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Tati Bistro - Review

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I had a terrible experience there last Saturday night. Here’s a look at what the evening was like:

Went arrived as a party of 4, although we reserved as a party of 5, with a 7:00 p.m. reservation. We showed up timely, but without our 5th guest, who cancelled last-minute. While standing in the doorway, with half our party literally standing outside in the cold, we were promptly delivered a lecture by the hostess, who was clearly very annoyed with us, on how in the future it would be a “simple courtesy” to call them ahead of time in the event of any change to the reservation, since they’re “very busy”. We understood, but explained that we only learned of the cancellation minutes ago ourselves. A little annoyed, and still in the cold, we were subsequently delivered another lecture by our gracious hostess, this time reminding us that there they offer two sittings, and our table was “spoken for” at 9:00 p.m., so eat fast.

After this warm welcome, we were finally invited in out of the cold, but left to stand idiotically in the centre of a busy restaurant holding our coats until our hostess finally decided we could stay and offered to take them off our hands. While I have it in mind, I should mention that at the end of our night we were asked to traverse the stairs and retrieve our own coats, since the staff had no recollection of which coats were ours (note to restaurateurs: the “memory system” is perhaps not the most excellent system for a coat check) At long last we were seated at our 4-person table, where the 5th chair (which was squished awkwardly into one side) was removed with much drama.

Recent Riverdale transplants, we really wanted to love Tati since we live down the street and long for a French bistro to replace our beloved Batifole. So we agreed to wipe the slate clean and start fresh with a clean plate, so to speak. The place was hopping. It’s a lovely room with a great bistro feel. Our waitress made her initial appearance at our table at 7:15 p.m. Tick, tock. She dropped off and menus and disappeared into the crowd. We didn’t see her again until 7:30 p.m. Tick, tock. We ordered a bottle of wine and some water. Our first pick on the short wine list was not available. Not a problem. We picked again with success. The wine came, was promptly poured all over the table, then wiped up unapologetically. I prefer my $120 wine in my glass, thank you. Mercifully we were left to pour the wine ourselves the rest of the night. 7:45 p.m. Tick, tock. Our waitress reappeared and we ordered our starters and mains, along with some frites for the table to munch on.

Starters came at 8:15 p.m. Tick, tock. We were getting concerned that we were going to run out of time. Surely this wouldn’t be an issue, after all, we were not responsible for the service which was slower than evolution, were we? As you know, good food can counteract bad service and elevate a dining experience, and vice-versa. Beef carpaccio was bland and tasteless. Calamari was a also bland and tasteless with the consistency of wet toilet paper. Perhaps by “grilled” they meant “boiled”. The French onion soup was decent, but so is the frozen Costco version. Mussels were excellent. Where were those frites? Ah, here they come, and pretty good too. 8:25 p.m. Tick, tock.

We awaited our mains, as well as the various pieces of cutlery that were removed and never returned. 8:40 p.m. our mains arrive. The cutlery does not. We renew our requests for cutlery. “It’s coming, we’re short-staffed”. Replied our annoyed waitress. No kidding. The hostess' lecture hung in our heads. Better eat fast!

The forks and knives arrive after 10 minutes and without apology, and so our guests can proceed to eat their steak. Still no sign of the requested mayo, water, salt and pepper. We give up. Steak cooked to order and very good. Cod with roasted garlic sauce on truffled mashed potatoes: 10 out of 10. Duck confit was soft, bland and utterly disappointing. Accompanying vegetables were nice, and although raw garlic has some proven health benefits as an antioxidant, the heaps of it laced atop the sweet potatoes made the accompaniment too sulphuric and bitter. Ugh, where’s that water? Wait, here comes the mayo!

It’s 9:00 p.m. (tick, tock) by the time the plates are cleared and we are offered coffee and desert. we order 2 desserts to share. They show up at 9:15. Tick, tock. Lemon tart was fantastic, with the perfect ratio of sweet and sour. Frozen chocolate mousse was also a winner. I’m not a huge dessert fan, so I usually prefer to share them – I just prefer to have my own fork, which seems like an impossible luxury at Tati Bistro. By this point, staff has really started to apply the pressure. The party of 12 that was set to swallow up our table at 9:00 p.m. swarmed in and were now seated at the 8-person table next to us. A particularly obnoxious guest in the party of 12 leered at us constantly (and eventually confronted us), adding to the discomfort. Finally, at 9:20 p.m., we were refused additional coffee by our now hostile waitress and asked to leave (“You were told about that when you got here, were you not?”) – of course not before paying the $400 bill. A brief discussion with the owner resulted in an offer to move to another table and finish our coffee. Desserts were knocked off the bill (or forgotten). Too little, too late.

After fetching our own coats we left. Outside we stared longingly into 93 Harbord wishing we could turn back the hands of time on this dreadful evening.

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  1. Clarice, that sounds like a pretty terrible night. I'm so sorry you had this experience... I had high hopes for this place. Thanks for your fair and thorough review.

    1 Reply
    1. re: CuriousCat

      WHY OH WHY in a city with that many restaurants is that place so busy and still in business?????????????????? Are we all sheep? Good grief.

    2. Yikes, sounds like a really unfortunate evening.

      I went to Tati mid-week recently, and the service was much better -- not perfect, but nothing to really complain about.

      I loved the space and atmosphere. I do worry though about the long term effects of storing the wine on multiple shelves in part of the dining room, but our wine (Malivoire gamay) was great.

      It's funny that you mention the duck confit being soft and bland. The texture of mine was quite nice, but it was too salty. Also didn't have the same concerns with the garlic on the side vegetables.

