Archive for March, 2009

Splendido changes hands – kind of

20 Mar

All things must pass. I heard today that Yannick Bigourdan and David Lee are stepping away from Splendido after eight years as owners. They are selling the restaurant to Carlo Catallo, who was the restaurant’s sommelier for many years and is now its manager, and Victor Barry, longtime sous in David Lee’s kitchen and now chef de cuisine since the departure in December of Brian Semenuk.

“It was obviously an extremely amicable deal – a family deal almost,” says Bigourdan. “It will be hard to leave Splendido, of course, but we’re leaving it in very good hands. Carlo has been with us since the beginning. Victor is still young – barely 27 years old – but he’s going to be one of Toronto’s best chefs.”

One reason behind Bigourdan’s and Lee’s decision is the great success both of Nota Bene and of their relationship with Franco Prevedello, their partner in that venture. I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to hear they are undertaking another project together soon.

And it will be interesting to see what Catallo and Barry do with Splendido. Will they sustain the current levels of refinement or take it down a notch? The present dynamic of the industry in Toronto seems to be slightly towards simplification and away from formal fine dining. But that might change if one or more of the rumoured big-shot arrivals turns out to be true in the next year or two – Jean-Georges Vongerichten coming to the Shangri-La or Wolfgang Puck to the new Four Seasons or a branch somewhere of Daniel Boulud’s DB Bistro. And I suppose the Ritz Carlton will need a restaurant…


Showing initiative

06 Mar

The restaurant industry has always given unstintingly of its blood, treasure and, more importantly, time whenever a good cause has arisen. Way above and beyond the call of duty, I’d say. Here is just one more example – an initiative called Stop For Food. Until Saturday March 28, no fewer than 26 Toronto restaurants are offering a locally focused prix fixe menu for $50 per person, with $10 of that being donated directly to The Stop Community Food Centre. I think it’s a brilliant way to promote local cuisine, help The Stop in its invaluable work and also support the restaurants involved. Here is the list of 26:

Alice’s Restaurant, Amuse-Bouche Restaurant, Batifole, Blu, C5 restaurant, Citizen, Cowbell, Crush, Czehoski, Fat Cat, Frank, H20, Gamelle, The Gladstone, Grano, The Harbord Room, Kaiseki Sakura, Marben, Niagara Street Café, Perigee Restaurant, Rosebud, Torito, Trevor Kitchen, Universal Grill, Vertical, Victor.

Cut the list out. Glue it to your fridge. Keep another copy in your wallet and another in your car. Let it become your default gazette of Toronto dining options now and for all time. These are the good guys.

But what if wine is your dearest love – and I mean really good wine – wine you cannot actually afford. Hie thee to Lucien where co-patron Simon Bower has devised a brilliant way to put savvy bums on seats. For the next few months he has slashed the usual mark-up on some very primo bottles. Examples? Luighi Righetti Amarone 2005 for a mere $58. Château de Maligny Chablis 2007 for $59. Lane Tanner Pinot Noir 2007 for $79. Domaine Leflaive Puligny Montrachet Clavoillion 1er Cru Burgundy for $137. And more than a dozen others. Bower calls the idea Great Wines for our Times but of course these wines are perennially great and these prices are extraordinary. Why, it’s almost as if you had a fabulous wine cellar of your own.