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Jul 21, 2009 03:03 PM

Splendido's new menu...

really did not impress me that much; it appears to be very 'safe'.

There were a few items which sounded interesting that I would like to try - such as the smoked pork belly app, possibly the Char...the Agnolotti sounded interesting, until I read there was Creme fraiche - which has no place beside shellfish on a plate (or any dairy for that matter!).

It seems as if there is no longer a tasting menu (something I always enjoyed under previous ownership).

The prices seem to have come down though, which is a smart move on their part.

Hope the tasting menu returns and that he gets a bit more innovative with his menu.

Obviously this all comes with a grain of salt, as no one has yet to actually try any of the food....

With all that in mind - what is Toronto's current #1 dining destination now that Splendido has changed paths?

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  1. You could ask them to "hold the creme fraiche" - not really a difficult adjustment.

    And #1 is 'possibly' Canoe - although their winelist drags them down a bit.
    And probably over double the price of Splendido.
    But on a Saturday night........maybe Chiado.

    But let's wait and see how the 'new' Splendido performs - just changing paths doesn't mean it's not still the 'best'.

    8 Replies
    1. re: estufarian

      It'll be the same team cooking your meal as before (minus exec chef), so the skill level is still there. Looking forward to trying it out.

      1. re: aser

        Is this knowledge or an assumption? Staff changes regularly at all restaurants and especially when there is a change of chefs and owners.

        1. re: OnDaGo

          Well, though the menu looks safe, the head chef is the same one while Lee was spending more time at Nota Bene, so...

          Personally, I think the menu looks incredibly boring. Unfortunately, most restaurants in the city can't even properly execute boring dishes, so we'll see how the new Splendido performs. At least give it a chance.

          1. re: OnDaGo

            It's knowledge. Everybody has stayed as of now, can't guarantee 6 months down the road though.

            The menu does look a bit too pedestrian, but that's Toronto for you. The diners created this demand, the restaurateurs are looking to meet it.

            1. re: aser

              Exactly. Plus, you have to remember that, unlike most restaurants, Splendido, in the past, has usually been able to properly cook seafood and fish dishes, or anything else. Even a pedestrian menu, executed properly, with excellent service, is light years away from many other restaurants serving something similar, with improper execution.

              1. re: tjr

                Agreed 100%

                Interesting tidibt for you. Nota Bene's level of output was helped by Splendido, a lot of production was done in the Splendido kitchen and transported to NB. Things like boudin noir, charcuterie, etc.....

                It'll be interesting to see how these items fare at NB now that Spendido's crew is no longer making it for them.

                1. re: aser

                  I don't think you can definitely presume that to be the case. It's possible that they could strike a deal for continuity. That appears to be what Celestin did when the bakery was separated. They still carry Thobors breads, which may have been part of the inducement to sell that business.

                  1. re: Snarf

                    Not presuming, it's a fact. They're two separate entities now (Splendido - Nota Bene), no cross between the two, labour included.

                    I'm sure David Lee will ensure the product meets his standards at NB, he is good at empowering his staff.

      2. To comment on the dairy has no place with shellfish, the sweet crab meat stuffed mixed in the stuffing with the creme fraiche would be a nice pairing, I have had a couple of dishes/apps with a crab/lobster stuffing that is mixed with either a cream cheese or a sour cream/yogurt that are quite tasty, dairy and shellfish do go sometimes... New England Clam Chowder... tasty! I rest my case.

        This menu does not seem safe, it just seems plain boring, after reading it over I have very little interest in trying any of the dishes. Kind of a disappointment I was hoping they would be more risky with it.

        3 Replies
        1. re: flying101

          i think with most it is a kosher thing, but many classic dishes (coquilles st. jacques for one) contain dairy and shellfish

          1. re: robgm

            shellfish are not kosher.
            Dairy and kosher sea food is allowed (you think we could live without our lox and cream cheese?)
            also tuna melt anyone?

          2. re: flying101

            While dairy isn't "supposed" to be served with shellfish in traditional Italian cuisine, I don't see why this rule for Italian cuisine should be applied to Splendido- a restaurant serving contemporary continental cuisine.

            Although Splendido has agnolotti on the new menu, the dish probably is meant to be a contemporary agnolotti rather than an Italian agnolotti. People do not go to Splendido for "Italian" fine dining- they go to Splendido for contemporary/continental fine dining.

            Plenty of Canadian chefs pair scallops with beurre blanc, or create chowders involving dairy and seafood. Lots of classic dishes- lobster newburg, lobster thermidor, shrimp etoufee, etc. involve shellfish and dairy.

          3. I agree that the menu seems to lack a bit of punch, but the menu descriptions are simply not detailed enough to actually know how interesting the dish will turn out. Even something like caponata can be unexpectedly interesting if made and presented in an interesting way.

            1. I ate at the new Splendido last night with my wife. We'd actually never eaten there before, it was hard for us to drop $500 with wines on a tasting menu since we have a new baby. So I guess I have no point of comparison (I have eaten at Nota Bene several times for what it's worth).

