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Does Splendido only have multi-course fixed menus now?

I was just looking at the dinner menu on the Splendido web site, and all I see is a 5-course fixed menu for $75 and a longer "Winter Tasting Menu" for $125. These are followed by the sentence "Take note that our menu changes daily". The PDF version of the menu (which is the same) is dated January 15, 2014.

Has anyone been lately who can confirm or deny?

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  1. Yes, this is one of the changes Victor made after the (amicable) split from Carlo.

    2 Replies
      1. re: Wino In Training

        He took on County General, leaving Splendido to Victor.
        The County General approach is being extended to a couple of other spaces 'opening soon'.

    1. They posted a few minutes ago on their FB page that they're offering 25% off their tasting menu and wine pairings this Tuesday. I'm assuming that you only get the deal if you order both.

      Victor plans to be much more ambitious with Splendido, and is slowly gearing towards being a candidate for a Michelin star.

      32 Replies
      1. re: justxpete

        The closest Splendido ever came to getting a Michelin star was when it was run under David Lee and Yannick Bigourdan (pre Victor days). In my opinion the food (or service) was never the same after they left. But good luck to him nonetheless. It's great he has the drive and ambition to go for it.

        1. re: BlackMambaSommelier

          Quite part from Michelin not being in Canada, so it's hypothetical, then it was also worthy under Arpi Magyar.
          And although David Lee was fantastic, there have been spells with Victor when it was equally good (e.g. 2011).

          1. re: estufarian

            Ref: Michelin
            Previously, with not enough good hotels to support a guide, their focus is on the States instead. However, now that the 4 'deluxe hotels' are all up and occupied. Rumor has it they are working on one for Toronto and Montreal area combined?!!

            1. re: Charles Yu

              You have no idea how much stress this is causing in our house!!! Argh!

                1. re: justxpete

                  My SO is a chef at a place that they would definitely go to. So if true his workplace is going to get a bit more stressed, which creates more stress at home on general.

                  1. re: LexiFirefly

                    While I wish him well - as a 'patron' I would be disappointed if a restaurant turned out different (? better) food for a Michelin inspector that I would receive.
                    Accordingly, don't see why any 'extra' stress wold apply - being a chef on a regular basis is stressful enough - and I don't want to minimize that.

                    1. re: estufarian

                      It's more that management in places this size put more pressure on their employees. Also they're still fairly new so they are just looking for another excuse for people to only put out the best.

                      1. re: LexiFirefly

                        Yes - that reflects on the quality of management - and probably results in higher eventual turnover.

                    2. re: LexiFirefly

                      You and me both LexiFly. I'm rather hopeful (selfishly) that this won't happen.

                      1. re: JennaBean

                        Won't happen. At the end of the day Michelin is trying to sell books, it's not trying to promote tourism or goodwill for Toronto/Montreal.

                        A guide with no 2/3 star restaurants is not marketable at all.

                        I would love to be wrong on this as having a guide here would make Toronto attractive to talented cooks. Not many resume building restos in Toronto if you're talking about a global level. Cooks are resume collectors.

                          1. re: justsayn

                            It also says a lot about the appetite for michelin style tasting menu when one of the best in the city has to offer 25% off to lure customers.

                            Won't be seeing that in SF, Chicago or NYC.

                            It's not Splendido's fault, it's the culture here. Especially in the dead of winter, people stop going out to eat. Then in the summer the rush to cottage country does the same. All restos no matter how hip/hot face these challenges on weekdays.

                            1. re: aser

                              YUP. Will take YEARS and CONSISTENCY before Michelin arrives in Canada...

                          2. re: aser

                            The LA guide was first published without a 3* and only three 2* - Melisse, Spago and Urasawa. And Spago, IMO is more like a 1* or less!

                            1. re: Charles Yu

                              Right, but how many more did print after they didn't sell?

                              I think that answers the question. They've learned from their mistake.

                              1. re: aser

                                "Michelin is losing $24 million a year on its guides, and while that number is expected to reach $30 million by 2015, Michelin-starred restaurants are doing just fine—business spikes upwards of 25 per cent upon receiving the ultimate culinary honour. " Toronto Life 2011

                                http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/b02d5c1a-ad...

                              2. re: Charles Yu

                                Spago is easily my favourite of the 3!!!
                                Melisse has gone way downhill and Urasawa was not a pleasant experience for me - he told me which wines (sakes) were the best match without even asking my tastes.

                                1. re: Charles Yu

                                  I had an amazing tasting menu at Spago in 2008, before the revamp. That meal was better than any contemporary continental tasting menus I've had in Ontario. I can't compare that meal to a Splendido tasting menu, since I haven't ordered a Splendido tasting menu.

