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Splendido Has No Clothes

After many years of near misses, I finally made it to Splendido, which likes to proclaim itself the best restaurant in Toronto. To say that the evening proved a shock is putting it mildly.

I won't go into the specific dishes we ordered, except to say the one person ordered the tasting menu and the rest ordered off the regular menu. I'm not going to get specific because there is no need since the food was uniformly bad to mediocre, consisting of bits of this and that, mostly overly spiced and seasoned and all unimpressive.

I walked away the general feelings at it was basically a theater and not a restaurant. They make a great show of fancy names, of fancy presentation on bizarrely shaped plates, and of fancy dressed teams of smiling, obsequious waiters. Food is secondary not the real point of it all. I was prepared for the obscene prices, but I wouldn't go there again if the food was 1/10 the cost.

In sum, Splendido is essentially a scam. I really don't understand how they get away with it year after year and no one blows the whistle. I guess Splendido Has No Clothes.

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  1. It is hard to imagine after reading a rave review on Splendido from one of our staple Chowhounder - Bokchoi, of his meal there one weekend ago that such a negative post on the same restaurant appear on this board!

    Personally, I have had over half a dozen meals at the said establishment and though, the cost is indeed a bit steep by Toronto standard ( but very reasonable when compare to equal quality/standard restaurants in other metropolis like NYC, London, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong...etc ), The meals had been most enjoyable. The food highly imaginative and delicious. The wine pairing spot-on. The sevice impeccable!! ie, they provide the 'whole package'!

    I believe, other fellow chowhounders who have had the Splendido experience such as Estufarian and SkylineR33...etc, equally share my view.

    Any chance you can elaborate on the dishes you have and the rationale you dislike them? Afterall, you did have the 'tasting menu' and, because of the multiple courses, the dishes are supposed to be in smaller portion. As for plate presentation, compare to the likes of WD-50, Per Se, Eleven Madison Park, L'Atelier Robouchon of NYC, Tru or Alinea of Chicago, Fat Cat of London, El Bulli of Spain, Quintessence or L'Atelier Robouchon of Tokyo, Bo Innovation of Hong Kong.......etc, Splendido's presentation is actually on the 'conservative' side!!!!

    That said, I believe your use of the word 'scam' to describe the best restaurant in town is grossly unfair!!!

    11 Replies
    1. re: Charles Yu

      This was already a posted review...a while back.....the exact same title, too...

      1. re: canadianbeaver

        We removed the previous post as it violated our guidelines and asked the poster to rewrite it and repost it. The new post still has harsh words for Splendido, but offering a differing opinion about a board favorite is permitted.

      2. re: Charles Yu

        I think that this is a harsh review, but respect the individuals right to dissent.
        I too, have had excellent to good meals at Splendido, and do enjoy the experience, however to compare it to some of the above restaurants Charles, is a stretch.
        I have not eaten at all you have mentioned, but I can think of many restaurants worldwide that are less costly, and even better.
        I also understand where he/she is coming from having recently dined at one of the most expensive restaurants in the world, and having a mediocre meal, at best.

        1. re: erly

          Hello erly!

          If you read my post carefully you will notice that my intention was to try to point out that,
          in this day and age, a large number of well known restaurants, be it non-star like 11 Madison Park, Michelin 1* like WD-50, 2* like HK's Bo Innovation or Tokyo's L'Atelier de Joel Robouchon or 3* like Per Se or El Bulli, all employed '"fancy names/description and fancy food presentation on bizarrely shaped dishes" for their food. So to criticize a restaurant's food based on that, when the chef is trying to be creative and artistic like his peers elsewhere is totally unjust.

          BTW, I don't think I am stupid enough to try to compare Splendido with the likes of Alinea, Per Se or El Bulli on this board and bring on the 'Wrath of fellow chowhounders'! Ha! Though I must say, on a good night, some of Splendido's food can be as appealing as say L'Atelier de Robouchon.

          If $130 for an eight course tasting menu that features foie gras, lobster, truffles and game is obscene then I guess the original poster should try the US$600 Omakase at Masa, NYC!!!

          1. re: Charles Yu

            Hi Charles.
            I do like to tease you.
            You are my Chinese food Guru, but I do think that you get very enthusiastic about a few very good Toronto restaurants, and you have been lucky.
            I have never seen a sliver of a truffle at Splendido.
            You are correct when you discuss value for price in Toronto.
            I frequent a little restaurant in Como at least four or five times a year, and for $40. you can't see the Risotto or Pasta when you order either, because the surface is entirely covered with Truffles.

            1. re: erly

              Hello Erly!
              I know! Last time was L'Ambroisie? Right?! Ha!
              Anyways, if you check out the photos of Bokchoi's Splendido posting, you'll see quite a few slivers in his lobster dish!
              Wow! Como 4-5 times a year? Lucky you!! My 'near Como' dining experience was at Il Sole di Ranco just west of Como. Fabulous Scampi and sardines! No truffles though! Sigh!!

              1. re: Charles Yu

                Twice a year Charles, but we eat there more than once...
                I wish someone here would serve the grilled giant porcini that they do.
                Custard like center, to die for..and possibly this is what I expect to see in Toronto.
                Out of season they bring them in from Spain.
                Why can't our high end restaurants do what a little inexpensive restorante can in a tiny place like Como??

        2. re: Charles Yu

          The OP has rights to his own taste and opinion. And although the post was a bit harsh I can understand where the OP is coming from. The food was just not to their taste, the service was not their style. I've worked and dined in most of the restaurants that you've name dropped and really what's I've learned is that this food is not for everyone. No need to get so aggrevated though.

          1. re: j6p

            I was in utter disbelief and just trying to defend a great Toronto institution, thats all!

            Sure, the OP can voice his own taste and opinion. But to call it a 'scam' with only generic comments and NO specific detail! Come on!

