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Splendido

Went to Splendido Saturday evening. Have been a few times over the years but this was our first time since David Lee stepped down. The last meal we had with David Lee still at the helm was outstanding in every way… we spent a small fortune but the evening was magic with perfect food, wine and service.

So we knew when we went there on Saturday that we wouldn’t likely be able to top (or even match) that experience, but we still wanted to try it in its latest incarnation. It was a letdown.

We choose the tasting menu with wine and it started off bumpy. An amuse of foie gras foam with a strawberry ribbon that tasted of nothing at all, followed by an interesting and tasty smoked oyster served with a yummy gin drink. Following the amuses was a lovely English Pea Soup with a lobster claw, but the flavour of the soup masked the lobster so it ended up just being a texture.

Then we waited. And waited. And waited.

Eventually the next course came out – white asparagus with morels… one of my favourite springtime dishes. However the asparagus wasn’t peeled and was stringy, and the morels weren’t properly cleaned and were gritty. Bleah. I complained, politely. I don’t recall the wine match but it wasn’t a traditional asparagus wine like Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc, and it wasn’t a great match.

We then moved on to the ‘main’ course, which was a plate with 3-4 different stylings of pork. All okay but bland and boring. The Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris that was supposed be served with this was not poured as the bottles were corked. The substitution was an Oregon Pinot Gris, which was adequate but nowhere close to the Zind. (I think there may have been another course between the asparagus course and the pork course… I have forgotten it or maybe just pushed it out of my mind).

By this time, it was such a sad state of affairs that we just both wanted to leave, so we told our server to skip the next course called “Peanut Butter and Jelly” and went straight to a Chocolate Mint dessert. This was lovely, not too minty and not too sweet. It was served with Carpano Antico (an ancient style vermouth) which tastes about the same as Buckleys, but at least the sommelier swapped it out for port when I asked our server if we were drinking cough syrup.

A note about the portion sizes… everything was small. I didn’t mind that the first few courses were small, it is a tasting menu after all, but was expecting that the ‘main’, such as it was, would be a slightly larger portion. I didn’t expect to leave hungry… we are not really big eaters I could have happily eaten a slice or two of pizza on the way home. The wine servings were also small - looked to be about 2oz per glass, and although there were 6 glasses served throughout the meal, it never felt like there was enough wine to linger over , and instead there was only enough to have a couple of sips with each course, and in between courses you were left with no wine, obviously no food, and in some cases, a long wait.

I don’t think I’d be quite so pissed off if it wasn’t expensive, but the tasting menu with wine is $200pp, so once you add in tax and tip it is a very expensive night out (at least in my books). I am happy to pay a lot for a meal, but in return for my hard earned cash, I expect more than this.

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  1. Wow, that's too bad.

    My last 2 visits to Splendido (both this year) have been superb in every way - the most recent was written up by Charles Yu, on this Board.

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/839428

    David Lee left in 2008 (OK, he was 'technically' there in early 2009, but more as Exec Chef than actually cooking) - and the entire format changed shortly after - if you can check back you'll find prices before that were substantially higher - the recession slammed higher end places in Toronto.

    They've only recently re-introduced tasting menus but the ones I've had were extremely sophisticated - textures, aromatics and flavours all in balance and precise. I have to assume this was an off-night for the restaurant (or your recollections were a little on the rosy side).

    Have to agree with you on the Carpano Antico - it's super-trendy - but I don't get it either!

    Last time I was there (and 2 out of the last 3) I 'complained' that portion sizes were too large! But maybe they gave too much weight to my comments!

    1. Splendido is easily one of the most consistent restaurants in Town. My SO and I have probably sent back 4 of 400 dishes in the years we've been going. Unfortunately for you, looks like they had a bad night! I've had all of the dishes you've mentioned, and found them to be delicious. I agree that the pork dish could be larger in portion size. I also agree about the Carpano - I had it with the Mint Chocolate dessert as well, and found it do be over-powering - turning my delicious dessert in to an italian debacle. I did not enjoy it at all. Lastly, as Estufarian alluded to, Victor, the current Chef, is the one who prepared your previous tasting menu, I'm sure. Although David Lee was the exec Chef, from all accounts, he was not there overly often (which I can personally attest to). Sorry to hear about your experience, however.

      18 Replies
      1. re: justxpete

        I wonder if this is any reflection of Patrick's departure. I don't think it could all be as a result of that but it may have caused an off night.

        1. re: JennaBean

          Ran through my mind too. There's definitely some changing of the guard in the kitchen over at Splendido right now.

          1. re: JennaBean

            His last night was yesterday evening. That being said, there have been a few other staff changes so your sentiment may be correct.

            1. re: justxpete

              Change in staffing at restaurants is a constant, you as guests shouldn't notice it. As much as everybody likes to gossip about the latest comings & goings, it's been happening for years before blogs started reporting it.