      We too ordered the lemon tart, after hearing rave reviews. It's not quite as lemon-y or tart as most renditions. The texture can almost be described as a delicious marriage between a creme brulée and a tarte au citron. It's actually finished with a very slight brulée. The pastry crust was severely lacking however: it was dense and very chewy. Hopefully that was just an anomaly.

      1. There are at least five other great options within walking distance where you would happily leave your $100pp.

        Please do not tell me you left a tip. This is likely worthy of a separate posting, but it drives me absolutely insane that people reward rude/inhospitable service.

        2 Replies
        1. re: neighborguy

          That's really unfortunate.
          If I received a lecture like that in the beginning .. I would just turnaround and walk away. But, not before complaining to management.

          1. re: neighborguy

            I’m not ashamed to reveal that, for the first time in the history of our dining out, we left zero gratuity. To be honest with you, it wasn’t even really up for consideration. The service was so tragic from beginning to end that we all felt quite strongly about sending a message – to the hostess, our server, the kitchen and management.

            We dine out on a regular basis, and as I mentioned above, we’ve never been a situation where no gratuity was given. In fact, I think we’re quite generous when it comes to tipping. For example, our group of four went to Marben on Friday night (BTW: excellent atmosphere, terrific food, great experience – highly recommend it) and left $90 on a $400 bill ($150 of it wine).

          2. Like Littlegreenpea, I'm surprised. My experiences, plural, at Tati have been without complaint.

            1. i love your review helloclarice....how unfortunate. i too had high hoped for this place. i have a general policy not to dine at restaurants that have 2 seatings. especially when i'm paying $100 a head. i make certain exceptions when the restaurant is subtle and somewhat flexible in their policies. given what i've read, tati won't be receiving business from me any time soon.

              1. I recently has a good meal, but with abrasive service by a female server. All 4 of us felt kind on on edge for half of the evening, not the way you want to be in a restaurant. I also felt that she was making things up as she went along, as far as answering questions about wine were concerned. My guess is that she hasn't done much waitressing before. Even though the food was good, It will be a little while before I go back. To answer the question of why this resto is busy, is that it is new and it recently got an excellent review by Joanne Kates of the Globe & Mail.

                1. Similar feelings about the service. Have been about a half-dozen times. The location (area) is nice and the menu looked promising. But the service, yikes! Almost as if the customers were an inconvenience.

                  1. We had a terrible dinner here. I usually never take the time to give a restaurant a bad review, but the service here was unacceptable. The waitstaff was so rude and it is true that they make the customers feel like they have done something wrong. I would not eat here again.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: lesley1

                      Helloclarice

                      And hello! I loved your review. You have a great writing style.

                      I am glad you did not tip. It would only have encouraged poor service if you had!

                      1. re: Flexitarian

                        We recently dined at Tati Bistro, and we were having a lovely evening -- terrific food -- until it got late. Then, it seemed, someone switched the music to disco, or something like disco -- and loud. We had to scream to have a conversation. We asked the staff to turn it down, but they told us: "That's how the owner likes it." The owner likes it that his customers have to scream to enjoy a conversation? What kind of bistro is that? And how does that go with the spirit of Jacques Tati? Why not just rename the restaurant Tati Disco? We won't be back unless and until we hear that the situation has changed. Too bad.

                        1. re: nudnik

                          Bumping this thread. Has anyone been lately? Please share your experience, I'm trying to determine whether Tati is worth my time and money.

                          1. re: Broken Record

                            I would avoid the risk altogether and hit the Harbord Room across the street.

                            1. re: Broken Record

                              I haven't been but my sister's been twice and LOVES it. She agrees, however, that the service can be spotty.

                              1. re: Broken Record

                                The food is delicious but the service is embarrassing. We waited almost 20 minutes after sitting down to order wine and once I called the waitress over, she acted as if I was disturbing her. It took another 15 for her to bring salt when requested. However, if you can get over very the sub par service, the food was impeccable - no complaints from anyone at my table. Hopefully the restaurant's service will improve in a few months, but I'd suggest any other spot on Harbord until then.

                                1. re: DeannaP

                                  I had dinner at Tati back in early April. It was on a weeknight, I think a Wed. Made reservations beforehand using Open Table. Restaurant was dead when we arrived around 6:00pm. They had a prix fixe dinner at the time so we had that. Food and service was decent. Was considering going back but after hearing about the issues in this post, I'll probably avoid.

                                  1. re: LovesToEat

                                    Well, I don't know what has changed since/following some of the poor reviews I've seen, but my wife and I visited Tati last night on the strong recommendation of a friend who was there on the weekend, and we had one of the best meals we've ever had - certainly the best in Toronto.

                                    We were in the door at 6pm, had drinks, two appetizers, and two mains, and were out the door by 7:05pm, so the service was certainly speedy. It was also not overly busy (1/4-1/3 full maybe), which made for a nice atmosphere.

                                    In terms of food:
                                    1. Beef carpaccio ($14)- a delicious cut of meat, thinly sliced, and seasoned nicely
                                    2. Foie Gras -($12 - 4oz): absolutely divine; seared nicely and absolutely melted in our mouths

                                    3. Duck Confit ($21) - piping hot and tender on the inside, and the skin crisped to perfection

                                    4. Black Cod ($28): cooked perfectly; a very nice piece of fish (which I find most restaurants have no conception of how to cook well).

                                    Very reasonably priced for very fine bistro food. We'd go back in a heartbeat.

                                    1. re: jeffinpickering

                                      Thanks for the encouraging review.

                        2. I have no problem waiting for the food, especially if it is worth the wait. I found the food at Tati to be not bad at all, in fact bordering on pretty good. Over priced but good. The service on the other hand, barely passable.