            As an example, If someone, who is a traditionalist and has not experienced molecular gastronomy before, was to go to El Bulli and then afterwards, call it a SCAM because the food presentation and execution is new to him, consists of bits of this and that, come with fancy description and bizarrely shaped plates and utensils. Won't you be upset too? ( BTW, I'm not trying to compare Splendido with El Bulli! )

          2. re: Charles Yu

            It's a scam. Popularity is no measure of anything. A lot of people invested happily with Madoff. That was a scam, too.

            By molecular gastronomy, I presume you mean that the portions are the size of single molecules. Yeah, I've been to many places like that. I once ordered the "scallop appetizer" at one of my very favorite restaurants. (It's in Texas.) It was indeeed a "scallop appetizer." One scallop. But at least the food that I did get there was great. The place didn't need hordes of waiters hanging around to treat you like royalty so you didn't notice the mediocre, overpriced food. Splendido is trendy for the sake of being tendy. It food was the concern, why all the show biz distractions?

          3. Different strokes I guess.
            I've been there twice in the past month (both times at my own expense). Once I had the tasting menu and once a 'regular' menu. Leaving aside cost (except to say both times were worth it); on one occasion, David Lee was 'in the house' (the other time a Monday, he wasn't). Also Yannick (who manages the place) was there on the Monday (but not the other time). But both meals were superb. The service was prompt, efficient and in no way obsequious (and believe me I've experienced obsequious!). The food was of excellent quality (one dining companion, of mature age commented that it was perhaps the best meal of her life) - and I cannot reconcile the comments in the original post with anything I encountered.
            Between the two visits I also ate at Veritas and Bouley in New York (both VERY highly regarded, and my first time at each) and neither knocked me out. At Veritas they 'cheated' on the white truffles - yes there was some 'truffle-like substance' but the aromatics came from truffle oil! At Bouley, we even commented that if Yannick had been there he would have been appalled at the service, which was bad (the server improvised descriptions that were clearly wrong, which we called him on - and from that point just placed the food and rushed away without any descriptions at all). To be fair, the food was excellent at Bouley and I would return - but not to Veritas which was far more expensive and clumsy all round (e.g. the tasting menu did not offer accompanying wines; I could only order from the limited 'permanent' selection of wines by the glass).
            I generally have a policy of not 'initiating' a thread unless I've dined/eaten there twice, although I will always respond to someone else's post.
            On this occasion, of course, no reticence is necessary.
            Perhaps you could let us know what places HAVE pleased you (and where they exceeded Splendido). Of course, everyone can have a bad 'personal' experience, and commenting on that is valid. But to draw an inference that a place is a sham (my word - but derived from you comments) requires a higher standard of commentary - especially when it implicitly criticizes all those who are impressed.

            3 Replies
            1. re: estufarian

              I agree with estufarian: I would never trash a restaurant based on one less-than-stellar experience there. I've only been to Splendido once -- for a special Cumbrae's meats tasting -- and, while the service was impeccable, I was not terribly impressed with the food. But it would never have dawned on me to review this meal prior to dining in the restaurant at least one more time, which I plan on doing in the near future.

              1. re: Tatai

                Only an insane purpose would drop $400 to go back to a poor restaurant just to confirm that it was poor. At their prices, they ought to be great on every meal, every time.

                1. re: evansl

                  I have to say I disagree with Tatai. I don’t think it matters at all if you’ve only dined at a restaurant once. As long as you’ve dined there once you have every right to express your opinion on that experience on Chowhound. For professional reviewers, yes, their standards of fairness have to be higher than ours and they of course should dine at an establishment repeatedly and I think anonymously before reviewing it. But us? I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with reviewing a place, good or bad, having only been there once. As long as you mention, even briefly, that your review is based on only one experience, I don’t think that is unfair.

                  I also agree with evansl that at these prices one should absolutely expect a wonderful meal consistently and that repeated visits in the name of fairness at these prices are a pipe dream, much easier said than done for most.

                  That said, I do agree that lambasting a generally revered institution like Splendido (for the record, I have never been) requires an elevated need for detail in your review. Evansl’s skewering seems to have more anger than qualitative thought, so I’m not sure I’d stay away from Splendido based on this angry post, which offers more ire than detail. I still look forward to going one day.

            2. Can you please name some restaurants with food that is uniformly great with good service ? And what are the best restaurant(s) in Toronto that you have gone to in your opinion ? That will help us understand why you have such a shock in visiting Splendido.

              1. I'm sorry to hear you had such a disappointing experience at Splendido, but I really would appreciate more detail about the food.

                This very recent review of Splendido is not without its criticisms, but provides enough specific detail about the food that its critiques are targeted and nuanced.

                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/578152

                I think people are pushing back on you so hard because you've failed to suggest what was really wrong with your food - "overly spiced" seems terribly vague.

                1. All I can say is please add my name to the waiting list to get in on a Splendido tasting meal for only $14! For $140, I find it out of my 'comfort zone' for cuisine that I don't particularly fancy, but at $14... but I am sure you were just emphasizing how objectionable you found the food.

                  I too am sorry to hear that you had a disappointing experience. I always get quite upset when I spend that kind of money and am terribly disappointed. But I would be interested to hear what made it a disappointing evening. I have heard mixed reviews, but that was basically because people expect a certain experience when paying such prices, but since you say that price was not an issue, I guess it was just a fault of the food itself.

                  I had hoped that you would have put more detail in this review since the last posting of it. I find it is helpful for readers to hear what was so terrible and why. Otherwise, you are just giving ammunition to everyone to rip apart your dissenting opinion. I too have had an unpopular opinion with popular restaurants on the board (Scaramouche, JKWB, George and Perigee being a few of them), but I think if you fill out your review with more detail like Rabbit had suggested that people would be more accepting of your negative comments. To each their own, as I always say. Please do give further details and I am sure you will get a much less hostile response.

                  Good luck and good for you for making this stand. Please do address everyone's concerns though, unlike with the last thread.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: BokChoi

                    I really had hoped evansl would respond. It would have made for a good discussion. It is nice to challenge an institution, however, only if the allegations would be defended legitimately. I believe it helps readers get a well-rounded opinion on a subject. There is less value when everyone marches to the same beat. I hope evansl responds to defend himself.

