‘Tis the season – and no I’m not talking about Christmas! Every year around November, Toronto’s restaurants start rolling out their truffle-laden dishes. From the $100 dish of truffled pasta at Mistura to Café Boulud‘s extravagant $325 white truffle tasting dinner – “truffles errwhere” as fellow food blogger Carmen Yung puts it.
Since it had been some time since I last visited Splendido, I decided to check out their $85 black truffle tasting menu ($35 supplement for the foie + brioche dish). Splurge and go for the whole nine yards; you won’t regret it. Your belly is always in good hands with chef Victor Barry, who took home the bronze at this year’s Gold Medal Plates. We shared the tasting menu and it was plenty.
The evening starts out with an amuse-bouche of Lentils du Puy soup with a coriander chiffonade, crème fraîche and onion + chickpea bhajee. Served in a shot glass, the soup was lipsmacking good and a great way to warm up from the outside chill.
Selections of breads included Country (my favorite), Rye and Potato which would come in handy later to sop up the egg yolk from the raviolo. But I digress…
The meal starts off with a warm Matsutake mushroom “salad” with sunchoke two-ways (roasted and puréed) with truffle snow (a little molecular gastronomy for ya) and garlic chips. I loved the different textures that came into play with this dish and the nuttiness of the black truffles married well together.
The next course is the Rougié Farms seared foie gras + brioche with an Albufera sauce composed of chicken jus, Madeira and duck fat. We take the sommelier up on his recommended pairing of Belem’s 10 year-old Madeira and it is a beautiful pairing. The buttery brioche sops up the sauce and is a great edible serving platform for the rich slab of foie. This was definitely my favorite dish of the evening.
The foie is followed by the Egg Yolk Raviolo stuffed with Parmesan, Ricotta, spinach and nutmeg. The egg yolk is cooked to a golden yellow and the server hesitates to remove our dish until we’ve sopped up all the goodness with some bread. The raviolo was sprinkled with a generous sprinkling of truffles, but they play a secondary role here. I think I would’ve much preferred the linguine with Parmesan and truffles (available for $22 off the regular dinner menu); the simplicity of ingredients allows the truffles to play more of a leading role.
The final dish from the tasting menu is a Cumbrae Farms Rib Cap with roasted sweetbreads, cippolini & veal jus – a rich finish to an already indulgent meal. The sweetbreads were cooked perfectly; with the mouthfeel of a creamy, deep-friend oyster.
As my dining companions taps out, I race for the finish line and order the Lemon Meringue for dessert; a deconstructed dish of toasted coconut and ube ice cream. I pair this with Tawse’s Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine.
The kitchen ends things on a sweet note with Orange + Beet Bonbons and Maple Syrup +and Brown Butter Marshmallows. I can’t say I was a fan of the almost-too-earthy taste of the bonbons, but the marshmallows made me want to start a bonfire and wedge these pillowy soft treats between Graham crackers and sing campfire songs.
Service throughout the evening suffered from the “too many hands in the cookie jar” syndrome as several servers tended to us. Service is seamless at first as the front of house staff weave in and out invisibly to clear our table after every course but then careless at times; two sides never arrive at our table and coffee arrives only after a gentle reminder and when dessert has been all but cleaned off the plate. A very unusual experience for me as service is always impeccable.
The damage at the end of the day was about $250 all-in. At the $85 price point for dishes crafted by one of the city’s most talented chefs; it’s a small price to pay.