In celebration of truffle season, Toronto's highly acclaimed Splendido restaurant is currently offering a five course tasting menu in honour of the luxurious fungi.
For the month of December, chef Victor Barry and his team celebrate the harvest of tuber uncinatum, a species of truffle found in Burgundy, harvested from September to late December. Truffles are of course known for their woody, earthy, forest floor characteristics. Black truffles tend to have pronounced nutty characteristics, enrichening almost anything they come in contact with. This is cleverly demonstrated at Splendido with the seasonal multi course tasting menu ($115pp).
From the restaurant's cocktail menu, I had the opportunity to taste two drinks before diving into the tasting menu. The Autumn Equinox – a nutty and rich mix of Rye, Cynar Liquer, Madeira and Benedictine. It had more depth and flavour compared to the cleaner and sharper Smoke & Mirrors – a cocktail of Lagavulin 16, Amaro, Mezcal and Benedictine.
Splendido's extensive wine list continues to be one of its strengths, featuring nearly 20 wines by the glass and a wealth of old and new world hits curated carefully by Matthew Roulston and Carlo Cattollo. In keeping with the restaurant's tradition of highlighting local whenever possible, a flight of four Ontario wines is available ($33), taking you through some of Beamsville's best-performing grape varietals. Wine pairings are also available for every course on the black truffle menu for $55 pp.
The seasonal truffle menu explores the versatility of the fungi by presenting it a number of different ways. First, in a salad as part of a field of earthy elements: three variations of Jerusalem artichoke (pickled, sliced and fried as chips, and pan roasted quarters) surrounded by chanterelle mushrooms and topped with truffle oil snow. With rich truffle aromas hovering above the plate, and a variety of textures, this was easily one of the highlights of the tasting menu, taking a basic salad of chips and pickles to new heights. The plate was paired almost flawlessy with a glass of 2010 Chenin Blanc from Champalou Vouvray in Loire, France.
Secondly, roasted Qualicum Bay Scallop's meatiness is lifted with its sweet caramalized head, and slivers of truffle braised endive and celeriac puree. The sweetness on the plate is then contrasted by the grassy and citrus notes in a Loire Sauvignon Blanc from the 2009 vintage (Henry Pelle, Sancerre).
For one of the main course, Niagara native chef Victor Barry sourced eggs from a Beamsville winery, Hidden Bench. The topless egg, with strikingly yellow yolk, arrives on a plate along with a few slices of culatello and a small dollop of truffle butter. Guests are then encouraged to use the cast iron pan to cook their dish, by adding the aromatic butter to the hot pan, followed by the egg and culatello. The pan is then topped with a mirepoix of chicken thigh, onions, croutons and mushrooms, cooked down with red wine. The pan is then topped off with fresh slices of truffle. It may seem like the kitchen is letting you do all the work for this dish but really, this is a fun sensory excercise as your nose is distracted with scents of truffle, meat and egg as you create the most luxurious breakfast dish. Paired wonderfully with a silky and earthy 2009 Pinot Noir from Oregon.
The kitchen takes care of the other mains on the menu. Like the soft, pillowy ricotta agnolotti that is accented by thinly shaved truffles and contrasted by a glass of 2009 Robyn's Block Chardonnay from Tawse Winery in Beamsville. The mineral and acid from the wine cut through the soft and dense flavours of the dish. This was the most striking pairing of the evening, with the abundant minerality and fruit of the Chardonnay accenting each bite. Next, the surf and turf ensemble with big eye tuna, braised trotter and glazed sweetbreads, pureed parsnip and brussel sprouts. Each piece on the plate absorbing the flavours of truffles to varying degrees from sweet to salty, connected together by the parsnip puree and roasted brussel sprouts.
A supplement of whipped chateau de bourgogne and duck-fat brioche preceeds dessert, presented with compressed apple and thin slices of truffles. Dessert is a sandbox of truffled chocolate cake sitting on a bed of hazelnut powder, crisp meringue, truffle ice cream, and balsamico. It's a medley of textures and flavours that change with each bite. Desssert was paired with the 20 year old Tawny Port from Taylor Fladgate, with accents of dried fruit notes.
Splendido's Black Truffle celebration is on until the end of December.
88 Harbord Street
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Written by Suresh Doss
Suresh Doss is the publisher of SpotlightToronto.com and Rickshawmag.com. Founder of the Food Truck Eats festival, Suresh has been a pioneer for the Street food movement in Toronto. In 2011, He was awarded the VQA Promoter’s Award for outstanding achievement in the Media category in the promotion of Ontario VQA Wines. Suresh is also the Global Editor for Whitecap’s StreetEats series of travel guides, which focuses on the best street food across North America.