              I would say hangovers are more likely for a misstep in food than staff changes, no matter how highly ranked the staff is. The foot soldiers cook the food, not the chef de cuisine.

              I still say Splendido is the most consistent "continental" restaurant in Toronto.

            2. re: JennaBean

              Patrick was DEFINITELY there on Saturday - a friend spoke to him.

              1. re: JennaBean

                Ps. Just made a reso. I'll find out tonight.

                I intend to frequent Acadia much more now as well, with Pat at the helm.

                1. re: justxpete

                  I'm happy to report that Patrick's departure hasn't had any impact on the quality of the food at Splendido. I was there last night and the food was impeccable. I had the asparagus and the Foie Gras amuse as well. The asparagus was beyond reproach, the morels were not grainy whatsoever. I asked Carlo and Victory independently, and they said the morels are washed up to 20 times. Of course the asparagus was peeled, and it's definitely one of my favourite recurring, seasonal dishes at Splendido. My asparagus was not "stringy" whatsoever. As for the foie amuse, the texture of the foie is pretty delicate(as it was rasped), and the strawberry/rhubard gelee was meant to compliment the dish rather than over-power it. It was no fruit-rollup, but I don't think that's what they were after.

                  I also wouldn't have skipped the peanut butter and jelly (near bottom)!

                  http://www.foodjunkiechronicles.net/2...

                  1. re: justxpete

                    I guess the only logical conclusion is that we were there on a really off night.

                    I can tell you, after eating white asparagus daily in Alsace a few years ago, that what I was served at Splendido on Saturday night was either not peeled, or if it was peeled, it wasn't peeled enough as it was still stringy. As to the morels... each of us had 2 morels on our plates - both of mine had grit and the b/f had grit in one of his.

                    As mentioned below, I chalk this up to the curse of the b/f birthday debacles!

                      1. re: downtownfoodie

                        That was someone else's pics that I linked to, that I happened to know of. I think the current tasting menu is $125 for 9 courses - I'm not sure what she paid for what looks like 16/17 courses.

                        1. re: justxpete

                          not bad. haven't been in almost a year...guess i know where i am heading soon :)

                2. re: justxpete

                  I guess I wasn't clear... I knew that David Lee had moved on and was just referencing him as he was still exec Chef last time we were there prior to our visit this past weekend (it was in the final month before they closed down... a while ago obviously!). On that evening we spent at least 50% more than we did last weekend, but I didn't regret a penny. Only wish I could say the same about our recent visit!

                  1. re: the_beezelet

                    And perhaps we weren't clear - despite David Lee having still been there when you last visited, Victor (also the current chef and proprietor) was the one preparing your meal.

                    1. re: the_beezelet

                      I think it's just a style change - Victor was pretty much helming things in the last 6 months before Chef Lee left.

                      My visits to Splendido are generally awesome (I go maybe once a season), so it's sad to hear you had a bad night with them. I will have to check 'em out again.. not that I ever really need an excuse to do that...!

                      1. re: jlunar

                        Oh this is depressing but it confirms that I can blame my b/f - lol.

                        In our 19 years of bliss, we have only had two TRULY outstanding meals to celebrate his birthday. One was the aforementioned meal 3 years ago at Splendido, and the other was about 10 years ago in Amsterdam at Utrechtsedwarstafel. The remaining 17 birthday meals, regardless of $ spent or location (Thailand, Italy, France, NYC.. the list goes on) have been bombs.

                        1. re: the_beezelet

                          If you have bliss after 19 years it doesn't matter what meals you have.
                          The meal will only be 'the icing on the cake' (so to speak).
                          Hope your next meal makes your top three.

                        2. re: jlunar

                          I think the amount of time that Victor was running the show was much greater than 6 months.

                          1. re: justxpete

                            Probably so, but I wasn't sure how far back that went. I figured at least six months was pretty certain.

                    2. Sorry to hear about your experience!! Hope both Victor and Carlo will read your posting?!!!

                      1. Weird, I went last week and it was great. Had almost the same menu as you did as well.

                        Definitely a changing of the guard going on there right now though. I would maybe chock it up to that unfortunately because they're usually spot on.

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

                          Ok guys next time we go we are bringing one of you along!. Might be a bit boring for you but you all appear to have the inside track at Splendido... Getty Lee has that same inside track as he arrived about 45 mins after we did, and he certainly seemed to be getting top dollar service.
                          I made up for the bday debacle by making a gorgeous 2.5" grass fed rib eye last nigt (his actual bday) using the method below.

                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/844767

                          And next time you do one of those Riesling nights at Splendido...

                          1. re: the_beezelet

                            Everything goes better with great wine!

                        2. We were last at Splendido just before New Year's. The tasting menu we had had great flavours in the individual dishes, but lacked overall balance between the dishes. We seemed to get a string of very rich dishes in a row, which left us feeling a little bit sick by the end. When we next go back, we may opt for a la carte.