Fine dining to me is that ultimate experience where a meal shines from start to finish. Dishes that are “merely” good are few amongst the sublime and revelatory. Service, attentive without being obtrusive, becomes a ballet and sees dishes that elegantly float to the table with precision and coordination. Knowledgeable and encouraging staff guide and enhance the meal throughout the evening, ensuring that your every desire is met – then exceeded.
It was at The French Laundry in Napa that I first experienced this eye-opening level of dining, of which only traces had been evident in my feasting here about town. With the news that Splendido was to reinvent itself, it was now or never to finally experience what so many of my foodie friends have declared to be best in Toronto, and, as I found out, deservedly so. But come July, this last bastion of fine dining in Toronto will shed its formal manner and reincarnate with a new concept.
I suppose it all started with Avalon closing its doors and Cava as its successor. Then Thuet to Bite Me and Susur reopening as Madeline’s. And now Splendido. All have closed their doors or renewed themselves and downscaled amidst the algae-like bloom of tapas and shared-plates restos. Some might argue that restaurants like Canoe are still around, but having dined there recently, I found it lacking the polish of both food and service inherent to true fine dining.
Perhaps it was inevitable, given that everyone is looking at more cost-effective and condensed ways of spending their evenings. With that mentality, a long, drawn-out meal at $200 a head just doesn’t fit in to plans. While the changes in the Toronto dining scene have been exciting – with more innovative and agile chefs coming to the forefront – I do mourn the decline of the prolonged multi-course tasting menu, in this, the twilight of Toronto’s fine dining.