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Amuse Bouche - OK food but REALLY LOUSY Service!

Well, fellow chowhounds, you can add Amuse Bouche to our ever growing list of Toronto restaurants with lousy service!

First, about the food. Our party had the tasting menu with wine pairing. None of the dishes were memorable, tastewise. The foie gras dish was actually WEIRD, since the foie was paired with a marshmallow! The lobster consomme was so-so, nothing like the intensely flavourful version served at Truffles. The three sea scallops in the seafood course were pityfully small. The duck entree was OK, but nothing to shout about.

Now, for the service. What a joke!! After being seated, we were 'ignored' for 25 minutes. None of the servers who walked past us greeted or acknowledge our present. At the end, my daughter has to wave down a server! I thought this type of tactics were only used in busy Chinese restaurants?! The sommelier was rude and in a rush, mumbling thru the wine description/introduction. Since none of us heard what he was saying, we asked him to repeat but he just turned and waved us off saying he will return but never did. Then, there is our buss boy ( actually a man )!! Never have I experienced such display of rudeness in my 30+ years of eating out in fine restaurants. Every time there was a change of cutlery, he simply 'THREW' them down onto our table. Result, criss-crossing of knives and forks across the table surface!! And this is a restaurant with a Toronto Life 3.5 stars rating!!! Again! What a joke!!!

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  1. Same...same same. I'm a new hounder but i must agree with you here. Toronto life's star system is way out of whack. my service was indeed better then what you described but not by much....i found it to be very uppity and a little uncomfortable. apps and mains...very mediocre desserts were excellent however.....i think someone at toronto life has a huge crush on this restaurant. it must help to be known, too bad for us peons .

    12 Replies
    1. re: marktheshark

      FYI - Except for James Chatto, the Toronto Life reviewers are anonymous.TL uses a stable of freelancers for the restaurant reviews, and the approach emphasises anonymity, to the point that if a customer tells a restaurateur that they are there to do a review for Toronto Life, you know that they are are not. Whatever the failing of TL's review of Amuse Bouche, it is not rooted in the reviewer getting special treatment because they were recognised as a reviewer.

      1. re: hungry_pangolin

        Whatever the failing of TL's review of Amuse Bouche, it is not rooted in the reviewer getting special treatment because they were recognised as a reviewer.

        I know for a fact that you are mistaken in this case.

        1. re: hungry_pangolin

          Hungry Pangolin I can attest to the fact that you are very wrong about this. I have had close personal contact with TL restaurant reviewers and they are rarely, if ever anonymous. And I have to agree and support chowgirls that this specific case I KNOW it not to be true. Just a heads up.

          1. re: Ender

            If it was not James Chatto (who can no longer go unrecognised) they should be fired, because they are violating the editorial guidelines. I know; I wrote for TL.

            1. re: hungry_pangolin

              Nobody said it wasn't James, HP. With sincerest all due respect, read between the almost non-existent lines ;-)

              1. re: chowgirls

                Well, if anyone had said as much....

                I get a bit cranky when TL gets slagged because many people on the boards accuse us of being on the take, and it's patently untrue. At least when I wrote for them (a few years, now, but I have no reason to believe that anything has changed, in that regard), there was a strict code, and everyone abided by it. I don't know how many times I've had to say here that I never received special treatment, that they didn't know that I was coming to visit, that there was no connection between my reviews and advertisement revenue, etc., etc. Sorry if I seem defensive, but I think that you can appreciate my sensitivity to being (by implication) accused of corruption and fraud. As for JC, I still respect his judgement, but the fact that he is recognisable does raise issues, though not insurmountable ones.

                1. re: hungry_pangolin

                  I am aware of several people who review, or have reviewed, for Toronto Life who, I am confident, do so anonymously and ethically.

                  Unfortunately, since TL doesn't specify who reviewed a place, or on how many meals a review is based, the reviews are almost meaningless. (Since different reviewers have different tastes, why not do what some other city mags do, and give us fake initials so we can align reviewer opinions with our own tastes?)