                    1. re: BokChoi

                      I totally agree...unless evansl responds and enlightens by answering some of the legitimate questions a number of posters have posed, I think we have to write this review off. Unless you are willing to step up and defend your position I don't feel we should pay too much attention to it.

                  2. I concur with most of the responses from other posters so far that slamming a highly respected restaurant by saying it's "essentially a scam" is very unfair especially since you're only speaking in generalities and refusing to be specific. If you had such drastic concerns, did you at least ask to speak with the manager?

                    And specifics you provide is a bit puzzling. For example: "great show of fancy names, of fancy presentation on bizarrely shaped plates..." is par for the course in high end restaurants and, as Charles says, Splendido is **very conservative** compared to many other high end restaurants.

                    1. What we need to remember is food/restaurants, like art/music is all subjective. I may like spicy, yet others may not etc.

                      Perhaps there is an axe to grind here. Perhaps it's just a case of an "off night". Which, let's face it, Splendido or anyone else is not immune to. I've had my share of 1 star food/service at 4 star restaurants everywhere, including Canada, U.S. & Europe.

                      Usually, once your restaurant visit starts badly, pretty much everything will seem bad until the end. So while it would be nice to know what exactly you ate that made you feel this way, my sense is that your judgement was clouded by the overall bad experience you felt you had--so it doesn't really matter anyway; I go back to the "subjective" thing. Maybe you didn't like the way the veg was cooked, so what is everyone on here going to say? Nobody was there at that moment eating off of that plate.

                      My real question to the poster is: did you call the restaurant and let them know how displeased you were? And perhaps mention to them that your phone call is not motivated by price, but of an overall feeling of displeasure with the entire experience? Knowing what I know about the type of restaurateurs Yannick and Dave are, I think they would try to fix it and win you back. But as everyone else on here, I'm sure they'll be asking for specifics!

                      1. I had a good meal there in July, but the service was definitely too obsequious for my taste. The waiter seemed to want to be quizzed about the food. He kept coming by and asking if we had any questions, and we said something along the lines of "Oh, we are still working our way through the menu and the wine list." On the third time he said something like: "Well, I think we can do better than that." [Excuse me?!?!?!?!?] I gave him a harsh look and he quickly added: "Or perhaps not" and scampered off. To his credit, he figured things out and laid low for the rest of the meal, thankfully. I understand that he was trying to be helpful, but frankly, I found it insulting.

                        The wine list was fabulous and the food was....very, very nicely put together, though I have to say that a couple of the dishes were more "interesting" than "delicious." Sorry that I can't remember which ones. Of course, there is a whole industry that has developed around such food, so this is not really a criticism as much as it is an observation.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: zamorski

                          Thanks for your contribution - for ages I've been meaning to go to Splendido and drop a $$$bomb for a special occasion but I can't deal with obsequious waiters. I did drop a $$$bomb at George for very inept service, and food that did not say "come back", so I'm hesitant to dump lodsa-cash again in high end places anywhere except the no-fail places like Scaramouche.

                          1. re: KitchenVoodoo

                            What makes you say Scaramouche is a 'no-fail' place?! A while back, I had a badly prepared lobster seafood sausage appertizer from their kitchen that tasted hard, dry and bland! A real disappointment! Nowadays, with so many intangibles, even Michelin 3*s like French Laundry can have an off night!!

                        2. evansl, what are your 10 favourite restaurants in Toronto? I see that you mentioned the IKEA restaurant in one of your other posts, but other than that, we haven't got a good idea what you like. I'd like to know, as maybe I'm missing out on some great places.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: foodyDudey

                            Maybe this would explain why Splendido is a scam.

                            1. re: foodyDudey

                              The closest thing to this sort of place that I like in Toronto is Tutti Matti.. I have found that the best restaurants are ones which have a specific theme or focus and stick to it: French, Italian, seafood, etc. The worst are "fusion" or places like Splendido that just try to be trendy for the sake of being trendy. I'd rather go for first rate jerk place or BBQ than to North 44, Scaramouche or Centro. There are exceptions to this rule, but not in Toronto.

                              BTW:the whole concept of "favorite restaurant" or "best restaurant" fundamentally useless. There are only "favorite dishes" or "best dishes." I've had some of my best meals in restaurants that had 1 or 2 great items on an other pedestrian menu. I've have real klinkers in otherwise good restaurants.

                              1. re: evansl

                                Okay I confess right off the bat, I have not read all of the 42 posts to this thread. But I had to chime in and say that I had one of my worst meals ever at Tutti Matti. The service was a nightmare, and we were served still frozen in the middle raviolli's. Talk about a scam, IMHO.

                            2. What I find most amazing about the replys is that no one apparently understands the "Has no clothes" reference."

                              BTW: I was taken out and didn't even pay for the dinner. And I still thought that it was a scam. Perhaps that's the key. I had no need to rationalize the price or food to myself. I was just there to eat.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: evansl

                                'Chinese-Western' fusion is our world famous chef Susur Lee's forte. Are you telling me with all the accolades he received worldwide, he too was operating a 'scam' in town for so many years? BTW, I've eaten in real 'French' Michelin stars restaurant in Paris, specifically Ducasse's and Robuchon's. Both kitchens incorporated Asian/Japanese ingredients in their 'fusion' dishes! Scam by them too?! My friend, this is called progress and innovation!!

                                1. re: evansl

                                  Yes, we all got the emperor's new clothes analogy. Highly original, too!

                                2. i've always found that my worst restaurant experiences are when I have the highest expectations. I never seem to learn though!

                                  We've been thinking of going to Splendido, and probably still will, so its nice to see a dissenting opinion to knock down the expectations a notch. Just because a whole bunch of people like something, doesn't mean I will, (on that day, at that time), and that's okay.

