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Nov 14, 2008 06:11 AM

Le Petit Castor - WTF?!?!?!

Okay, you guys know me - I'm not a ranter. But I'm sorry, I just have to write about what happened last night.

So Le Petit Castor has opened where Thai Magic used to be on Yonge Street, next to Patachou. Renovation looks quite lovely - cozy banquettes, nice paint job outside, revamped entrance, etc. I believe they're going for the "gastropub" vibe, though it looks more bistro. Either way, all good.

We walk in yesterday evening at 2 minutes past 6. There are a few people at the bar, the rest of the restaurant is empty. We've not taken 3 steps into the entranceway when young server-chick stops us in our tracks. "Uh, do you have a reservation?", she says. We don't. She says they have no tables before 9:30. Really? You just opened a week ago - that's amazing. Still smiling, we tell her that we're on a tight timeframe and we need to be out by 7:15 - we wonder if all tables are going to be seated by then - in other words, can we get in and out before all your reservations? Without batting an eye, she simply says "6:30" - as if to say, that's when the entire restaurant of reservations will arrive. Not quite ready to walk out the door, given our short window and our lingering desire to try this place, we ask if we can eat at the bar. She seems doubtful but trots off to ask the bartender. You remember that seen in Seinfeld when Jerry and Elaine are working on the car reservation and the woman goes to talk to the manager but they surmise she's having a fake conversation? It was just like that. Sure enough, 15 seconds later, we're told that this option isn't possible either. Nobody seemed friendly, nothing like "hope you can try us another time", nada. It was all quite curious.

So given our tight timeframe, we went into Lakes. Haven't been there in at least 10 years and you know what? It wasn't bad at all. Really good salads (romaine with lardons and aged parmesan, mixed greens with caramelized fig and parsnip chips, a very credible steak frites, so-so liver). Partway through the meal, it dawned on me that we would have the opportunity to walk by Le Petit Castor as we left to see if the restaurant was indeed full up. At 7:10, we walked past Le Petit Castor and you know what? There were twice as many people at the bar but NOT ONE SINGLE TABLE WAS FULL.


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  1. It appears as if their strategy is working then....keep the restaurant empty!

    1. Agree with Sadistick.

      ...So sad to hear when a restaurant owner/manager/whatever just doesn't understand the importance of customer service. And I'm not referring to bending over backward to accommodate an extremely finicky individual. What you described, peppermint_pate, is definitely unacceptable. Even if the food is somehow highly-rated, they won't get many return visits if your experience is the norm.

      I know this is only my opinion, but for me service is a big factor in determining the value of a restaurant.

      Let's hope one of the higher-ups at the restaurant is a Chow-reader...

      1 Reply
      1. re: homebaker

        It's a one of the great business axioms, "Never turn down business??"

        Seat PP and deal with a person being delayed at the table later. Should it ever arise.

        WTF is right


      2. Well that is really horrid. With that kind of service they are on a crash and burn. Funnily enough I am looking for a bistro type place, nice decor, good food and thought would go to LPC tomorrow night. Well guess what ...NOT. I am not unreasonable but that kind of service leaves me cold. It is too bad because the place looks great. Anyone got another suggestion...

        3 Replies
        1. re: Flycracker11

          I don't know how mobile you are, but if you can get out to Weezie's, it seems to fit your description quite well. I haven't been yet myself but am itching for the opportunity.

          It's well reviewed here:

          Good luck and let us know if you decide to try it!

          1. re: Flycracker11

            I guess it hasn't dawned upon the staff that the country is heading into a recession and every table will count. There are too many good restaurants in Toronto for diners to put up with that kind of crap.

            1. re: Flycracker11

              check out Quince on Yonge, s. of Eg by about two or three blcoks. Had a great lunch there the other day, just great!

            2. Now let me put another spin on it.. what if they had a bunch of reservation at 7:00 & 7:30.. sure they let you sit down and it is past 6 and you told them that you had to leave by 7:15 but what if you dont, you run late decide your having such a good time you will stay... then the other reservation show up.. the one at 7 roll in 7:20 the ones for 7:30 show up early they place is a nightmare staff can't take orders fast enough kitchen is backed up you cant get your bill. the people whose table you took are pissed.. welcome to a restaurant nightmare.. how many complaints have you read here that people made a reservation for 8:00 and they did not get seated til 8:45.. maybe they know their limits and were trying to keep the most people happy that they could...

              3 Replies
              1. re: OnDaGo

                That's valid, OnDaGo. You've made a good point and backed it up with a reasonable explanation.

                To be fair to peppermint_pate's experience, I'm sure it would have been nice if they had declined her request a little more cordially.

                1. re: OnDaGo

                  If your staff knows what they're doing they should have no problem graciously reminding the couple that they need to vacate the table. If the couple is having such a good time, I'm sure they won't mind moving to the bar for dessert and a nightcap. As far as tables arriving early for a reservation, all you have to do is ask them to wait at the bar until their table is ready.

                  If said restaurant knows their limits, they are obviously professional enough to handle a situation as simple as this. It doesn't require anything more than being up front with your guests and gracious when time's up.

                  1. re: OnDaGo

                    I hear what you're saying but I'm not buying it. Firstly, I was specifically told that their entire crowd was showing up at 6:30. Well, either 15 different tables were coincidentally running late or I wasn't being told the truth because I repeat, at 7:10, there wasn't one single table with people at it.

                    When it comes to this stuff, or just about anything for that matter, I'm as friendly and easygoing as they come. If they had kindly offered me an explanation like the one you suggest, I'd have no problem with it. In fact, we go out for an early dinner like this on average once a week. We typically don't make a reservation as one can usually get in and out at 5:45 or 6. In two cases - L'Unita and Mengrai Thai - they politely told us they were concerned that we or they'd be too rushed since they had tables coming in around 7:15. But in this case, we were literally stopped in our tracks as we walked in the entranceway. Not even a "come on in and see the place, sorry we're so busy, really hope you can try us another time".

                    This is a new restaurant in a neighbourhood that's hungry for a great spot. I was excited to try it. They've been open no more than a week or two. No reviews yet. If management is absent or puts staff like that at the front of house, it speaks volumes to the kind of place they're trying to run. They couldn't have been less welcoming.

                  2. Restaurants accept reservations for tables...not bar stools. So even if we accept the excuse that they were fully booked...and that they were expecting to be slammed and in the weeds within an not let this small group sit at the bar is just beyond the pale. Pretty safe to say the owner wasn't in the room as this is the type of lazy behavior that tends to materialize when supervision is absent.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: finelydiced

                      Read this, finelydiced, and see if you think he was absent.

                      I thought being judged by your appearance before being let in was strictly the domain of tourist district nightclubs. I will NEVER dine there despite having some pretty foxey GF's. I hope they aren't planning on being reviewed by any of this city's food critics. I suspect they wouldn't be let in the door.

                      1. re: Googs

                        Good to know, Googs.Hadn't realized McCann was behind this place. Thanks for posting the link. Won't be dining at this place, either.

                        Will any Chowhounds admit if they have eaten at Le Petit Castor?

                        1. re: Googs

                          That's a great link, thanks Googs. It does explain a lot of the attitude and is probably founded in their training!

                          I have passed by a few times and was curious, but not any more!