Splendido has been a restaurant I’ve been meaning to try for quite some time but never had the opportunity; my first chance to try their food came on the second last day of this year’s Summerlicious. From the outside, Splendido is an unassuming restaurant that you may pass by if you don’t notice. Inside, the dining room, although not very large, looks surprisingly spacious with its open layout and clean lines. A feature wall of pickled vegetables is a bit cliché but reminds you of its Italian roots.
The most interesting sounding appetizer on their menu was the perfect hen’s egg. After having some amazing slow cooked eggs at Yours Truly and the Guild, I was eager to see how Splendido will accentuate the regular chicken egg and make it “perfect”. Sadly, I think the entire dish was a miss and the egg wasn’t showcased at all. A copious amount of foam arrived in a short tumbler with instructions to really dig in and get to the bottom. Not being one to not follow instructions, I dug in expecting a perfectly cooked egg but found nothing but mushrooms, croutons, parley puree and TONS of foam… in fact, way too much foam. Foamy parsley spoon after foamy parsley spoon didn’t reveal the anticipated egg, so the dinner started off disappointingly.
Luckily, the Mediterranean sea bass was much better. The skin was pan fried to a lovely crispiness and presented on top of warm caponata and a cold fennel salad. Caponata is a traditional Italian dish consisting of cooked eggplant and other vegetables (usually celery, carrots, peppers, etc.) in a sweet acidic sauce. It added a good flavour to the mild fish and also worked well with the bread they served. The dish could have been improved if the fish was cut a little thicker as it ended up being slightly overcooked and lacked the moist flakiness you normally expect. But, overall was still an enjoyable dish.
My friend’s hangar steak was cooked well and arrived beautifully presented with large colourful wedges of tomatoes, a thick red pepper sauce and leaves of basil. With droplets of balsamic around the dish, the hanger steak was certainly pretty to look at as much as it was tasty to eat.
Splendido offered on their Summerlicious menu side dishes (each a supplement of $5) including fries, brussel sprouts and a last dish I can’t remember. We opted for some fries to share. They were freshly made arriving hot and crispy, but the chef needs to lighten up on the seasoning as the fries on the bottom half were unbarably salty so we couldn’t finish them.
Surprisingly, the normal sounding dessert – strawberry lemon mille feuille - ended up being one of their most inventive. Simple pieces of puff pastry was surrounded by pickled strawberries, macerated strawberries, raspberry sorbet, a lemon cream and plenty of toasted poppy seeds. I loved the different flavours you got from the tarte pickled strawberries, sweet sorbet, light lemon cream and nutty poppy seeds. The dish was one of those mix and match desserts you tried out to find what combination you liked best.
Overall, two of the three dishes were good and delicious, yet nothing outstanding. Toronto is filled with high end Italian restaurants, and for the same price point there are many tastier options out there. Perhaps where they offer some advantage is their friendly and professional staff which are simply a pleasure to be around. When we made a bit of a mess they graciously cleaned everything up and even brought an extra napkin to cover the stain so no one would get dirty. The down to earth attitude really helps to take the snootiness from the restaurant and makes you feel comfortable to just be casual and enjoy.
For pictures of the above please visit http://gastroworldblog.blogspot.ca/2013/07/splendido-toronto.html
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