                                  40 Replies
                                  1. re: OnDaGo

                                    While I think scam is much too strong a word, I do agree with DoNutAlter. We have found that the vast majority of expensive meals eaten at Toronto area "fine dining" restaurants fail to meet our expectations.

                                    We have considered the possibility of overly high expectations and rejected this, simply because a very few high end meals in Toronto, and many at restaurants in other cities, HAVE met our expectations.

                                    In recent years, only one expensive Toronto meal delivered what we had hoped for, but we got special treatment at that resto, so it isn't fair to review it. Even there, we experienced some bizarre errors and service screw-ups.

                                    There's no point in listing every disappointment, but places on the list include Perigee (cooked by Pat Riley), Scaramouche, Nota Bene, C5, Truffles, and many more. Many of these meals were perfectly good meals, featuring enjoyable food and reasonable service, but they could have, and should have, been better than that given their cost and/or the establishments' hype factor.

                                    I am well aware that Susur and Thuet can cook great food, but I have had very ordinary, or weird and unimpressive, food cooked by both of them. I've had awful food cooked by Thuet or under his supervision.

                                    My belief is that talented "artists" learn that Toronto doesn't demand the best and, therefore, they don't bother to deliver it. The Toronto Symphony is much the same - they play far better when touring away from North America.

                                    The best meal we've had in this general area during the last decade was a tasting menu at Queen's Landing in NOTL. This was totally unexpected, with a wow factor from almost every plate, inspired wine pairings, and extraordinary (as well as unpretentious) service. The chef was Treadwell. We returned some months later and had a horrible meal. Learning Treadwell was gone, we checked out his new place in Port Dalhousie last summer. It was a lovely meal, but nowhere close to the earlier one. This is the one case where I do wonder whether extremely high expectations diminished the experience.

                                    1. re: OnDaGo

                                      well, that's true, about splendido the restaurant not being a "scam". However, I think the implication in the original post, and why the discussion has gone the way it has, is not primarily that he thinks has better taste than everyone else, but that he personally feels "scammed" by the recommendation on Chowhound.

                                      I have a bit of sympathy for evansl, even though his way of expressing the point is rather akin to lobbing a baconator into el Bulli, as I had a similar experience with Lai Wah Heen last month.

                                      1. re: DoNutAlter

                                        Also, I think one has to understand the context when checking out review on chowhound. When people saying LWH is good, one really means it is good in Toronto as this is the toronto board unless it is specified otherwise, same with Kaji or Splendido. When one think Ho Hung Kee's wonton noodle is the best, there are just many others who know there are places out there better than it too.

                                        1. re: skylineR33

                                          Kaji has one customer who flies in from New York once a month just to have dinner there... I do not think that makes it the best Japanese restaurant BUT in that one mans opinion it is...

                                          But to me it is one of Toronto top restaurants...

                                          1. re: OnDaGo

                                            Everyone has different dining experience and background, but it tells me something about the person's dining experience when he/she says Kaji is the best Japanese restaurant in this world.

                                          2. re: skylineR33

                                            Yup, context is important, although I don't think we should dismiss out of hand, all disappointing experiences as being related to having had better experiences elsewhere. Even my favourite local places just screw stuff up occasionally as no place is perfect.

                                          3. re: DoNutAlter

                                            I'm with DoNotAlter on this one. I've never been to Splendido myself as no matter how great the reviews are I feel I'd walk away with the same "lightly ripped off" feeling as the OP did. I'd much rather spend my hard-earned at Scaramouche. It's refreshing to see a dissenting opinion in the otherwise rather reverent discussions of Splendido. Now if we could just get that voice to be a little calmer...

                                            1. re: Googs

                                              When I finished my one and only meal at Splendido (about $700 or $800 for the tasting menu, with wine pairings, for two) I have to confess to having felt let down. The food was definitely good (at worst) to excellent but, to quote Googs, I did feel lightly ripped off. I've gotten better value for my money at other fine dining establishments in Toronto and, unless I come into scads of money, I'm not likely to go back anytime soon.

                                              That being said, I don't understand how evansl could possibly characterize the food as "bad to mediocre", and not be prepared to provide an iota of commentary on why he/she considered the food to be so bad.

                                              1. re: torontofoodiegirl

                                                evansi certainly triggered what I've found to be an interesting discussion. I suspect, nonetheless, that few of us will be paying much future attention to evansi's personal opinions.

                                                1. re: torontofoodiegirl

                                                  Whgen I first read your post, I thought, did you really spend sven or 800 on the tasing menu plus wine pairings? Now I realise that you actually may have, as I spent $600 with tax and tip in Sept 2006. But to get to that amount, we also had a glass each of champagne before, and a flight of icewines and the cheese board after. I guess it could get to be over $750 now! But not worth it in my mind. Even if someone else was paying, that's just blowing money away. But evansl didn't even like the food, which was the odd part.

                                                  1. re: foodyDudey

                                                    I should have clarified - the total I referred to included a cheese course in addition to the regular tasting, and tax and tip (but still, far and away the most expensive meal I'd ever had...)

                                                  2. re: torontofoodiegirl

                                                    torontofoodiegirl, i had the same feeling when i dined there in the fall. i wrote a much more lengthy post on a separate Splendido thread, but basically, though the food was good to very good imo, our party had some service issues, and overall, i left feeling disappointed. the same could be said for my dinner at Perigee a few weeks later. seeing as Splendido was the most consistent with positive reviews, i'm not sure i'd like to put hundreds of $$ on the line at another fine dining establishment in this city to also walk away feeling slightly ripped off. that being said, i am still curious about Scaramouche, and would want to visit before they move, but i'm definitely more hesitant...

                                                    1. re: auberginegal

                                                      Scaramouche is cheaper, but I don't think the food is the same quality. It depends on the value you perceive the food and experience as having. If the best fine dining meal you've ever had cost you $200 for two after tax and tip and a bottle of wine, and you thoroughly enjoyed it, it's highly likely that you won't find the same value at Splendido.

