Winterlicious 2014: Splendido (Review)

Ready…Set…SALIVATE! Winterlicious has arrived in Toronto! Twice a year, the city’s best (and often pricey) restaurants gather round to offer a 3-course prix fixe menu at a MUCH discounted price. And despite my looming deadlines and projects, the stomach wants what the stomach wants, and I will be patronizing a few of our city’s finest to taste test their festival menus! WOOHOO! The hell with my Masters… FOOD! (Because one needs to keep their priorities straight, amirite?)

Last night, I went for a lovely Winterlicious dinner at Splendido, a contemporary Canadian restaurant tucked in a row of bookstores and mom-and-pop restaurants along Harbord Street. Before I dive in about the food, here’s some quick stats:

Splendido

Address: 88 Harbord Street, Toronto, ON M5S 1G5

Phone: 416-929-7788

Hours: Tues-Sat (5pm-10pm), May be open at other times as well (check website for details)

Although the weather was terrible, it was still worth the trek to Splendido. The service was prompt, friendly, and attentive. For the first course, I ordered the Roasted Sweet Bread and my friend ordered the Salmon Treacle. Both were excellently prepared, but I took to the salmon treacle more. The roasted sweet bread was rich and creamy in the inside, and paired well with the potato foam. The sweet and tanginess of the glazed button mushrooms and pomegranate seeds juxtaposed the rich creaminess of the sweet bread, and created a well balanced dish. I was in the mood for something a bit lighter, so I preffered my friend’s Salmon Treacle instead: a cured salmon coated with molasses and paired with pickled daikon and some peanut dressing. Don’t expect a strong peanut flavour, it’s not like the peanut sauce you get from Thai/Viet restaurats, but serves to add a much needed crunch to the overall dish. The pickled daikon neutralized the saltiness of the cured salmon, and really hit the spot!

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Roasted Sweet Breads

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Salmon Treacle

After a great start to the dinner, I was quite disappointed with the main. I ordered the Roasted Sea Bass, and while it wasn’t poorly prepared, I was simply not wowed by it. Compared to similar fish dishes I’ve had at Chiado or Starfish, this dish paled in comparison, and wasn’t really anything to gush about. The Hangar Steak, however, was cooked to a juicy medium rare, and as you would expect from a hangar steak (aka butcher’s steak), was absolutely tender and flavourful. A very hearty dish. Perfect for a cold winter night. We also ordered an extra side of frites and brussel sprouts, and by golly were the brussel sprouts delicious. Glazed with a sweet and sour spicy tomato sauce, and slightly fried, the brussel sprouts were delicious! (Words I never thought would go together, “brussel sprouts” and “delicious”).

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Hanger Steak

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Roasted Sea Bass

To end off our night, we both ordered the Winter Berries with White Chocolate Fondant. And although it doesn’t seem like much, I was absolutely floored by dessert. Partly because I wasn’t expecting too much with frozen berries, and partly because it was done so intelligently. I’m always impressed when chefs transform relatively simple ingredients to 5-star dishes. The creativity and insight it takes to understand food, and knowing how to pair ingredients to create that synergy between ingredients is an art. What you can’t see in the picture is a small white chocolate fondant pudding at the center of the berry mountain, which added a layer of sweet creamy richness to a relatively light dessert. The shortbread streusel worked spectacularly with the frozen berries and fondant, and when all the components of this dessert melded on my palate, I was transported to a little corner of foodie heaven.

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Frozen Winter Berries w/ White Chocolate Fondant

Winterlicious Menu 2014 ($45)

Salmon Treacle
Peanut Dressing, Lime & Pickled Daikon
or
Roasted Sweetbreads
Potato Foam, Glazed Button Mushrooms & Watercress
or
Kedgeree Soup
King Oyster Mushroom, Radish & Papadum Crisp

Hanger Steak
Haricot Blanc, Chicken Cream & Sauce Diable
or
Roasted Sea Bass
Chavot Spice Couscous, Piquillo Purée & Lemon Vinaigrette
or
Queso Fresca
Pate de Brick, Aubergine Purée, Celeriac Crumble

Sides ($5 each)

Brussels Sprouts 
“KFC” & Rice Puffs
Frites
Malt Vinegar Mayo
Iceberg Salad 
Radish & Lemon Vinaigrette

Frozen Ontario Winter Berries
White Chocolate Fondant, Elderflower & Shortbread Streusel
or
Chocolate & Peanut
Mousse & Concord Grape Sorbet
or
Ottawa Valley 5 Year Old Cheddar
“House Branston Pickle” & Rosemary Biscuit

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One thought on “Winterlicious 2014: Splendido (Review)

  1. amazing review. i must say i really enjoyed the sweatbread and i learned so much. we should check out Wvrst at Distillery District – a German restaurant that actually has venison, kangaroo, guinea pig, rabbit, etc. sausage!

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