My only other visit to Splendido had been when David Lee was at the helm and it was disappointing. I was a little hesitant trying the place again; especially since his sous is now part owner and chef. I am happy to report things were much better this time around.
The room is warm and comfortable and I like the update they did on the décor. It was maybe half full and the noise level was low. Service throughout the evening was exemplary.
Some spiced olives and parmesan biscuits were brought to start. Breads, which are baked in house, were quite nice. I had ordered the “bacon and eggs” which was a hot cast iron pan with an egg, duck confit and proscuitto, tarragon, and parmesan croutons on the side left for you to assemble. A fun, perfectly balanced dish, with pronounced flavours, and perfectly paired with their suggested wine. My partner’s dish, the mushroom salad, was equally impressive in plating and execution.
We shared some excellent gnocchi, which had a good texture: soft without being mush, and they tasted of potato rather than flour. This came in a cream sauce with wonderfully flavourful black truffles, which were also used on the mushroom salad. There was no hint of the dish being bumped up with some cheap truffle oil.
After such successful dishes, we were let down by the mains. It’s with larger portions that I find many chefs fail. I had ordered the elk, which came with boudin noir, caramelized parsnip and puree, spiced red cabbage and chocolate. The elk had a mild flavour and was a little tough. The biggest problem was that the clove spice in the boudin noir and the allspice, or maybe five spice, in the cabbage, overwhelmed the dish. Both of these similar tones grew tiresome after a few bites. The chocolate was either tasteless or nonexistent, which may be a good thing. My partner’s steak was heavily seared and the outside tasted like charcoal. I still don’t understand why some people like their steak like this, it doesn’t work well with wine and it masks the flavour of the meat, but I’ll put this down to personal preference. I’ve read the chef is a master of sous vide, but I found no difference in the texture of the meat over regular cooking.
The salted caramel chocolate tart and steamed lemon pudding were both very simple and excellent. With several glasses of wine, coffee and tea, the bill before tip was $300, which I thought was fair.
Would I go back? Probably not. If the main courses were as good as the apps and dessert, I would be raving about this place. I can find similar quality of food for half the price at some of the better bistros. That said, the room is nice, service is great, they use nice ingredients, and it feels like a splurge dinner. I guess it depends what you want to pay for.
88 Harbord Street, Toronto, ON M5S 1G5, CA