                                                      1. re: tjr

                                                        should i consider scaramouche, i'll definitely try to be as objective as possible. to give some context, i've had amazing meals at michelin star restaurants, and awesome experiences at hole in the wall joints, so i think i manage my expectations accordingly. the bad thing is probably that i don't really like coconut, so that infamous dessert at scaramouche might not get to factor into the experience!

                                                        1. re: auberginegal

                                                          I'm not saying that you won't be objective, but I think "value" factors into a lot of people's opinions. Most of my friends are willing to shell out top dollar for quality sushi, but they think I'm nuts for liking the Bymark burger (which is by far the best burger I've had in Toronto). Why? Because they don't see the "value" in paying more for something that they don't feel should be as expensive as it is (and the same could be said about sushi, I suppose).

                                                          1. re: auberginegal

                                                            auberginegal,

                                                            Splendido is pricey for what you get when you compare it to the international dining scene. But for Toronto, I find most things are overpriced, so in that sense I guess it is in line (?). I would probably not return unless it was for an uber special occasion in the future, but from where I stand currently, it's a bit out of my comfort zone. Especially given that I don't enjoy that type of food personally. For what they do, I believe they do it quite well. There were some hit and miss dishes, but they were solid overall (IMO). A dining companion had went on a previous occasion and told me to lower my expectations and I would be pleasantly surprised. I did as instructed and I was happy with the outcome. The meal did not blow my mind, nor was I expecting it to. I read the menu ahead of time and knew approximately what I was going to get.

                                                            As for Scaramouche, I felt disappointed to be quite fair. I guess I had high expectations given its reputation on the board (Splendido was in the same boat), and I felt it lacked umph. It was fine, by all means. The portions were generous and the basics were all there. But I was not wowed in any way. The preparations and ingredients are very traditional, whereas I lean towards more modern preparations and ingredients. But it's all a matter of your preferences. If you keep your expectations in check, you may be pleasantly surprised. For me, I would never go again because I know that I do not like that type of food. The pie was also nothing to write home about (IMO). I have whipped something up at home that was much better (IMO). But to each their own! I know that many love Scaramouche. I am just not one of those people. I would put it in the same category as Splendido - good, safe food. But in terms of service, Splendido takes the cake.

                                                            Cheers!

                                                    2. re: Googs

                                                      There was a review of Splendido a year or two ago, where the OP was NOT someone who did fine dining on a regular basis. They were spending a significant chunk of their discretionary income on this very special meal - and were disappointed. They did not feel comfortable with the service, did not feel the food was twice as good as food half the price, etc. I found it illuminating - it seems most of the posters who love Splendido are comparing it to other Fine Dining places around the world, that they often go to on expense accounts. I'm not saying this category of restaurant has no clothes... just that I'm not living in that world, and probably won't blow the bank on Splendido anytime soon.

                                                      1. re: julesrules

                                                        but again that does not make the place a "scam" as the original poster stated... it is just not your kind of place.. just like I do not like sushi but that does not mean that every sushi restaurant is horrible and not worth the money it is just not my preference for food...

                                                        1. re: OnDaGo

                                                          Oh I agree. Also this review is not substantiated with any real description about that key thing, the FOOD. Nor do we have any real context on where the OP usually eats. The previous review from someone I could relate to was much more useful for my purposes - because I had been considering a special occasion dinner at Splendido or the like. I realised I'd probably be happier treating friends to a restaurant half the price (same total bill as just two of us going to Splendido), for example. Or saving that money for a true once-in-a-lifetime experience like French Laundry, where even if I'm a teensy bit disappointed I can at least say I went.

                                                          The glowing reviews from the true fine dining types on this board are also fun to read, don't get me wrong! And I bear no resentment.

                                                          1. re: julesrules

                                                            I think that some of the disappointment mentioned by recent diners is due to the price they paid, even though a few said the food was ot as good as expected. If they had been eating there let's say, 5 years ago, they may have had a different opinion. We had my father's 75th birthday dinner there 5 years back and even my parents, who don't like spending much on restaurants loved it. My dad even considered holding there 50th wedding anniversary party there. (we talked him out of that idea)
                                                            Now, when I hear that some other diner spent $800 on the tasting menu, I can see why there are some negative reviews. I love fine dining, but $300 is about all I'd want to spend on a dinner for two these days.
                                                            (and not all that often)

                                                            I've found the winemaker's dinners at Globe to be good value at $125pp including tax and gratuity. There's another one being held next week. Maybe I'll see some of you there.

                                                            1. re: foodyDudey

                                                              What's the winemaker's dinner all about? I've been meaning to try the Globe out.

                                                              1. re: foodyDudey

                                                                tjr, its also possible that their disappointment wasn't due to cost alone, but rather that they picked the wrong day out of the 7 possible for staffing. I note service is one of the variables in the complaints. For those that were unhappy, I'd be curious to know what day of the week it was.

                                                                This is what turned me off of going there in the first place. One shouldn't have to guess which day the A Team is on. Playing Restaurant Roulette for $700 is not on my "to do" list.

                                                                1. re: Googs

                                                                  Also a possibility, but I think that a lot of the complaints have to do with value over actual execution (evansl didn't really criticize the service as much as he showed that he isn't comfortable at this sort of restaurant, and since he can't or won't tell us what he ate and what the problems were, maybe he just ordered all the wrong dishes, or, well, what I'm sure everyone else was thinking when they read his post). Considering the service at most other restaurants in the city, I can hardly believe that service at Splendido, at its worse, could be more of an issue than the perceived value (which includes how valuable you perceive the service to be, not only the food) of the meal.

                                                                  Has anyone noticed a rift between the quality of the food and service on certain days? I'm not sure that I have, but I don't go everyday.

                                                                  You do realize that you don't have to spend $700 to eat there, right? $700 was the figure given for the whole nine yards at the restaurant, and as Mark McEwan said recently, during the current economic climate, restaurants aren't throwing people out for going in and sharing a couple appetizers and mains. No one is forcing you to play "Restaurant Roulette for $700," as you could, quite frankly, have dinner there for a much more "reasonable" price.

