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very disappointing meal at Czehoski (long-ish)

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The roommate and I had been saving Czehoski on our list of "when you've had three bad meals in a row, this is a sure hit to try" but when we were there on Saturday, Nov. 4th everything about the whole experience was pretty bad. The only thing that prevented it from being an unmitigated disaster was the fact that my roommate's mother paid, and the whole experience was rather fun to dissect after.

We called a few days before and it sounded like they were doing us a favour only *just* squeezing us in at 6:30pm, when really we showed up and there was not a single other soul in the dining area. My roommate is allergic to tomatoes (not deathly, just avoids eating them) and there was nothing on the appetizer menu--even the special--that she could eat. We asked about this. Nothing. So, as not to exclude her, we didn't order appetizers. Roommate's mother attempts to order wine, which they are out of---except they *just* started service and have not a) reprinted the menu, or b) restocked the item, or c) even discussed a suitable alternative worth suggesting.

We wait a long, long time for food considering we are the only ones there (for at least the first 25 minutes) and we look super tired. Bread arrives with tomato chutney. Even knowing the aforementioned allergy, waiter does not bring us a butter or oil alternative. Our food eventually comes, but not before we've watched wait staff eat and drink at the service station, as well as various cooks and bus boys traipse back and forth (at least a dozen times) from the from the kitchen area to storage in the rear. With produce, dishes, pots, etc. Again, by this point, 7:15pm and service is SUPPOSED to be underway.

Roommate orders the brie pierogies, which are pretty good but over a soggy bed of sauerkraut and with cilantro (why?) sour cream. I order lamb schnitzel, which is a disaster. I took the food apart before I started and I had about 1/3 of a cut over cooked, greasy lamb tendrils strewn across the plate. My mushroom ragu had 17 canelli beans (they were so spread out you COULD count them) and two mushrooms. Mustard sauce
was obscenely oversalted, which I mentioned at the end but the waiter did nothing about.

The only complaint that was remedied was the roomie's mother’s meal. The woman almost never complains, but was obviously unhappy with her fluke fish special considering that it a)still had all of its bones for $28, b)was mostly skin and no filet, and c) her risotto was crunchy. Waiter had the gall to say that risotto is supposed to be “al dente,” which it is except we all tried hers and it was not even remotely that cooked. Worst was that fish was sitting in an unstrained soup of poaching liquid with soggy veg.

After making a big deal about how the chef himself had no idea how the supplier brought them bone-in fish (so what you're saying is you didn't even look at it?) waiter removed the fish dish off our bill and comped us a dessert. It was supposed to be calvados crème brulée, except the thing had obviously been pre-bruléed and then chilled because by the time we got it, the dish had been nuked so as to make it half warm and mostly cold, with a lid you could not break through because the sugar had gone through so many variations of temperature.

The meal was, on the whole, really disappointing. We came home and ate a second dinner because we were all still hungry--my food, when mushed together, was about 3/4 of a cup worth over a large, flat plate. On the way out I noticed the Zagat 2007 rating (which we never pay attention to anyway, but still) waxing poetic about the design aesthetic and only one line about the food. Same thing with Toronto Life, who has upgraded Czehoski to three stars this year.

I came home and checked and could not find a lot of recent mention of Czehoski. Sounds like they had great reviews immediately after "Opening Soon," but I can't really find anything recent. We were going to call and leave voicemail messages for management, but based on complaints at the restaurant, they really seemed to feel like they were the be-all and end-all...apathy won out.

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  1. I'm sorry to hear you had a disappointing experience. I've only ever been there for drinks myself.

    1. Actually, right from when they first opened, to today - their service, food and reviews have ranged from insipid to stellar. I would have to rate Czehoski as THE most inconsistent high end resto in Toronto.

      I no longer choose Czehoski for a night out as I have given up on the gamble. However, occasionally it is not my choice and I am dragged along. The unique menu and the vibe can at times be surprisingly great, but just as easily the meats can be ill-seasoned with poorly matched accompaniments. My feeling is that there is way too much experimenting at the expense of the clients', and so often the servers just don't give a @*#).

      1. I don't want to suggest that don't have many reasons to be disappointed about the dining experience, but your questioning of the addition of cilantro to the sour cream sauce is not one. My Russian grandmother frequently served a sour cream sauce with cilantro. It's actually quite traditional.

        1 Reply
        1. re: knuckles

          Interesting. Half of my family is Ukrainian, making excellent homemade traditional food, and I have never ever had *cilantro* in smetana. Other garden herbs yes, but cilantro?

        2. About all I can add is that indeed this place must be patchy as I have had several superb meals there - the most recent last month. And I also have a tomato 'aversion' which has always been catered to.
          But ditto on the service which has indeed been patchy and sometimes extremely slow.

          1. I went for their Summerlicious menu which was very good. However, have gone back since for a regular dinner, and was very disappointed as well. I ordered the steak, which was i believe $34, and all i got were 4 small pieces, and they were cold. Very over priced. I don't think ill be going back for dinner. Drinks on the other hand are a good bet, as the atmosphere is nice.

            1. I took some friends here for a sunday brunch, who were visiting from montreal. It was awful. From the non-existent server who took our drink orders and returned 20 minutes later with coffee for half the people to the excrutiating wait for our food which arrived sad looking and cold, in dribs and drabs, it was a debacle. We were charged for food (croissant) that never arrived and then it took another 15 minutes to get a new bill. I've got to say, the staff were very friendly and nice, but the food and the experience, especially with out of town guests was disappointing. I'm going to hit the Swan next time for sure...consistent and good.

              1. I was just there for lunch yesterday (first time) with my wife and will not be returning. We had the burger - not bad actually and the avocado sandwich which came with almost no avocado(horribly boring - juice for life does a much better job). The salads were mediocre. We told the waitress that we were is a big rush and she was very pleasant and said no problem (the kitchen had no other orders pending) - after waiting over half an hour, the apologetic waitress said that she didn't know what the problem in the kitchen was but she was sorry. Summary, meidocre food, upper scale price, disorganized kitchen, friendly but somewhat out to lunch wait staff.

                1. that's really all a shame, it seems i've had good luck there when enjoying a few meals.

                  my service, while not stellar, was generally attentive and i had no issues with getting questions answered. their food has always been tasty but they obviously are more into experimentation than other restaurants at the moment, the more adventurous dishes always came out better.

                  i hope i don't run into a bad experience yet!