I have to be honest – Splendido was my first choice of restaurants to celebrate my birthday last month with my family. Having still never been, I didn’t want my first visit to take place during Winterlicious and risk taking anything away from the experience (limited menu, busy dining room and less attentive staff being my primary concerns). After much contemplation (because, you know.. these are big decisions), I decided on Cava.
I’m all about unique dining experiences, and Spanish food is pretty new to me. I was intrigued by the hype (Cava has been listed as one of the top 10 restaurants in Toronto for the past two years), the small sharing plates (read: I get to try more dishes and flavours!), and eclectic and ambitious sounding menu. We arrived at the restaurant, nestled behind Yonge Street just north of St. Clair and were ready to eat!
To satisfy our ravenous tummies, we promptly ordered the chipotle-caramel popcorn ($3.50) while we perused the wine list. After a mediocre attempt to whittle down the menu to a list of dishes to satisfy all of our tastes, we did the most democratic thing a family could do: let Chef Chris McDonald choose. Be prepared to salivate. We shared 15 dishes, all great, and a few choice dishes that were just marvelous.
We started off with grilled sardines “avalon”, served on a crostini with a pickled bean, roasted cherry tomatoes and anchovy-wrapped olive ($12.50). I was skeptical, but the sardine wasn’t fishy at all and really flavorful. The gamay-poached fois gras with pear compote ($8.95) is never something I would order, but I put morality to the side and dutifully enjoyed every luxurious bite. Judging by the moans, I know I wasn’t alone. Next was the roasted beet salad with kale, currants and monforte toscano cheese ($9.75).
Octopus tiradito with caponata ($15.50), grilled squid and fingerling potatoes, green onions and romesco ($13.75), and our favorite of this trio: (perfectly) roasted sablefish with black rice and braised escarole ($29.00).
Salt cod cake with piperade and chipotle crema ($12.75), seared sea scallops with smoked parsnip puree and french lentils ($23.00), and the beautifully presented duck magret with trinxat and violet mustard sauce ($18.00).
(From left to right) Roast brussel sprouts with black garlic ($8.95(, venison anticucho with a warm red cabbage salad ($12.50), three minute flatiron steak with white puree and chimichurri ($22.00), swiss chard gratin with manchego and a poached egg ($9.50), veal sweetbreads with radicchio-poblano chile salad and walnut vinaigrette ($23.00), and finally, my absolute favorite of the night: eggplant with queso fresco, honey and tomatillo sauce sprinkled with bonito flakes (9.75).
At the beginning of the meal I was most excited for dessert, but given that we tried almost the entire menu, there was hardly an ounce of space left in any of us to indulge. Keeping in mind that Cava’s sister dessert shop Xococava easily makes the best chocolate I have EVER had, we made room for the Valrhona chocolate souffle with spanish coffee sauce ($12.00) and a selection of decadent, handmade truffles.
The moral of this post may be a warning that if you let me choose where you’ll be taking me for dinner, then I may choose big. The good news is that if I choose right then lucky you, you’ll be in for an unforgettable meal – just ask my fam!
1560 Yonge Street, (416) 979-9918