                                                                  1. re: tjr

                                                                    TJR,

                                                                    Point well taken. However, then I would have to ask what is the point of going to such a restaurant on a budget? In other words, if I am going to a restaurant that markets itself as fine dining with a top chef, then I ain't going with pennies in my pocket. I want the full spectrum of the experience, otherwise I will go somewhere more affordable and/or stay at home. That's why so many chefs have decided to split their "upmarket" restos from the more reasonably priced ones that so you can get an "idea" of said chef's cooking while on a lower budget. An example of this economic model here in TO is the whole Splendido/Nota Bene and North 44/Bymark duos non?

                                                                    But yes, I would say that $700 is more of an upper limit. I would argue that $200 is indeed lowballing it a little!

                                                                    1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                                                                      $98 (six course tasting) + $68 (wine pairing) + 15% tax + 17% tip = $219.12

                                                                      1. re: aser

                                                                        Yes, but those are the new prices. That's not what they were charging a while back...

                                                                        They have certainly changed prices accordingly to the new economic reality!

                                                                        1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                                                                          Shouldn't we be talking about current prices? Since this thread is talking about whether it's worth going now?

                                                                        2. re: aser

                                                                          I agree that $700 is the upper end (without spending a fortune on a really expensive bottle of wine) but it should be noted that even the above-noted price turns into almost $450 for for two people.

                                                                          1. re: torontofoodiegirl

                                                                            I go there quite often. I typically spend at most $250 for two people. I don't want the 7 or 8 course tasting menu just because i'm going to a nice restaurant. Sometimes I just want some good service and some amazing food, and Splendido's is always reliable. I don't have to have 8 courses to enjoy my dinner.

                                                                            1. re: justpete

                                                                              With the caveat that I usually eat like a bird, I could go to Splendido, order a main and split an appetizer and be stuffed. I wasn't saying that you could get out of there for $200, but it is probably possible if you wanted to "test the waters."

                                                                              I also don't really see the validity in suggesting that one should only go to a restaurant and order the "full experience" every time. If there are other things on the menu, and they're good, why not order them? If the à la carte dishes were awful, they certainly wouldn't be serving them, because people would complain and they would lose customers. I don't think many people go there to order a tasting AND random appetizers and steaks, etc. so there's obviously no shame in going there and not getting a tasting. The quality/technique of the non-tasting dishes is superior to dishes served at Nota Bene (and reflected in the prices).

                                                                              While I agree with the Splendido/Nota Bene distinction, I don't think the North44/Bymark one works. They may have a different feel, but they are both at the same price point more or less.

                                                                              Not everyone has unlimited money or an expense account, so some people do have to budget when they go to a restaurant. I don't see any shame in that either; it's very responsible and makes sense. Just because someone doesn't want to spend a lot of money on a tasting menu shouldn't eliminate the possibility of having an enjoyable time (and good food) at a restaurant.

                                                                              1. re: tjr

                                                                                I agree completely on this. The $700 number at Splendido just scare people off, I have both full experience and a la carte experience with Splendido, they are both great. It is all personal preference whether one wants wine pairing, tasting menu or a la carte on a given night. The service are equally great whether you order the $700 meal or a la carte. The pricing ($140 for tasting menu, or $98 for the new one, or a la carte at the $50 range) at Splendido (as one of the top restaurant in Toronto) is not really that expensive for this kind of fine dining experience. Whether you are in Toronto or other big city, one should really expect to pay that kind of money if going to one of these top fine dining restaurants. A meal at Splendido with a appetizer, and/or a mid course, a main, a dessert with a glass of wine sounds great with me !

                                                                              2. re: justpete

                                                                                True enough justepete. By no means do I always order tasting menus either. I was just pointing out that aser's post was a bit misleading, in that it was suggesting that you could do a tsting for $219 rather than $700, but the $219 figure was for one person, whereas the $700 figure was for two.

                                                                                1. re: torontofoodiegirl

                                                                                  I don't understand how anyone would think it's misleading. It's clearly for one person. I broke it down into individual components.

                                                                                  Even then, you can get out for $250 ish for 2 if you don't drink. I wouldn't let wine stand in the way of me eating there if it was the cost dealbreaker. People on this board often forget there are plenty of diners out there that go out to eat and abstain from drinking. For you it might be essential, for others it's not.

                                                                                  $98 x 2 + 15% tax + 17% tip = $258.72

                                                                                  1. re: aser

                                                                                    Sounds very reasonable to me!

                                                                                    1. re: aser

                                                                                      I'm the sort of diner that'll have a couple glasses of wine with a meal, tops. I simply wouldn't be able to handle a full wine tasting simply because it would dull my sense of taste and turn me into a very indiscriminate eater (perhaps that's a good thing).

                                                                                      1. re: Blueicus

                                                                                        Every time I have their tasting menu with wine pairing, I always request 'half the normal' amount ( ie., about 1.5 - 2oz per glass ) and they are most willing to accommodate.

                                                                            2. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                                                                              Well Splendid Wine Snob, I would hazard a guess that the point of going to such a place on a budget for some people would be that waiting until they have the money for the full spectrum of the experience would mean that they never get to go at all. The prices for full tasting menu with wine etc are easily out of range of many people in Toronto, if not most. Particularly those without the benefit of expense accounts. In my student days I had a wonderful time eating relatively frugally at nice restaurants, partly because it was such a special treat.

                                                                  2. re: julesrules

                                                                    Splendido is mediocre compared to fine dining restaurants around the world. If anyone knows of a fine dining restaurant with better food and service in Toronto, well, I'd like to know.

                                                                    That isn't to say that it is by any means a bad restaurant. I'm sure they slip up sometimes, but the food, in general, is quite good, and with the whole package together, I wouldn't feel ripped off.

