Splendido (Toronto) – Almost There
Splendido is one of a handful of high-end fancy restaurants in Toronto, despite its name – Splendido Bar & Grill. My friend had some top-notch langostines & lamb on his previous few visits so he asked them to give us a shellfish-centric menu w/ some lamb at the end.
It was the best meal of the trip (Sushi Kaji a close 2nd, Eigensinn 3rd but probably b/c expectations were too high and they missed.) Splendido’s food can have too much going on at times, and the chef definitely likes his powerful flavors, but the ingredient quality is very good to great and when it’s on – it’s up there.
1. Trio of Scallops
a. Seared w/ Tuna Bacon & Maple Syrup -> The flavors went well together but the syrup was a touch too sweet and masked the (likely) natural sweetness of the scallop. Good.
b. Raw w/ Tamari Jelly -> Bright, clean flavors, unsure of origin of tamari. Excellent.
c. Raw w/ Tapanade -> Muddy, couldn’t taste the scallop. Ok.
2. Line-Caught Boston Skate w/ Seared Scallop & Quail Egg
The skate was cooked well but it was the wonderful taste that had me smiling. I’ve not a fan of skate b/c of its texture, but you could almost taste the ocean in this – wow. Unfortunately, the very powerful arugula/tomato/vinegar dressing was too acidic and obliterated the fish when ate together. Scrape away. Scallop was good but it was served on an olive paste that, like the dressing, overpowered the scallop. Excellent dish if it was just the very fresh piece of dish. As is – Good.
3. Seared Icelandic Langostine w/ Crab Sausage w/ Steamed Oyster
The man loves his trios – each served separately in a tarrgaon/champagne sauce. Langostine was cooked perfectly and the tarragone-y sauce went well w/ it. It wasn’t as sweet as the best of them but an excellent example nonetheless. The crab sausage was just plain gross – and it was rather large. It was very watery inside the casing, horrible texture – imagine a watery crab cake w/o the searing. Excellent dish w/ just the langostine. As is – Good.
4. Nova Scotia Lobster w/ Octopus in Thyme Butter, Lobster Broth in Bed of Tagliarini
A very well done dish w/ nice ingredients. Everything cooked very well (though not as perfect as the langostine); the pasta was perhaps a touch overcooked but that’s splitting hairs. Nice dish that only failed to excite – I guess the number of ingredients made it difficult to focus on one exemplary ingredient – add through subtraction. Good.
5. Hamachi Collar on the Habachi
Sometimes, it pays to know the chef – this was the dish that got the dining room looking. A quite large collar served tableside on the habachi w/ a faint coat of miso-like dressing that left a wonderful smell. Very fatty w/ a subtle smoked flavor and a touch of sea. Some parts were a bit mushy, some perfectly firm; and others a touch overcooked; all perfectly acceptable considering the cooking method. Very Good.
6. Squab Confit, Sous-Vide Breast, & Pork Belly
The confit was cooked in duck fat and it was finger-linking good. The breast was a touch under med rare (i’d prefer a little rawer) but it had a great gamey taste. Pork belly was tasty but nowhere near the one we had @ Eigensinn a few days earlier. Very Good.
7. Lime Sorbet w/ Champagne Froth
Tart, just enough sweetness to carry the acid. Very Good.
8. Milk-fed Rack of Lamb w/ Braised Lamb Shoulder
The rack was extremely tender – never seen lamb so pink and tender. It tasted fine but fell short of my memories of Pauillac lamb at Lameloise (am I a tough customer?) I’m not the biggest fan of braised meats and this one didn’t impress either. Good.
9. Some Desserts
Overall, most likely a must-go if you’ve got 2-3 days in Toronto. Pristine ingredients that could be even better if the chef exercised a touch more restraint. In fact, it was reminiscent of some of my Manresa meals except the restraint Kinch shows improves the dishes. A lot of chefs are very interested in seafood right now and a rare few have the magical touch (Gagnaire, Kinch, Ripert, & Jean-Georges) where they can add stuff that amplifies the raw ingredient. More chefs fall into the same camp was Mr Splendido where they get high-quality ingredients but fail to lift the ingredient higher (recent memories include Redd and Cyrus here in the Bay Area.)
When I return to Toronto, I would do Eigensinn and Splendido for sure, and Sushi Kaji if i have the time. Perigee could impress and the room was stunning so that seems like an acceptable substitute if you can’t make the 2-hour trek to Eigensinn.