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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.