                                2. re: aser

                                  Australia doesn't have the Michelin seal of approval, but their top chefs are recognized internationally. Also plenty of chefs were chomping at the bit to stage/work at places like TFL and Alinea before The Michelin Guide ever graced their cities

                                  1. re: Blueicus

                                    Very good point, Blueicus!! In fact I have had a few 'non-Michelin star' but Michelin caliber meals in Hong Kong cooked by Aussie chefs! Private clubs including the Hong Kong Jockey club loves hiring them!!

                                    1. re: Blueicus

                                      True and true, but are there any restaurants in Toronto equivalent in stature to TFL, Alinea, Tetsuyas, Quay?

                                      I guess the only one would be Susur's reverse tasting menu days.

                                      The final nail in the coffin has to be ingredient sourcing. Toronto is very lacking in this department.

                                      To tie it all back, I hope somebody took here took advantage of this 25% off deal and report back.

                                      1. re: aser

                                        My post wasn't really answering that point of the discussion, but allow me to take a stab at it:

                                        Does Toronto currently have a restaurant(s) that are world-renown with swarms of international stagiaires? It's been a few years since I've worked in the city, but unfortunately I would say no.

                                        Does Toronto have access to local ingredients that can be used to create 'world class cuisine'? Some people may disagree, but I say yes.

                                        Does Toronto have chefs and cooks with as much international experience as any other major city? Undoubtedly, yes.

                                        I've been a member of this board long enough to have heard every argument regarding why Toronto doesn't have such a place, and though Shoto was hailed as the panacea to Toronto's fine dining shortcomings, it clearly wasn't.

                                        With regards to the above esteemed restaurants, the tasting menus at TFL, Alinea, Tetsuyas, Quay, and for the sake of fun let's add Noma and Arpege are 327, 232, 219, 224, 326, and 640 CDN (within rounding and exchange rate fluctuations) respectively. Apart from Hashimoto and Chinese restaurants where you can stuff your face with abalone, shark fin and sea cucumber for a thousand dollars a head, that is far in excess of Toronto prices, which top out at around 150 dollars Canadian for a similar number of courses. So, even before you consider any other factors, these chefs are already working with a budgetary constraint (assuming the restaurant isn't being subsidized by someone who really likes to throw money away) that is at best 2/3rds of their Australian and American competitors.

                                        If somebody decided to open a restaurant that charged on average 200 dollars a head for an elaborate tasting menu in Toronto would they get any customers? I wouldn't care to guess, perhaps some of you guys would like to finance this venture?

                                        1. re: Blueicus

                                          I work in the industry, I don't claim to know all. This is merely what I see.

                                          There is a serious talent drain in Toronto. There just aren't enough quality cooks for all these restos. It is hard to hire good staff nowadays. A lot of ambitious kids are cooking abroad = talent drain. Trust me when I say there aren't that many cooks w/ international experience in the city. Especially in comparison to NYC/SFC/CHi.

                                          There're a lot of lazy cooks in the city with poor hygiene, and.......dull knives!

                                          What foreign coworkers & I see from suppliers........Let's agree to disagree on ingredients.

                                          We're pretty low on the totem pole even w/i Canada. BC has the seafood, east coast also. QC has foie/cheese. What do we have? Um some overpriced beets from Cookstown Greens, red fife.........I'm embellishing a bit, but you get the point. Granted, we do have good beef (Cumbrae's) and pork (Perth), but it's not to the point of exceptional where it's worth shipping across the country to.

                                          As for the other parts, that's exactly the reason why talk of Michelin printing a guide is very far removed from reality. There isn't an appetite for posh food here. You're spot on.

                                          Nothing wrong with that, I've come to accept that about Toronto.

                                          1. re: aser

                                            I dunno, if you have come to accept that about Toronto then I feel that you should write off the entirety of Canada (including Montreal). I know enough chefs over here that bemoan the lack of talented cooks and the mediocre products (I can literally count the number of local 'sustainable' species of seafood everybody puts on their menu with my fingers and still have digits left over for picking my ears) to the conservative dining public with their sometimes Portlandia-like list of dietary restrictions. Heck, we don't even have a restaurant that offers a standard tasting menu that breaks even the $100 CDN mark!

                                            The Okanagan peaches are generally inferior to Niagara peaches and I've heard enough people here say the same about the tomatoes. I could go on and on about what chefs complain about here but I think we can all agree that we believe the grass is greener on the other side, perhaps even with some pretty wildflowers and teeming with good wild venison.