                  I enjoy Chatto's writing, but I know enough about the business to place no value whatsoever on his reviews. Chatto can scream from the rooftops that he doesn't get special treatment. But that's BS, and we all know it. I will allow one small bit of leeway: if Chatto does get bad service and/or poor food, the place is probably hopeless.

                  You don't need to be a reviewer to get special treatment. Go to a place like Harbour Sixty as an ordinary schlub and see if you get the same service as the sports star or politico at another table. If everything can change instantly for them, Chatto's claims are crap. And read Ruth Reichl's article on Le Cirque, which is priceless.

                  As to the relationship between reviews and ad revenue, I must tread carefully. I know absolutely nothing about Toronto Life's current policies in this regard, and I make no accusations. My knowledge of some past times, under different managements, is both personal and specific. And it is not nice.

                  One of our east end neighbourhood rags advertises that a specific ad buy for your resto gets you a "free review". I applaud their upfront honesty. I'm not suggesting that TL has ever had this policy, but they had some interesting, even clever, ways of connecting reviews and revenue in decades past.

                  1. re: embee

                    Embee raises some legitimate issues. Thing is, a bad kitchen doesn't magically transform into a good one upon the recognition of a reviewer in the dining room. A dollar short, an hour late. The service might adapt, but the kitchen cannot.

                    BTW, embee, you paragraph on H60 shoulde be required reading for deelicious.

                    To acquit myself... I recommended restos to be reviewed, but would not do it, because I knew someone involved; and passed on others assigned me where I knew someone.

                    As TL, advert vs review: I slammed a resto that advertised. Advert continued, and previous review disappeared.

                    1. re: hungry_pangolin

                      Did your slam actually replace the earlier review? It should have. If they simply dropped the resto from their listing, they didn't commit a crime. But doing this would have been a real disservice to their readers and would have been ethically wrong.

                      When you say "a bad kitchen doesn't magically transform into a good one upon the recognition of a reviewer in the dining room", I can't argue. But kitchens often don't produce for reasons other than being bad.

                      Kitchens that CAN produce wonderful food, but only bother to do it for favoured customers, reviewers, and celebs, are more the norm than the exception in Toronto. Susur is a great example of this practice. These kitchens can, and do, transform magically when motivated to be great.

                      I wish I could remember the name of the well known Vancouver restaurateur who admitted recently that unknown customers don't get the same food and service as the favoured few. He wasn't even embarrassed about it. I'm guessing you have read Ruth Reichl's Le Cirque article, but please do so if you haven't.

                      1. re: embee

                        The Reichl article... it is amusant.

                        I dunno if this link will work, but if not, it ran October 29, 1993, and it's a relatively easy search at nytimes.com


                        1. re: embee

                          Ooohh... embee waves the red flag of Susur in front of me! I don't like Susur (the resto) so, we're on the same page, there.

                          As to TL's editorial policy regarding good/bad reviews: this is how it was (I think still is): they do not publish bad reviews because of space constraints. They will recommend, but not "waste" space on bad restaurants, even if previously recommended - the restaurant is simply dropped from the rotational listing. Is this good or bad? Frankly, as policy, I think that this is bad, but I can understand why they do this. I think that they should at least say something to the effect that "We no longer recommend X" and leave it at that. But, then, I wasn't editor.

                          I do disagree about your statement that it's "the norm" that Toronto kitchens put out there best product only for reviewers/celebs/mums. (OK, Mums was my addition.) Some restaurants - yes, perhaps - but I'd say that they are the ones that have celeb staff and celeb clientele, which is probably a poisonous combination. I would say that the really good, relatively uncelebrated places (jeez... potential thread there, eh?) escape that flaw. I've known a few chefs here in TO, and while they undeniably get a heart flutter when a particular person walks in, the guys and gals I've known have been proud professionals, not selectively obsequious sycophants.

                    2. re: hungry_pangolin

                      hi hungry pangolin, i've got some questions related to TL and restaraunt reviews that i'm hoping you may be able to help me with. would you drop me a line at etoile553@gmail.com? thanks!