                                                                    People have different incomes and different expectations. If one dinner at Splendido is more than you'd spend on food for an entire month, and it isn't being expensed, then of course you have more of a reason to feel you were ripped off if it didn't live up to your expectations. The problem is that this could happen anywhere in the world, even at the best restaurants. When you spend a lot of money, you expect a lot back. A restaurant like Splendido, I think, makes every effort to make sure your dinner is memorable (in a positive way), and not the other way around (as suggested by "scam").

                                                                    1. re: tjr

                                                                      I would totally agree with your sentiments tjr. Splendido does what it does best in Toronto (IMO). When I consider whether or not I was scammed or ripped off, I weigh both whether or not I could have had a similar dining experience elsewhere at a better price. First off, one cannot really have a similar dining experience in Toronto. Their service is really superb and pretty much without fault. It's a production and you do pay for that. If you see no value in this, then you will definitely feel 'ripped off' if going to Splendido. Everything has a price, am I right? Whether it's the china your courses are served on, to the availability of mini chairs to hold cameras and ladies' purses placed next to you - you're paying for it all. So if you just want good food and to get out of there, Splendido is NOT the place to spend your hard earned cash IMO. The food is good, but it's not the best food you can get for $140 a head. But this is coming from someone who loves things that are raw and have more of an Asian influence. I love Clio in Boston - but does that mean anyone else will agree it's a fabulous restaurant? Probably not. Everyone has likes and dislikes. You have to see the food, read the menu and determine if you are willing to pay for the 'extras'. Weigh those pros and cons and then decide if Splendido is for you.

                                                                      Cheers!

                                                            2. that's too bad, when we went there it was FLAWLESS

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: Bobby Wham

                                                                Wow! This is certainly an interesting thread! There is no question that Splendido gets things correct the great majority of the time, so it does surprise me to see such a negative review. However, the one thing that makes no sense is the repeated use of the term 'trendy'. Does anyone else view Splendido as 'trendy'? I think of it more as the place I would take my mother-in-law, if she were to visit me. Or, anyone else that I felt required the evening to flow smoothly. Perhaps if I was entertaining Hugh Johnson.
                                                                The food is great, the wine list is very interesting and I'm not sure that I've ever noticed a mistake in the service.

                                                              2. I have to say we weren't thrilled with Splendid either. While I wouldn't say it was bad, a good half of what we ordered was mediocre.

                                                                1. I've been to Splendido on many occasions and in each instance the food was great and the service was stellar. I'm rather sad to read this thread. I hope that this isn't the new normal.

                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                  1. re: JennaBean

                                                                    I agree the service was wonderful! I guess we will just have to try it again some time given the passion behind all these positive postings!!

                                                                    1. re: JennaBean

                                                                      No JennaBean, this is the old normal where all opinions are welcome and expressed. As long as it's about the food and not personal it's all fair game.

                                                                        1. re: Googs

                                                                          I think JennaBean meant that she hoped that the lacklustre dining experience being reported on by the OP and others wasn't the new normal for Splendido...or at least that's how I read it.

                                                                      1. And this my friends, is why there will be no world class fine dining in Toronto for the foreseeable future.

                                                                        5 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Notorious P.I.G.

                                                                          Just a heads up, Splendido is no longer open 7 days, it's only Tue - Sat.

                                                                          They have a 6 course tasting menu for $98 and are waving their corkage fee on T-F for this month.

                                                                          A good way to sample Splendido without having to drop $200 per person.

                                                                          1. re: aser

                                                                            If you order the wine pairings, (and I always do when I order a tasing menu) its' ($98 + $68 ) * 1.24 = $205 pp

                                                                            Your idea to bring a bottle from home sounds good, but it won't be easy to find a single wine to complement 4 of those courses.

                                                                            I noticed on the website they no longer have valet service. I guess now more of the customers will just park out front. When I was there a about 3 years ago, some guy with a Porsche Carrera GT (around $450K USD) just parked it right in front, no valet parking for him.

                                                                            1. re: foodyDudey

                                                                              well obviously when I mention the corkage special I was suggesting that as a cost saving measure instead of ordering the wine pairing. I thought that was obvious?

                                                                              go w/ 3 other people, bring a bottle of white and a bottle of red, that should do the trick.

                                                                              1. re: aser

                                                                                2 bottles of wine amongst four people woud definitely not work for me and my friends but I can appreciate what you're saying.

                                                                                1. re: aser

                                                                                  yes it was obvious what you were getting at. I only mentioned that one type of wine won't go with more than 2 courses. Unfortunately, not many of our friends would pay the price to eat at Splendido. I haven't been for two years so want to go again.

                                                                          2. Interesting that they are cutting back hours and offering special inducements, M-F.
                                                                            With 2 bottles per person from a pre-inflation cellar, (say, 1990's) then $300 per couple becomes a reality.

                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                            1. re: jayt90

                                                                              The whole city has been hit, places just aren't that busy, even Nota Bene has slowed down.

                                                                              A lot of the top restaurants in the city have either scaled down the # of staff or reduced hours/shifts.

                                                                              1. re: aser

                                                                                NO fine dining establishment should be open 7 days a week. You pay A prices, you should get A staffing. Can't be done 7 days a week.

                                                                                1. re: aser

                                                                                  Last Saturday night Nota Bene was full.

                                                                                  1. re: aser

                                                                                    Places rumoured to be in trouble and may close this year include Houstons, Biffs, and Acqua.

                                                                                2. I go there all the time. Love it. It's great. No place compares in Toronto. Service is impeccable, food is amazing. I've been to all the nicer restaurants in the city too, and I still like Splendido best.

                                                                                  Colborne Lane was also pretty awesome, if you have the comprehension level that's required to understand the food.

                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: justpete

                                                                                    Not sure about Colborne Lane. Definitely not as good as Splendido overall, and, as someone who has eaten at molecular gastronomy restaurants around the world, I felt it was not only a bit unimaginative, but that many dishes didn't work at all. Not only that, but the techniques used are pretty standard and aren't going to earn any points with me. Might be a good chance to try molecular gastronomy in Toronto, but if Splendido is a disappointment, Colborne Lane probably will be an even bigger one.

