As last year's most-sought after restaurant for reservations during Winterlicious, Splendido was the first place we called as soon as reservations were accepted. After weeks of anticipation, we arrived at their arched doorway, heads swimming in hype.
We totally get it though. That was some damn good food.
Originally headed by David Lee, Chef Victor Barry has taken over the kitchen at Splendido so David could focus on a newer project – Nota Bene. With Victor at the helm, Splendido continues to perfectly fuse traditional and modern techniques to create an arsenal of killer dishes made from locally-sourced ingredients.
To drink, we order The Virgin, The Serpent, & The Apple ($6) and we gladly take advantage of their prix fixe dinner for $45 for Winterlicious.
The beverage was a chai lover's dream – a beautiful concoction of mulled apple cider, orgeat, cinnamon, and vanilla. Fortunately, we are both dedicated chai drinkers so it was match made in heaven after the first sip.
The Virgin, The Serpent, & The Apple ($6)
To begin, we choose the Salmon Treacle and the Roasted Sweetbreads. For our entrées, we order the Hanger Steak and Roasted Sea Bass and finally, the Frozen Ontario Winter Berries and the Chocolate & Peanut for dessert.
The Salmon Treacle is served with a beautiful arrangement of peanut dressing along with lime and pickled daikon. The fish was perfectly glazed and practically melted in your mouth, and overall the dish resembled a deconstructed version of Nota Bene's Hamachi Ceviche.
The Roasted Sweetbreads themselves were incredible and it felt like a tragedy eating the last bite. Paired with a lovely spread of glazed button mushrooms, potato foam, watercress, and pomogramate seeds, we had a killer appetizer on our hands. It combined the airiness of the foam, the crispness of the breads, the tartness of the pomogranate, and the savouriness of the mushrooms to create a perfectly refined dish.
Our medium rare steak arrived on a sea of haricot blanc, chicken cream, and sauce diable. We couldn't help but compare this meal to our dinner at Auberge last week and after the first bite, there was no competition. The steak was cooked exactly to our liking and the vegetables actually added to the dish instead of becoming a long forgotten side at the edge of our plate. Again, Chef Barry played with textures perfectly with the addition of crisp and spicy crumbs.
The Roasted Sea Bass sits on a bed of chavot spice couscous with drops of piquillo purée and lemon vinaigrette. It made for a good contrast from the steak and the lemon vinaigrette and piquillo purée added a well-loved kick to the dish.
Roasted Sea Bass
The Frozen Ontario Winter Berries were served with a white chocolate fondant, elderflower, and shortbread streusel. Whenever we think about this dessert, we breathe a little nostalgic sigh because it was just that good. Berries + white chocolate + shortbread = oh my.
Frozen Ontario Winter Berries
The Chocolate & Peanut contrasts the berries with a lining of peanut mousse and a scoop of concord grape sorbet. It was quickly overshadowed by the berries but a strong dish nonetheless. The sorbet was a tad tart but the nuts were a refreshing kind of crispy that we actually enjoyed, despite not usually liking peanuts.
Chocolate & Peanut
Our service was mixed which was a little bit of a let down knowing we were in one of Toronto's top restaurants. They had all the manners down pat but they were just that – manners. A select few of the staff were very friendly (ironically, the best service came from the girl cleaning our table) but the rest of our service experience wasn't exceptional by any means.
While the service was lacking, Splendido's food certainly made up for it and at the end of the day, that's what we came for, no? Splendido certainly lives up to their name – they're truly splendid.