                                            (Also added one more thing because I feel it's particularly important): Chefs (myself included) can complain that we can't find talent and no one's willing to put in the work in whatever city we're living in or that they don't want to pay their dues, or even the farmers are growing crap for us to cook with, but at the end of the day it's up to us to make sure these people want to be working for us or producing food that we are all proud of serving and to want to do it well. We can say Canada doesn't have the same culinary heritage as Scandinavia, or France, or Japan, or even the US, but these excuses sound hollow when countries that are either smaller than us and/or younger than us are eclipsing us in influence

                      2. re: BlackMambaSommelier

                        Victor was cooking at Splendido for the better part of a year prior to Yannick and David's departure.

                        I've been a frequent regular under both 'groups' of proprietors. While the old Splendido was more formal, Victor's cooking often equals David at his best, and for a few periods, surpassed the former iteration at it's best.

                        The new menu is a work in progress, so we'll see where it ends up.

                        1. re: BlackMambaSommelier

                          Splendido would almost IMMEDIATELY receive ONE star if Michelin reviewed Canada. Having dined at one stars in France, Italy and Belgium Splendido has been on par or superior to most. 3 stars, I'm willing to concede they might need some work on (though I can't really point my finger on what - and many chefs have no idea as well how they received their 3rd star). The emphasis some cliental (and chefs) put on Michelin ratings is silly.

                          As for fixed menus - they look great!

                        2. re: justxpete

                          Can someone confirm if the promotion is applicable only if you order both the tasting menu with wine pairings together? Or can you just try the tasting menu and still receive the discount?

                          Thanks!

                          1. re: asagiri

                            Give them a phone call at 416-929-7788 and get the answer directly from the horse's mouth!
                            Cheers!

                            1. re: Charles Yu

                              The horse is probably on the plate, so may not have much to say! :-)

                        3. Does anyone know if, in practice, the 5 course is fairly flexible or allows substitutions, if a diner doesn't want a dessert course?

                          While I can see it's easier for a restaurant to keep things simple by offering the choice of 5 course and tasting, as someone who often order a few first courses and no dessert, I don't see why a 2 or 3 course option (allowing for a selection of 2 or 3 courses off the 5 course menu) for diners with less time and/or less appetite isn't offered/posted on the online menu.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: prima

                            We removed a bunch of replies here. The debate over whether doctoring your dinner with condiments is disrespectful or okay isn't really local to Ontario (there are lots of threads on this on General Topics and Not About Food, though, if anyone wants to keep having this conversation) and this version of it is getting pretty unfriendly.

                          2. I finally had an opportunity to try the seasonal tasting menu ($130) at Splendido with two friends tonight. It turns out, the kitchen is very flexible with regards to the 12 course tasting menu and the 5 course set menu.

                            Our server Ian asked us whether we had any dietary restrictions or dislikes once we had decided to order the tasting menu. One friend isn't fond of lamb or offal, and the kitchen was happy to provide different dishes that worked for her.

                            Our tasting menu included most of the savoury dishes listed as part of the winter tasting menu, as well as some other dishes that are not mentioned on the website. We started with an amuse of potato leek soup and a gougere. Our cornets had a smoked trout mousse, if I recall correctly. Our dessert tonight was a lemon mousse rather than the rhubarb and shortbread dessert mentioned on the winter tasting menu. http://splendido.ca/menus/dinner/

                            The tasting menu provided many spring flavours, including some seafood from the Gaspe Peninsula, wood sorrel, rhubarb and white asparagus.

                            I loved the flavour and texture combinations of the various dishes. A couple dishes included some of the freshest seafood I've had in Toronto, including scallops, clams, oysters, shrimp and halibut. Very interesting take on the carrot in the Bolero Carrot dish. Every dish was flavourful, and the flavours were often nuanced. The plating was careful and beautiful.

                            The mignardises were delightful: a cassis fruit gelee, passionfruit macaron, raspberry marshmallow, chocolate truffle, ice cream cones with apricot/mixed fruit sorbet.

                            Service was as close to perfect as it gets tonight.

                            If you visit Splendido and are able to splurge on a very special dinner, I can't recommend the seasonal tasting menu enough.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: prima

                              Thanks for your report. Looking forward to my dinner at Splendido next month.

                            2. Any recent reports about Splendido? Anyone else serving better (or "finer") food at the moment?

                              22 Replies
                              1. re: Apprentice

                                I would say that Splendido is the best they've ever been right now, in terms of food. They went through a rather tumultuous year last year (in part due to Carlo's exit) and I don't think they were putting out a great product - but they're back, and better than ever. Their website has also had a significant revamp, and is a million times better than previous.

                                They're only offering two menus - a $90 'menu' and a $150 tasting menu, but both are well worth the price.

