Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Toronto Ahoy! (part deux) - Splendido

Part 2 to my part 2.  I wanted to send off my final evening in Toronto with a blast, gastronomically.  After searching through a few sites, I got word of Splendido.  It sounded like an upscale, modern Italian restaurant.  Management changed recently but apparently the standard has remained.  Its menu presented dishes that have an Italian flare but also combined with a slight twist that made them sound fresh.  I was game!

Since the restaurant sounded like it was a popular place that required reservations and I wanted to do a walk-in, I decided to show up early just in case.  When my cab pulled up in front of the restaurant, a cute valet guy immediately opened my door, except I didn't know he was a valet guy until later and was pleasantly confused for a while about how wonderful Canadians can be, opening taxi doors for complete strangers.  The restaurant was quite empty at about 6pm on a Wednesday evening.  I was immediately seated at one of the two bar tables by the large window at the front of the restaurant.

I'd already pretty decided what I was going to order prior to looking at the menu.  Thanks to the Internet these days, I had read in advance that the foie gras parfait and the butter-poached lobster risotto was the way to go.  And that's precisely what I ordered.  Except that the waiter threw me a curveball - the special of the day was parpadelle with morels and English peas.  That reminded me that it was spring and morels were in season!  I simply LOVE morels, they have such a rich and deeply savory flavor.  When in doubt, order everything.  So that's what I did.  Two appetizers (foie gras parfait and the morel pasta) and one entree (the butter-poached risotto) for me please, thank you very much!

First off, I must say I'm very impressed with the bread served at Splendido.  They presented a basket of country or whole-grain bread.  This was served with a very nicely room-temperature cube of salty butter and a little trio of olives, grissini sticks and a blob of hummus-like dip to swipe the grissini sticks in.  The country bread looked nicely rustic but very ordinary.  But oh my, the crust was so chewy and its flavor was amazing!!!!! One of the BEST breads I've had in a very very long time.  I couldn't get enough of this bread!  The bread was soft and very tasty and I even devoured the entire crust, when I'm not usually a crust person.  It was so delicious!  Already I knew this meal was going to be good.

The foie gras parfait came in a form that I wasn't expecting from the name 'parfait.'  Instead it came as a thick slab served atop a plank of natural wood and flanked by a thick slice of butter, crusty brioche and a tiny pot of macerated medjool dates.  This was pure decadence.  I'd read that the pate was made of a mix of goose and chicken livers hence more affordable but the smoothness and richness wasn't lost at all.  The slab of liver pate was so generous that the dish can definitely be shared among two, even though I finished it all up myself.  The sweet, alcoholic date also melded well with the richness of this dish.  A great started.

The second course to arrive was the morel special.  What a lovely, simple, well-executed and delicious dish.  The morels were perfectly cooked and infused itself into the cream sauce that it was served with.  The parpadelle was freshly made and perfectly al dente and yet also wonderfully chewy.  I loved this dish, just the right touch of richness to fend of the nip of early spring and yet still with the brightness of the English peas to remind you that warmer weather is on the way.

Then finally, came the butter-poached lobster.  It looked truly mouthwatering.  Taste-wise, even though it was very good, if I had to choose, it was my least favorite.  The butter-poached-ness didn't really come through so much for me.  Certainly, the Maine lobster used was generous, very fresh and sweet and cooked perfectly, however, it simply tasted to me like a simple poached lobster, the butter poaching didn't seem to make a marked difference.  Nevertheless, the flavors used were still very good.  There was a very appetizing tartness to the cream sauce, perhaps from mascarpone that was used in the risotto.  The raw pea shoots strewn on the dish as a garnish also added a nice touch of freshness to the overall dish.  I still enjoyed everything.

By this time, I was near the verge of explosion and unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for my health) could not stomach another morsel of food.  Hence I had to pass on dessert (admittedly the dessert menu was rather brief and didn't sound as interesting).  The restaurant was hopping by the time I was ready to leave.  The crowd looked happening and beautiful.  I was glad I was done with my meal though.  I really needed to walk around to help my digestion and very much looked forward to the long walk back to my hotel.

88 Harbord Street between Spadina Ave and Sussex Mews

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