                                                                                    1. re: tjr

                                                                                      My experience at Colborne lane was positive, the food was great and the server was very knowledgeable. I haven't been to many global molecular gastronomy restaurants, so perhaps my view is limited.. but if the food tastes great (the one thing I DO know), then I'm generally happy. :) (ps, the triple seared tenderloin was awesome - and I despise tenderloin, ftr)

                                                                                      I don't know who in their right mind could be disappointed by Splendido, other than that it's a bit on the expensive side, at times... but you can still go there and have an amazing dinner for little over $200.

                                                                                      1. re: justpete

                                                                                        I certainly think its possible for anyone to be disappointed when paying that kind of price for a meal. Case in point-I've been disappointed by Michelin starred places in Europe-especially when I think about the cost factor. In other words, the price of the meal in some instances equaled or surpassed my flight out there! And trust me, I LOVE and LIVE for food and am willing to go to the ends of the earth for a great meal but when you consider you are paying for something that isn't essentially tangible in the conventional sense it can be disappointing. In addition, we all possess different palates and stylistic service preferences in dining out.

                                                                                        1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                                                                                          Sometimes, I don't know what we expect, and I'm including myself in that group. What exactly are we expecting to happen on one of our much-anticipated restaurant visits? Are we looking for a piece of fish, or a piece of steak, or a potato to taste THE BEST it's EVER tasted to us? And even then, how will we know it's the BEST EVER? Are we looking to have the server re-fill our wine and water glasses within a certain time in our minds that makes it EXCELLENT service? What if they don't, but the food is exceptional and vice versa...what if the food is so so, but you had amazing service?

                                                                                          We have work on both sides: on the restaurant side, they will need to price-correct, just as the stock market in the near future; on the diner side, I think we need to temper our expectations or at least define them; if we ARE looking for the best tasting potato dish ever, then, well, we might be disappointed if and when we don't think the heavens parted when we ate it.

                                                                                          That all said, I have been to Splendido numerous times over the years, both on my tab and others' - some days it's fabulous, and some days it's great. I don't think I've ever left thinking I had a bad meal there. BUT, I've been frustrated sometimes when looking at my AMEX statement and then thinking back to the evening...most times I can't even remember what food we ate, mostly just the company...

                                                                                          1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                                                                                            Right you are, I just don't think it's possible at Splendido. :)

                                                                                    2. During my current trip to the Orient, I had a chance to eat meals cooked by Michelin 3* Chef Bruno Menard of Tokyo's L'Osier and Michelin 2* Chef Vincent of Hong Kong's Caprice ( chef Vincent was sous of Paris 3* Le Cinq ). Though dishes of both meals were very good and eye appealing, however, I have had many of Splendido's David Lee's creation that were far more creative, flavourful and memorable. Furthermore, Splendido's meals were almost half the cost of its overseas Michelin star brethren! IMO, a steal!!

                                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: Charles Yu

                                                                                        Better than Bruno? Say it ain't so! The last meal I had at Splendido was nowhere near the quality of the last meal I had at L'Osier... I hope things haven't changed. Was this during the culinary festival thing, or did you actually end up at L'Osier?

                                                                                        1. re: tjr

                                                                                          For comparison, I am talking specific dishes not entire meal of course!. Bruno was manning the kitchen with his sous and other L'Osier chefs at a special gathering at the Raffles during the Singapore festival. Even brought his own seasoning and Mount Fuji Trout from Japan! The cooking techniques and composition of some of the dishes were quite sophisticated however, in some cases, the taste was a bit too tame and bland for my palete.

                                                                                          1. re: Charles Yu

                                                                                            Interesting to note! Thanks Charles! I hope you post a full review on the China board (unless you have already...)

                                                                                            1. re: tjr

                                                                                              I think we need to recognize dining out as more than just a sum of the individual parts that make a restaurant good (or bad). A great dining experience has to do with more than just the contributions of the front of house, kitchen and bar. The reason you are at that particular restaurant (special occasion perhaps), the person you are having the meal with (SO perhaps), the reason you chose that restaurant (recommended or read about it?), where that restaurant is located even (romantic overseas city, an easy drive across town, a death defying climb up a mountain?). There are many external factors that can affect our enjoyment of any restaurant, even ones that we have previously enjoyed and recommended to others. I've had meals at my favorite joints that I am disappointed with but it doesn't always have to do with the restaurant itself (plus kitchens can and do have days off). I can sympathize with laying out a nice chunk of change and not enjoying the experience but that isn't necessarily the fault of the restaurant. Heck being dehydrated before starting a meal can affect the taste of the food or even choosing the wrong pre-meal beverage. Charles brings up a good point about his palate. The chef can only taste the food with his own mouth so what he is tasting might not be what you are tasting. Perhaps a brief (and respectful) chat with the chef can lead to a much more enjoyable return visit. Heck, if the first dish was too salty, not salty enough, too hot, too cold, too whatever, let them know and the right restaurants can and will adjust to your taste for the next course. And always (if possible) give a kitchen a second chance to impress you (that's why restaurant critics never write a review only after one visit .. at least not a decent review).

                                                                                              BTW, Charles please do tell us of about your recent dining trip.

                                                                                              1. re: tjr

                                                                                                Hong Kong chowhounder 'Peech' did a couple of write up in his own personal blog. Summary of the two chowmeets that I attended - A Chinese meal at the Shanghai Fraternity Association and the one at the 2* Caprice. Blog is http://chi-he-wan-le.blogspot.com
                                                                                                Fellow S'pore chowhounder 'klyeoh' also posted our Singapore chowmeet at the Greater Asia board.
                                                                                                As for me, I'm way too busy right now to do any detail posting. Sorry!

                                                                                                1. re: Charles Yu

                                                                                                  Thanks, Charles, Peech's review was nice!