                                My two Splendido visits in recent months were both better than both Coi in San Fran - 49th in the world (much, much better, in fact - ps. I really don't think Coi belongs on this list at all) and Willows Inn on Lummi Island, on a recent visit as well.

                                1. re: justxpete

                                  Thanks. I haven't been in 2014. Looks like I'll be returning in a couple of weeks.

                                  1. re: justxpete

                                    I thought you are now on the west coast?!

                                    1. re: Charles Yu

                                      I am - but I travel back to TO every two months or so. :)

                                  2. re: Apprentice

                                    This thread prompted me to re-try Splendido tonight and, really, the best meal I've had in North America this year (trips to NYC and LA included). Absolutely spectacular!
                                    If there's a better place in Toronto - I want to know. But it's not likely.

                                      1. re: kwass

                                        The 'long'tasting menu.

                                        The Tasting

                                        $150

                                        Snacks

                                        Cornet, Cracker, Oyster, & Lobster
                                        Radish, Porcini & Fresh Cheese

                                        Menu

                                        Bass, Verbena & Sea Buckthorn

                                        Halibut Wing & Radish

                                        Trout & Onion

                                        Smoked Oyster

                                        Osetra Venetian Caviar ($30 Supplement)

                                        Cherry Stone Clam & Bacon

                                        Vickie’s Veggies Beet & Horseradish

                                        Bolero Carrot & Pumpkin Oil

                                        Egg & Madeira

                                        Cobia & Black Bean

                                        Bread, Foie & Cultured Butter

                                        Australian Black Truffles

                                        Sweetbreads & Black Garlic

                                        65 Day Aged Cumbrae Farms Rib Cap

                                        Ontario Strawberry

                                        Milk & Chamomile

                                        Petit Fours

                                        Chef Victor Barry

                                        I don't take pictures - it interferes with the eating!

                                          1. re: estufarian

                                            That does look good. Need to get over there.

                                            (aside: can we cool it with the Australian black truffles? I've never had Australian truffles worth the supplement.)

                                            1. re: BigBabyYeezuS

                                              I agree with you. Not worth it (neither are the Eastern European ones). But, to be fair, the aromatics last night were spectacular (but there's no taste to speak of).

                                              1. re: BigBabyYeezuS

                                                Only the caviar is supplementary on the current menu.

                                                1. re: justxpete

                                                  Truffle supplement on the $90 menu, not on the $150 (which, hey, fair enough).

                                                  Glad to hear the aromatics were good - makes the case more compelling.

                                              2. re: estufarian

                                                I took a few pictures last time I was in - but was distracted enough that I missed most courses.

                                                I typically only take quick photos with my phone to help remember each dinner in the future.

                                                 
                                                 
                                                 
                                                 
                                                 
                                                 
                                            2. re: estufarian

                                              Hello Estufarian!!
                                              Wow!! That is some compliment! Looks like I have to give it a try after the TIFF madness?!
                                              Noticed their wine list not as impressive as before when Carlo was there.
                                              BTW, any idea about their current ' corkage '?? They didn't mention that on their web site?!

                                              1. re: Charles Yu

                                                I didn't ask on this occasion.
                                                Ordered a gruner veltliner to handle the early dishes then switched to a glass each of tempranillo and Grenache for the sweetbreads and beef.
                                                All were excellent matches, but I did have to work a bit to find those.
                                                White Burgundy would also match extremely well - but my budget doesn't support that in North America - with all the markups it's just not 'value' to me. But occasionally I'll find a Santa Cruz or Sonoma Coast Chardonnay that's a worthwhile substitute - and occasionally a well-aged Ontario chard - I find them a bit 1-dimensional when young, but add complexity as they age.

                                              2. re: estufarian

                                                I went back, it was indeed spectacular. Not much to add - the service, plating, quantity and quality of food is world class. The portion sizes and quantity of amuses/snacks is reminiscent of a Michelin 2/3 star experience. I’m hesitant to pick a favorite but the Egg & Madeira might be it. The smoked trout and sweetbreads were also highlights for me. I’m forcing myself to choose among an array of outstanding dishes to provide some input. Splendido really is a Toronto gem. I was dining at the bar and struck up a conversation with a gentleman from NYC who put the meal on par with haute-NYC. I say this only to provide context for the quality of the meal.

                                                I informed them I could only afford to indulge in two glasses of wine as I had a 40 min drive home. The sommelier doubling as a bartender (I’m terrible with names), offered several tasting choices before selecting the right wine for “me”. Upon scanning my bill at home, I realized they “comped” me for the first wine. I’m slightly embarrassed as I feel I under-tipped! Anyway – this is just another example of the service the team provides.

                                                If there’s a downside it’s that the “long-menu” is a lot of food. After 4/5 courses I already knew I was in trouble.