          2. Certainly not what you would expect in a so-called fine restaurant.

            96 Tecumseth St, Toronto, ON M6J2H1, CA

            1. ..I'm glad to say i had the opposite of your experience about a year ago...sorry to hear about it, that sounds truly awful!

              1. haha, yeah, I have to wave down hard a waitress when I was having dim sum at Junlin last Sunday to get the bill which is $52.5 for a table of 5. Luckily we were not ignored after we were seated. So this is even worst !

                1. Thanks for the warning. Amuse Bouche was next on my list of places to try... might take a pass on it based on these experiences. Doesn't sound like they'll miss the business anyway.

                  1. I've been to AB twice - first, last February (when we tried the tasting menu) and then in November (when we ordered off the menu). Our meal in February was absolutely divine and the service (as I recall) was good too. In November, we were a bit (but not a lot)disappointed. The food was very good, but not as outstanding as we remembered; I'm still not sure whether this is attributable to our expectations being too high, to them having an off night, or to the calibre of the food having generally gone downhill. I had no complaints about the service (though we did have to wait 10-15 minutes at the bar, despite having made a reservation - not a big deal).

                    Overally, I would still highly recommend AB as a restaurant with tonnes of atmosphere (quite cosy and romantic) an terrific food.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: torontofoodiegirl

                      I was at Amuse Bouche this past summer for the tasting menu. Food was enjoyable, but not overly memorable. I only remember one thing: the server had asked if I had any preferences for the tasting. I had asked to not have sweetbreads. What should happen? The 2nd course comes out and it is a braised sweetbread!

                    2. I was at Amuse Bouche a few weeks ago and would have to agree that the service was sub par. Our server was disinterested. Another server mumbled through the dessert tasting.

                      As for the food, it was decent. Not sure what half the items were but I enjoyed the dessert tasting. I also recommend the rabbit trio, in particular the rabbit poutine. That made the dish.

                      Enjoyed the cozy atmosphere but undecided about returning.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: csmk

                        Our service was awful. In fact our server dumped a drink on to my lap and hardly apologized. There were more food runners on the floor then a place twice the size would need.

                        We emailed the next day about the bad service and the response was delayed and unsatisfying.

                        Food was decent- but the staff was uninformed. We won't be rushing back.

                      2. My husband and I have eaten at restaurants all over the world--Italy, Australia, Spain, Portugal--among others. I consider myself something of a foodie and in the city really enjoy Le Paradis for good, bistro French cuisine and Auberge de Pommier for more high-end French fare. I expected that Amuse Bouche would land somewhere in between these two rather good French restaurants. Not so.

                        We ordered the 5-plate tasting menu, not realizing that all we'd received for our $220 bill was a literal taste of food. I could have fit every course all together, and very comfortably, on a single plate. We have very average appetites, but tonight, we left this over-priced, pretentiously presented meal...hungry. Absolutely appalling.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: gidge71

                          Welcome to Chowhound!

                          What did you mean by "literal taste of food"? The food tastes like food?

                          1. re: Dimbulb

                            I think she probably means that there was so little food that all they got was" a taste". It's very difficult to emphasize particular words the way you would in a conversation which leaves things open to interpretation.

                        2. OMG - I can't agree with you more (about the lousy service that is - I don't want to get into the objectivity of food reviews here).

                          For my birthday several years ago, my husband (who never really cared for "fine" dining in the first place) actually made an effort to check on TL for their top new restaurants and made reservations at Amuse. I was surprised and impressed by this heroic act to say the least, and insisted we go early. We arrived at 5:45pm for our 6 o'clock reservation (don't ask my why he booked for 6pm, I was so touched by the effort I didn't care). It was pouring rain outside, so we thought we would wait in the restaurant with a glass of wine or something. A server asked us to leave because the restaurant wasn't opened until 6. She told us there was a Starbucks on King, about 5 minutes walk. I complained that it was raining outside and we just wanted wait inside; we didn't even need to be seated at a table). She said no (something about insurance). Honestly, I was abhorred at her suggestion and her overall "I don't give a shXt attitude".

                          So we left and went to Lee instead. We've never gone back to Amuse since. And my husband has not made another reservation based on TL since.