              First, the room - the bigger windows really open the place up to Harbord St. and the bar area is nice and intimate, size-wise reminded me a bit of the bar area at Babbo, and I could imagine dropping in for an app and a cocktail. The lighting is just flawless, with these lovely pendant wife said it was one of the best-lit restaurants she's been in in Toronto. One complaint though - against the kitchen wall, they have shelves with mason jars filled with preserved vegetables and stuff. Look, guys, this is Jamie Kennedy's thing - it's part of his branding. PLEASE REMOVE THEM IMMEDIATELY THANKS. Put something else on the shelves. OK, rant over.

              Onto the food, which was frigging spectacular. We started with the foie gras parfait with Niagara stone fruit preserve and toasted brioche. Echoing what people have said here, and a common refrain throughout the night, this is a dish I've had before. But I don't know that I've had it better - the foie was velvet-smooth and had a kind of lightness that one wouldn't expect. Washed down with a couple of glasses of sparkling wine, it was the perfect start.

              Next up we shared two app-sized pasta, the agnolotti with sweet pea creme fraiche and dungeness crab, and the pappardelle with pulled rabbit, chanterelles, and artichoke. The agnolotti was impossibly thin, really to the point of translucency, and I was reminded of several dim sum discussions on the board, with the true measure of a chef being how thin the skins of his har gow are - same deal here. The sweet pea filling added to the sweetness of the crab, and a buttery sauce tied it all together. And where the agnolotti was refined, the pappardelle was rustic and really toothsome, just an amazing chew to the pasta. My wife lost her mind over the braised rabbit but for me, I was obsessed with the quality of the pasta.

              Mains, we split butter poached lobster plated on top of an english pea and chanterelle risotto, and a 6-week aged rib eye (which is listed on the menu as a portion for two, but they had a smaller one for us to share) with a morel, cognac & peppercorn sauce. The lobster just dissolved in the mouth, and the risotto was easily one of the best I've ever had. I was actually happy with the repetition of peas and chanterelles as both were flawless seasonal veggies. The steak was funky and delicious, just a perfectly aged piece of meat, although of course one can get the same quality (same steak, pretty much!) at Nota Bene. Sides we shared some polenta with creamy corn, which helped me a lot as I find most polenta too dry, some excellent frites with a malt vinegar mayo that I really want to try and replicate at home, and the seasonal vegetable caponata, which for me had maybe a touch too much vinegar in it.

              To go with all this was a Tuscan red (sorry, I forget what it was) chosen by the sommelier after listening to our story and what we had ordered. It was our anniversary, and we mentioned that we had spent part of our honeymoon in Tuscany, so he brought a perfect choice, the wine jogged a lot of happy memories.

              We were stuffed but tried the lemon meringue pie, a little deconstructed number that was quite tasty. But best of all was that they had a "page" of dark chocolate with a happy anniversary message on it. Now I know why our server asked how my wife spells her name when she was in the bathroom. Really, the whole night the service was beyond flawless - our server was funny and charming, solicitous without being creepy, and conveyed a genuine love for the restaurant. And you can tell the staff has been together forever - they operate as a team, with discreet whispers and hand gestures, really a pleasure to see.

              The damage was $340 with tax and tip (we'd had an $80 bottle of wine and $30 worth of sparkling), and given we had eaten an obscene amount of food, it was well worth it. I think a couple could easily go there and spend $120-$150 and leave incredibly satisfied.

              Best restaurant I've experienced in Toronto? Yes, unequivocally. But it was half-full, and deserves to be rammed, so I guess I'm spreading the word: get thee to Splendido.

              3 Replies
              1. re: childofthestorm

                Finally - something beyond mere speculation!

                An excellent review, storm-child, wonderfully descriptive and very... motivating.

                I will get us to Splendido. We have an August anniversary, so this is good timing.

                1. re: childofthestorm

                  Great to hear - although we will not be able to make it there this weekend, it is on the list when we get back from the honeymoon.

                  I must say though, still quite pricey!

                  1. re: childofthestorm

                    Thanks for sharing this! I'm excited to try out the new incarnation. I was last there in March and the food, as always, was wonderful. Sounds like it still will be when I go again.

                  2. Splendido reopened to the public on Tuesday July 28. I was there last night - went to Harbord Room and it was full, then noticed that Splendido was open. Decent crowd, but not full.
                    Food was excellent. My friend and I both had the chilled pea soup - we both loved it, perhaps the highlight of an overall excellent meal! I had the veal chop - cooked beautifully, and served with lemon gnocchi - it was interesting and top notch. I had the "chocolate" dessert, and enjoyed it. Service was generally very good, but with a few flaws. Mains are generally between $30-$40, main course pastas between $20 - $30 and appetizers around $15. I suspect that the new Splendido will still be near the top of most "best in Toronto" lists.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: DRD

                      I have to admit, those price points seem high-especially in this economy. The food sounds amazing-and the reno's look beautiful from the pics on the website. But based on my recent 2 week vacation throughout Northern California where I enjoyed incredible meals and wines for a cheaper price point I hope they can sustain business in this shit recession. I will have to hold out for another month or two before I can venture out to give it a whirl.