                                                Finally, Splendido is a great place to have a solo meal. If you wish to enjoy a great meal in solitude, with your own thoughts (or a book), you can do that. However, dining at the bar and conversing with the bartender or Victor (assuming it’s a slower night and he’s got time to visit) is a great way to pass time learning about wine, their approaches/opinions on food and industry experiences. Again - I'm assuming the possibility of doing this on a Saturday evening is less likely vs a Wed night when I went.

                                                1. re: Apprentice

                                                  I have a reservation for the first weekend of October. I'm really looking forward to it now given all of these reviews!!!

                                                  1. re: JennaBean

                                                    Me too!! Mine is the 7th. Waiting for Victor's return from his trip to visit Keller at the French Laundry. Hopefully, he will introduce some new 'wow' dishes to complement his current repertoire?

                                                    1. re: Charles Yu

                                                      I'll be back the week of the 9th, and will inevitably dine at Splendido at some point.

                                                      Chowmeet???

                                                      1. re: justxpete

                                                        Love to but unfortunately its wife's birthday. Will be feasting with her and also family.
                                                        Next time, give me a yell ahead of time and I'll round up a few CH for something special?

                                                    2. re: JennaBean

                                                      Had am amazing dinner on Sat night. We selected "The Menu" with the wine pairing no add ons.

                                                      Before we sat at our table we had a glass of champers with our oyster and popcorn snack. Champagne is always my fav way to start a nice meal out and the fact that we got a lovely little oyster with it set the stage for a delightful evening.

                                                      The table snack we had to start were plentiful to say the least. Sashimi and lobster were stellar. The sashimi was served on a crispy rice square that was amazing.

                                                      I'm not normally a fan of rose wine but the one we had as the pairing for the first course was so good my gf had them write down the name of her and now she's on a mission to find some for home!

                                                      I would be really hard pressed to pick a favourite dish of the night but both the smoked oyster and the mushroom salad were truly outstanding.

                                                      We were stuffed buy the time the final savoury dish arrived and actually weren't able to finish all of the perfectly cooked venison that was basically a holiday on a plate! It looked, tasted and smelled amazing.

                                                      Given how stuffed we were we were both very pleased that the dessert wasn't overly sweet or rich.

                                                      The service was professional, polished and warm.

                                                      With tax it was $500 for the two of us and worth every penny for a special night out.

                                                      Well it isn't something I can afford monthly, I think that a return trip won't be too far in the future.

                                              3. Had the new tasting menu at Splendido last night. Quite simply, I've never had food of this caliber in Canada before. It was outstanding, and reminiscent of many of the 2 and 3 star michelin dinners I've had in the last couple of years. The uni on brioche, lobster heart and hare royale were mind blowing - as were some of the petit fours. Each time I visit, it seems better than previous.

                                                 
                                                 
                                                 
                                                 
                                                 
                                                 
                                                 
                                                  1. re: justxpete

                                                    My first post on chowhound! Howdy, everyone!

                                                    I've lurked here for a while, most intensely last month when I wanted to take my Brother (a fellow food lover) to a great dinner for his birthday - admittedly, I thought as much of myself in choosing that as a gift :-)

                                                    I'd always wanted to get back to Splendido as it must have been a good 10 years since I was there last. But then there was also Momofuku Shoto. Given my brother and I used to love going to Susur, I thought I might go for Shoto. But ultimately it was this thread that sold be on Splendido. My impression was that Shoto would be fun for sure, but not a given that the food would be consistent. Whereas the most recent feedback on Splendido supported it being more of a sure thing in terms of enjoying the food.

                                                    Boy was that right!

                                                    We did the full tasting course, the waiter upsold us to adding the caviar, and we did the full wine tasting as well.
                                                    There's already been a lot of discussion on the individual dishes, and our dinner was last month so I apologize for not giving a detailed review. (Also, the wine tasting re-acquainted me with my limits. Boy was I feeling that one! More on that later, actually).

                                                    To cut to the chase, I think it was the best meal I've ever had in my life. It was as close to perfect in every respect: the service, the timing of the plates and drinks, the lack of "hustle-you-out-of-there-fast," the luxurious amount of amuse buches, and the food was just so sumptuous.

                                                    I'm certainly not at the experience level of many chowhounders here, though I've always been crazy about finding great restaurants...fine dining when I can do it. Just as quick reference, I'd recently done the tasting menus at Skin and Bones (really good, fantastic value for money, super friendly service), Buca (higher level cooking than Skin and Bones, terrific all around, great service), and most recently I did the 21 course tasting menu in LA's Providence restaurant, which a number of chowhounders seemed to rate as perhaps the best current restaurant in LA.

