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Splendido: No longer the top.

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My wife and I went to the "old" Splendido earlier this year, had the tasting menu, and thought it was fabulous. Saturday was our first visit under the new ownership. Based on just this one visit, I think the new Splendido has dropped out of the top rank of Toronto's restaurants.

The restaurant seems to have just as many wait staff as before, but we felt the service was less professional. Our server was over-the-top in enthusiasm, but not so great at providing accurate information about the items on the menu or listening to our requests and conveying them accurately to the kitchen.

For appetizers, we ordered the curried cauliflower soup with Lake Huron Eel, and the Roasted Autumn Vegetable Salad. The soup was good, and the portion of grilled eel was generous and tasty. The salad consisted mainly of miniature root vegetables cooked until soft and then chilled. It was good but fairly ordinary.

Our main courses were the elk striploin and the sea bass. When my wife ordered the elk, the waiter launched into a very fast rendition of "How would you like it? It's very lean. Blah blah. Medium rare?" My wife asked for it medium. When the food was served, the elk was absolutely rare. In addition to the two slices of rare meat, there were two brownish puddles of pureed vegetables and a large chunk of boudin noir sausage, which was not in the menu description. My wife had actively avoided offal with her menu choices (it is a big part of Splendido's menu), and was not happy to see it. I don't see how the uniquely strong flavor of blood pudding is a good accompaniment for the delicate flavor of rare elk, but if the chef thinks it is then at least let him add it to the menu description so guests can decide for themselves. Let's just say this plate was not a success.

My "Mediterranean sea bass" was a smallish fillet of white fish on a plate of pea stems and chickpeas. There were a lot of chickpeas on that plate, and not much fish. I would not order it again.

The desserts were adequate. I had the panna cotta with peaches and peach sorbet, served at the bottom of a mason jar with a long spoon. My wife's crustless lemon meringue pie tasted like typical lemon meringue pie. In all honesty, both desserts seemed like exercises from a suburban cooking class.

The bottom line is that there is no longer any "Wow!" factor. There are other restaurants right on Harbord St. whose food can compare with Splendido. Prices have dropped significantly, and I think if you could find a set of menu items that you like, Splendido could rank right up there with Nota Bene in "value for money". But there are a dozen or more other restaurants to try before going back.

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  1. I too have recently had a sub-par dinner at the new Splendido. The prices are definitely still up there ($9 for standard bottled water!!!) and the service seems stiff and unnatural. I too had the sea bass over chick peas, olives and other veg, which seemed very plain and simple with little to no flavour. The pasta dishes and risotto we had were very good, as were the first courses of foie, charcuterie and cauliflower soup. Desserts were also a major let down. Something about the place just doesn't feel 'right' anymore. Also, the comparisons to Nota Bene in feel, design, menu and delivery are very similar. Btw, I found both the lighting (too bright) and music (aggressive, annoying, clubby muzak) to be way off!