whole package for me. Splendido was a great experience, however, the food was lacking for me. At those prices, that would take it down quite a bit in my book. But the service was impeccable. So it is a tough call. When I sort it out, I'll get back to you.

                    Cheers!

                    1. re: BokChoi

                      Thanks for your reply. So from your rating of Splendido, it is around 4 out of 5 in average for food which is a pretty good score, with the impeccable service you got there, Splendido provides a great experience as in your case.

                      Fining dining restaurant at this class like Splendido mostly includes service and ambience as a whole package for the price you pay.

                      With 4 out of 5 given to the food in your case, do you think it worths the price for this kind of experience (remember it can be double of what you paid if you visit some of the top restaurant in US or France, but of course the food may or may not be better) ? As for the majority including me, Splendido and the like are not considered regular dining place and is more for special occasion if one feels like wanting a night out with some fine dining experience at its best in Toronto.

                      1. re: skylineR33

                        Unfortunately, there's another factor that I didn't include - price/value. For me, that's a huge factor. Yes, I believe that it's fair for what you get in terms of 'experience' as an overall package. But personally, I would want to pay much less, cut the service by a notch, and punch the food up quite a bit. That's how Clio and Degustation come into the picture and fit the bill quite nicely. For Toronto, I believe they are unparalleled in that regard - a fine dining experience. For a special night out, I've saved mine for visits to Boston (which I frequent quite often) and NYC.

                        But of course, to each their own. I'd much rather even just hop on that $1 bus to NYC for a weekend (which I have done) of pure gluttony than pay $200 a head in Toronto.

                        1. re: BokChoi

                          If price/value is included, I don't think too many top fine dining restaurant of a city can fit into your criteria. Of course there is exception, like Jean George for lunch, but I just found that it is a different experience when I go there for dinner to have their full tasting menu (which is much more expensive). And that's true, if one is willing to spend 20 hours travelling time and maybe find a friend to go with down to NYC for a weekend, one can have a better meal there.

                          1. re: skylineR33

                            Jean Georges is a one-off and not the norm. I understand that. But in NYC, you can be blown away by a simple burger at Shake Shack for $8, or have a an 8 course taster at Degustation for $85. Value is different for everyone. Toronto has great value restaurants - but just not in the fine dining area. I think our forte lies in Chinese food, low-end restos to medium-end, and numerous other ethnic eats around town. Each city has their own strengths.... IMO fine dining isn't ours.

                            1. re: BokChoi

                              I agree, fine dining is not just for everyone. It is just a once a while thing for me too. Interesting you bring up Chinese food, it really depends on where you compare it to. Chinese food in Toronto is considered expensive when compare to HK. Take a simple example, a bowl of wonton noodle costs about $3 (tax, tip included) in HK, but here is like $3.95 ? $4.95 ? + tax and tips ??? I have not even tried to compare the quality yet.

                              1. re: skylineR33

                                True, but then we could get into a discussion about wages and standard of living (when I say value, I compare it to other similar economies, such as the US, our neighbour). I am also assuming the best of HK don't necessarily all come to live in Canada to make wontons. It's a nice substitute between my trips to HK (the $3 wontons aren't so cheap once you factor in the $1K airfare, but that's just me being argumentative). But I see your point. I think our Toronto economy may not be able to support a bevy of fine dining restos, which in turn decreases competition, thus decreasing value we receive at the few good joints. But we're growing and I think I see our concerns being addressed by a number of good restaurants out there. We just have to track them down.

                                But anyway, all this talk of food is making me hungry.

                                BTW, anyone know of any other hidden gems?

                                1. re: BokChoi

                                  You have to know time is also a cost. 20 hours (in abus) getting back and forth to NYC is also a very high cost to someone if you want to get to that details. A meal at Splendido is not that expensive after all for high end fine-dining.

                                  "The best of HK don't necessarily all come to live in Canada to make wontons". I think you are not too familiar with HK. There are many many good wonton noodles places in HK and they mainly only do wonton noodle and congee in those wonton noodle places. It is strange that there is no decent one in Toronto given the population of Chinese here. I can understand why there is no nice ramen here with a small Japanese population, but not wonton noodle.

                                  1. re: skylineR33

                                    skylineR33, I think you may have misinterpreted what I was trying to say. I have no doubt that HK makes great wontons.
                                    I had some fun ones at Grand a little while back: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bokchoi-...

                                    Personally, I am not a fan of wontons, but these ones were quite tasty.

                                    And I agree that $140 is the going rate for a good tasting menu and it is not expensive given the calibre of the experience. I am just saying that I have enjoyed the tastes at other restos better for less. To each their own...

                                    1. re: BokChoi

                                      I agree with you too that there are restaurants out there elsewhere that I have tried with better tastes with less money than Splendido. It just that Splendido is a great one in Toronto.

                                      Unfortunately, the bowl of wonton at Grand fails immediately with the green scallion used. Any good places anywhere should not use green scallion on wonton noodle. Only yellow chives should be used for wonton, otherwise the taste with be affected and will not be the same.

                                      Yeah, I also know people who do not really enjoy wonton noodle especially with the alkaline taste of it, but a good one should be able to mask it well.

                                      1. re: skylineR33

                                        I just had wontons and avoided the noodles all together. I have noticed that some noodles are made and chefs avoid the addition of the alkaline water all together. Either way, I tend never to order it. And one cannot really mask that taste. It is incredibly pungent. They would have to use something quite overpowering (or I guess acidic) to mask/counteract it. Either way, it could detract from the subtle soup it is served in. But to each their own.

                                        And yes, the yellow garlic chives? The green scallion was just a quick garnish. It is not how the dish is ordinarily prepared. I just requested the wontons alone with their "Seung tong" to sample them. I cannot fault them for accommodating my request so quickly. I wanted to try what they were serving for the first class passengers on Cathay Pacific (the wontons). And I would have to say they were quite tasty. Too bad I cannot regularly order these.

                                        1. re: BokChoi

                                          Not really, I have been to places which alkaline taste can be masked and not noticible and with a few drops of red vinegar, it is just perfect, of course I have also been to many places (especially in Toronto) that come with a strong akaline taste. What's why all wonton noodle places always have a bottle of red vinegar right besides it ..., it just that if one knows the purpose of it.

                                          1. re: skylineR33

                                            Tried that, but I have realized that it is just not for me. The red vinegar is way too overpowering for my tastes and ruins the sweetness of the broth for me. But yes, I realize that's reason why that pairing is provided.

                                            Do let me know which restaurants you find make the perfect wonton noodle soups and I should try them. I cannot seem to find any in the city.

                                            Cheers!

                                            1. re: BokChoi

                                              It is a pity there is no such places in Toronto, that's why I said we do not have a decent wonton noodle place in Toronto, a bad example is V2, their akaline taste is way too strong. And by the way, a good wonton soup base should take that into account and goes well with a few drops of red vinegar.