                                                    One of the elements I enjoyed about the Skin and Bones and Buca meals was the personal element. I was guided through most of the meal by a single server, so there was a nice sort of "bond" that happens through the course of the meal. Providence worked like a well oiled factory, more servers than I could count coming at me. Always professional, courteous, made me feel like a king being served by an army of servants, but didn't have the
                                                    personal touch of the other two. The food at Providence was always creative, everything tasted very good, often surprising, with just a couple of stand-outs of the "best I've ever tasted" category. What I love about great dining, especially a great chefs tasting course, is when everything is working; each dish is not only in some way surprising, or eye-opening, each dish features a taste you've never quite had before and suddenly, just for that moment, seems to become your "new favorite food!"
                                                    (I remember the guava beans with the lamb at Buca - never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I'd enjoy guava beans, but actual fresh, beautifully cooked guava beans became "my new favorite thing" for the time I was eating that dish).

                                                    Just before those I'd been in Chicago, having some great meals at Au Cheval, and Bavette's Bar & Boeuf.

                                                    I mention all that in prelude to saying that, for my brother and I, Splendido was just doing it all. Every dish wasn't just a delight in terms of ingredients and plating, they were all fantastically delicious. Just one killer plate after another, without a miss (except maybe one...the fish with the black bean sauce was only 'very good' not OMG great).

                                                    I'm still fantasizing about the mind blowing, warm bread served in the little canvas bags. It had this thick, smoky crust and sumptuous inside that gave me the impression (along with the booze) that I'd been transported back to the middle ages and some master baker had just pulled a loaf of bread out of the fire that he'd spent all day gathering and making. Ok, some of that was the booze doing the imagining, but I still think about that bread!

                                                    The service was a really nice mix between the personal touch of the Buca/Skin and Bones experience I had, and the polish of the Providence experience. We had a nice server guide us through the meal, with plenty of help from some very friendly staff.
                                                    We had a nice talk with the wonderful bartender/sommelier, who not only did the best Manhattan my bro and I ever tasted (we can never resist a Manhattan), but just the greatest journey in the wine tasting.

                                                    We also chatted with Chef Victor Barry for a little while - my brother, always a bit whacky, asking him how he keeps the passion for cooking, while offering to give Chef Victor his (frankly amazing!) Jerk Chicken recipe. Very nice guy, the chef.

                                                    My brother has worked as a waiter in various high-end establishments, he's dated two food writers in London and in Toronto where he usually accompanied them to the meals being reviewed, so he's seen a lot, and he was wondering if it might be the best meal he's ever had.

                                                    One last moment...of shame!

                                                    I'd figured out before we arrived at the restaurant how much our meal was likely to cost. I'd wished to pay with a combination of Visa and cash. By the end of the meal I was practically seeing double from the wine tasting (which they finish of by placing a big bottle of...rum I think it was...on the table).
                                                    I paid with I think a 25 percent tip. The next morning I found
                                                    $100 in my pocket that shouldn't have been there. I thought back to my calculating the bill and then was mortified to realize I most likely forgot to leave that money! After that fantastic meal, chatting up the whole staff and the chef, against my every intent...we STIFF the place on the tab!

                                                    Mortified I went there that day to complete my payment. They were closed for a function. The next day I came at the end of their brunch. I talked to the wonderful bartender, told her the problem, and asked for the manager (who we'd chatted with at dinner). He came out and was very cheery in greeting me "welcome back!" and, since I still wasn't sure IF I'd made a mistake or not, I asked if he happened to remember any issue with our bill as I may not have left the amount I intended. Of course he remembered exactly what our bill was and how much we'd left (mortifying!)...but said "No problem, we didn't take any offense, it happens, and we were happy you had a great time."
                                                    Naturally I apologized and handed the money to him, and some more for the trouble, but he wouldn't take all of it. In fact he had the bartender pour me some champagne and they said hang out as long as I wanted. I then had a very nice chat with the bartender again. It was all class, and it left me with an even higher opinion of this restaurant. That's customer care!

                                                    As I said, I'm not nearly as well traveled in the restaurant scene, especially abroad, as many here. Sometimes I long for all the great places mentioned in other cities, and whenever my family takes a vacation I book at least one great place for my solo meal (my wife is a natural-born cheapskate and can't enjoy spending that much money on a meal). My sense is that, while I've had some very nice meals abroad, I'm damned lucky to live in Toronto, it's a wonderful food city.

                                                    Sorry for the length of this post.

                                                    Now that I've sputtered out my first post, there are so many threads I've been wishing to comment on...off I go...

                                                    And THANK YOU to the excellent commentary on this board, which has proven so helpful to me!

                                                    Cheers,

                                                    1. re: MattHooper

                                                      A BIG WELCOME TO YOU!!
                                                      Nice write up! Glad you had a great time. Did you have a favorite dish out of the lot?! How did you find the Hare Royale?!

                                                        1. re: justxpete

                                                          Thanks for the welcome. (Any Jaws fan might have caught on to the screen name. It was my favorite movie growing up and Matt Hooper clearly loved food in the movie, so it all fits).

                                                          In the boards I frequent for some of my other hobbies, e.g. high end audio and home theater, I was known for many an "epic post." I was obsessive about seeking out and reviewing components in micro detail for many years.
                                                          However, I grew tired of it and just wanted to listen to music and watch movies without obsessing the details.

                                                          I think my former self would have produced more informative "reviews" in joining a board like this. But my attitude is now similar toward eating out.
                                                          All I want to do is maximize my enjoyment of the experience, and I see taking time for photos and writing down every dish and ingredient as an impediment to that goal, at this point. I certainly don't disparage that approach in others. I welcome it and benefit GREATLY from it, to the point of almost feeling guilty about benefiting from all that work. Which is why I'm so thankful folks like you supply such detail.

                                                          Charles,

                                                          Frankly, I'm having a hard time recalling exactly everything we ate, and I don't actually know if we ate
                                                          Hare Royale.

                                                          I remember some standouts being the initial amuse bouches, the salmon and oh man that lobster! So often lobster is served as a high class item, and you are charged for it. Yet much of the time it's cooked so indifferently - dried out, rubbery - as to rob it of the very charm that made it coveted in the first place. The bite of lobster was so perfectly, delicately cooked it blew my mind and re-acquainted me with how desirable lobster can be. I felt the same way about the smoked trout.

                                                          The signature smoked oyster/potato/chive dish with the added caviar was a stand out. It was as decadent as I could wish.

                                                          The beef dish, perhaps it was the rib cap, was fantastic (a notch below the incredible wagyu beef I had at Providence, but still delicious).

                                                          I had read a couple of comments on the Bolero Carrot & Ginger being "just a carrot" but not to me. I love a good carrot dish and this was wonderful and complex, the granola being a nice touch as well.

                                                          I plan to do brunch at Splendido within the next month.

                                                          I used to think that dining at this level ought to be reserved for rare occasions. Not that I wanted it to be, just that I didn't think anyone did it often.
                                                          Discovering this board re-enforces that there are many others who make this a regular thing, not just a once-a-year occasion. But I realize that the most wonderful experiences I have tend to be eating great food. It's like a slice of heaven, or a great vacation. Turning 51 makes me realize "how many more opportunities do I have left?" and why the hell should I be so spare about doing something that I love so much?

                                                          FWIW, my upcoming plans are:

                                                          1. Dinner at Yasu Sushi this friday with a pal.

                                                          2. A solo birthday dinner at Scaramouche the weekend after (I did this last year and really enjoyed it - not exactly adventurous stuff, but really great, reliably delicious cooking).

                                                          3. Deciding on dinner with another friend after that, between Richmond Station and Chantecler.

                                                          1. re: MattHooper

                                                            Yay, going to my 2 favs spots - Yasu and Scaramouche.
                                                            Looking forward to your comments on both.

                                                            The monkfish at Yasu is very special.

                                                            Enjoy

                                                            1. re: MattHooper

                                                              The 'Hare Royale' did not leave any impression?! Interesting?! You must have too much to drink?! Personally, I went there specially to try out that iconic classical French dish!

                                                              1. re: Charles Yu

                                                                Charles,

                                                                We were served so many dishes I had trouble keeping track, and yes it was a bit too much for me to drink I think (wasn't driving!).

                                                                I was not familiar with Hare Royale, but after looking it up online I can see we were not served that dish. I definitely would have remembered eating it.

                                                                1. re: MattHooper

                                                                  Wow! They changed the menu already?!

                                                                  1. re: Charles Yu

                                                                    I suppose so. I dined at Splendido in mid September if that helps.

                                                                    1. re: MattHooper

                                                                      The hare Royal wouldn't have looked what you would see online. It would have just been some rabbit meat in a small vessel with a brown sauce.

                                                                      1. re: justxpete

                                                                        Thanks, but I don't remember seeing it on the menu I previewed for the meal nor do I remember being served hare (I would definitely remember seeing it on the menu, or being told I was being served hare, as it would have been the first time I've been served hare, or rabbit, before).

                                                                        I notice the menu up now already looks a bit different than the one we had.

                                                                        I plan to go back for once they do a different menu, which I'm assuming will be in the spring or summer.

                                                                        1. re: justxpete

                                                                          And it could've tasted a lot like chicken. ;) I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between boneless rabbit/hare with a brown sauce and boneless chicken with a brown sauce, especially after a few glasses of wine. :)

                                                                          1. re: prima

                                                                            Nah. Texture is pretty distinct. Flavour is much different. I doubt you'd have an issue.

                                                                            1. re: justxpete

                                                                              Nah, seriously, I'm talking from experience. ;) I've eaten rabbit a couple dozen times. If the meat is off the bone, I can't tell the difference between rabbit and chicken in a stew/ragout/ragu.

                                                                              1. re: prima

                                                                                As Pete says, it's more in the texture than flavour, between rabbit and chicken.
                                                                                HOWEVER, two of the greatest meals of my life featured wild hare - that's a totally different experience (assuming you don't bite down on the buckshot!).

                                                                                1. re: estufarian

                                                                                  Right. The difference between farmed and wild game, especially farmed and wild hare, is pretty extreme.

                                                                          2. re: justxpete

                                                                            Victor indeed changed the menu!! Substituted the Hare with the Beef.

                                                                            1. re: Charles Yu

                                                                              That's too bad. An incredible dish by any measure.

                                                                              1. re: justxpete

                                                                                Darn. Bourdain was eating it at Bocuse's restaurant and it looked delicious.

                                                                                1. re: Apprentice

                                                                                  Alright here is my first post we still make the royals right now just don't serve to every table depends on the night and what we have on offer sometimes it can be a little to much.

                                                                                  We did change the menu Charles and estufarian since you have been both been in. We also will be starting a new format menu which is a little longer about 30 dishes in total but not until January. We have been testing it out for the last couple of weeks.

                                                                                  Thank you all for the very kind remarks on Splendido right now I am loving what we r doing and look forward to what we can creat in the future and having you all in again

                                                                                  Cheers

                                                                                  VB

                                                                                  1. re: Chefvbarry

                                                                                    Nice to see you post here Chef Barry!

                                                                                    30 dishes, that's insane. JUST the type of insane I'm looking for! I'll certainly be dining at Splendido once that menu is offered.

                                                                                    1. re: Chefvbarry

                                                                                      Because I am 'known' to the people at Splendido, I try hard not to 'over' praise them, so have limited my posts (other than informational responses, I only have one 'review' this year, and kept that short, being cognizant of Chowhound posting guidelines). But I was recently asked to list my top 10 meals this year, and Splendido is included in that list!
                                                                                      Welcome Chefvbarry!

                                                                                      1. re: Chefvbarry

                                                                                        Welcome, Chef - good to know that you're still serving it (occasionally).

                                                                                        Hopefully the menu will be ready in late December when I'm back in TO. :)

                                                                                        1. re: Chefvbarry

                                                                                          Welcome Chef! Great honor to see you grace our board!

                                                                                          After organizing so many 'Chinese Cuisine' chowmeet, may be time for a 'Slendido Chowmeet'?!

                                                                                          1. re: Charles Yu

                                                                                            In case you were serious Charles, I would definitely be "in" for a chowmeet at Splendido.

                                                                                            1. re: Apprentice

                                                                                              Likewise, if I were in town at the time.

                                                                                            2. re: Chefvbarry

                                                                                              Though somewhat more rare in these parts, its a pleasant surprise to see a Chef decide to step out from within the kitchen and engage clients and prospective clients alike in this (relatively) new form of media.

                                                                                              Having not been since the change in ownership (as our last visit left us quite underwhelmed), it sounds as if it might be time to give Splendido another shot.

                                                                                              1. re: Sadistick

                                                                                                Agreed, we went right before the split and it was not the greatest experience, we should go again soon! :)

                                                                                                1. re: LexiFirefly

                                                                                                  Chef Barry is very 'hands-on' with the current Splendido. He comes out regularly from the kitchen to interact with the patrons and make them feel at home. Sometimes when its not busy, even pulls up a chair and seat down and chat!
                                                                                                  Reminds me of Daniel Boulud at the Madison Avenue 'Daniel' before he became a real celebrity chef.

                                                                                                  1. re: Charles Yu

                                                                                                    I think the Chef showing up in the dining area (or at least being visible in the kitchen) really helps elevate the mood and excitement of the patrons.

                                                                                                    I know I was happy to see Chef Barry talking to others, before he joined us. It showed he cared about the business and the experience of the diners, and at the very least showed he was actually there in the kitchen.

                                                                                                    Having read enough about how kitchens don't always maintain their highest standards when the chef
                                                                                                    is no longer around (not saying that's true of Splendido) seeing the Chef in residence is re-assuring.

                                                                                                    Splendido sounds like it's on the way to becoming even more exciting.