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Dec 11, 2008 05:47 AM

What's your most disappointing dining experience?

Hello Chowhounders!

Obviously we're all here because we love food. I enjoy nothing more than going to a restaurant, and getting much more than I expected. Beit service, food, or atmosphere.

At the same time, I hate it, when you spend a significant amount of money, and get poor service, food, or otherwise. Especially coming out thinking "I could've gotten better food for 1/5 the price at Jack Astors". Which is why I suppose we're all avoid the big box restaurants.

So..your most disappointing places (places we should avoid), and most surprising places (those gems)?

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  1. One of my most disappointing experiences was at Southern Accent. It was our four-year anniversary and we went during Summerlicious. They sat us in a boring room upstairs with a party of 25 people, including screaming babies. We asked to move because it was terrible. The food was mediocre at best, the service rushed, and the portions small. I also hated having to climb two flights of stairs to go to the bathroom.

    One of my most surprising experiences was at Harbord House. It used to be Rower's, so it appears as though it's a pub. However, all the food is delicious and creative and homemade. I love the Club sandwich with the cranberry mayo. The service is friendly and informative (who knew the beans were made with bacon? good think they told my vegetarian mother). I've gone back numerous times and it's always great.

    5 Replies
    1. re: canadianbeaver

      I also want to add that Elephant Thai Cafe at Queen West was horrific. I had the sushi and it was the worst sushi I have ever had...tasted like absolutely nothing. Sad because I hate Thai food and my bf was excited that he could eat Thai and I could have sushi. But nay.

      1. re: canadianbeaver

        I've never had good sushi at a Thai restaurant.

      2. re: canadianbeaver

        This place is a thorn in my side as my kids really like it. I know it is just a greasy spoon place but still you would think that in that area it could do so much better. Alot of the food on the menu is looks fine on the menu but when it arrives it is always disapointing. I think the cooks just need a little more training seeing as I would be hard pushed to mess up a grilled cheese sandwich as much as they have done in the past, plus have the nads to actually serve the thing instead of just getting anouther one. only takes a few seconds to make. Plus they obviously do not clean their frier out very much as everything that comes out of it is a dark brown colour instead of golden. If your restaurant serves fries with most of the items on your menu then you should be cleaning out your friers every 2 days with fresh oil and filtering it every night to stop that burned taste from getting into the food. They might gauk at that and complain about the added cost but the increase business due to improved food would make up for it. Managed to keep the girls out of there for the last few months but if they would at least say that they are changing the oil more often i would bite the bullet and go back. Im not asking for the place to be exceptional, just bearable would surfice.

        The Grapefruit Moon
        968 Bathurst St, Toronto, ON M5R3G6, CA

        1. re: BritInTO

          i remember the episode of restaurant makeover in which the owner hated (and rightfully so) the results.

          although it was a mess at that time, it proves that a paint job can't fix what is truly wrong with most of these 'failing' restos.

          grapefruit moon with its eclecticness (if that is a word) and regulars will probably continue to limp along as these little places with hearts of gold usually do...

      3. hmm.. I walked in to Joe Bidali's once, by accident... that was traumatic. I was at JKWB a few weeks ago, and the washroom hadn't been cleaned in weeks, and the food was so-so. They served Tropicana Orange juice instead of the freshy squeezed; I also had a very disappointing meal at Ultra, where they went back on their word on certain agreements that were made previously involving a large party. I haven't been back since.

        1. Most recently: Segovia near Yonge and Wellesley. Just poor all around and very expensive.

          1. Great thread idea, stonedtoronto.

            There are quite a few, but I will stick to three from this year alone to keep my thoughts a bit more relevant.

            First off, we have Langdon Hall. Never have I traveled so far and paid so much for such a mediocre meal. It was not a terrible meal, it is just that once you factor in the price and the 2 hr drive to Cambridge... I basically came out thinking - "That's it?! That's what I've been reading such great things about? That's what I just made a day trip out of Toronto to try?". I think it was a birthday celebration dinner, and for that price, I would have preferred (in retrospect) to fly the birthday person to London for great food for the amount we spent. Anyway, let's just say we were all quite a bit disappointed.

            Secondly, JKWB. Maybe I take it a bit more personally because it was MY birthday dinner this time. I was very impressed on my earlier visits - they were able to prepare some of the best fish dishes I had had in Toronto. I dragged my risk adverse dining companions there to celebrate my special day. In the end, we were all disappointed. Sure the portions are small, they are tapas-style after all, but I don't mind if the food is good. But it wasn't. So therefore I was very disappointed.

            Next up, we have Sen5es. Once again, mediocre food at high prices. It wasn't bad, but it didn't come close to deserving the attention it received, nor was it worth the prices. I guess I came in with high expectations, and left with a jaded opinion of the Toronto high-end dining scene.
            A quick commentary here:

            And finally, Truffles. An institution in my eyes. Even though it holds a sentimental place in my heart (first date many, MANY years ago with my SO), I went back recently in November and was SHOCKED at how mediocre it was. I have not had a chance yet to write up a review, but you can be sure one is coming. I could not believe what had happened to one of my great standby restaurants. I used to love Truffles. Maybe it's the new Chef Laurie Bandur that took over, maybe it was a busy evening next door in the ballroom - I have no idea, but it was just not very good. A restaurant of such a reputation of high standard should not have a bad day, nor allow the team to serve such a meal. The service was also a touch uncomfortable and rushed near the end of our meal. I am not sure where the waiter was planning to go, but it was not a pleasant end to our meal to say the least. Needless to say, I doubt we will be returning to Truffles. Has anyone else tried Laurie's new food (we had a good meal earlier this year with Lora Kirk)? Maybe it was just an off-day for her. I don't think I'll risk another visit anytime soon to find out.


            6 Replies
            1. re: BokChoi

              I will second your vote for Truffles. My wife and I went there for our anniversary a few years ago. No problems with the food, it was fine, and we'd researched the menu/prices ahead of time so we knew what to expect.

              However, the service was horrible. We had the bad luck of having a table close to the big round table with 10 suits obviously on an expense account. And even worse luck that their server was also our server. So you can imagine how we were snubbed in favor of these bigshots. Water glasses sat empty for 5 minutes at a time, wine glasses weren't refilled promptly, when we finished the appetizer course the used plates weren't removed until just as the main courses arrived, then same happened when we finished the mains; not until dessert arrived did those plates disappear. And as BokChoi said, after all that, they seemed to rush us at the end, like they wanted rid of us faster so they could give more attention to the big tippers next door.

              Absolutely no excuse for that. If that big table needed the undivided attention of their server we should have been assigned another server. I've had better service at Jack Astor's, even when there was a large table of rowdy drunks or a birthday party nearby! Surely a 4 star place like Truffles should beat a corporate "sports bar" chain in service quality. They didn't. Say what you like about the food, but I've never experienced poor service at a Jack Astor's or a Canyon Creek.

              Since that night I refuse to dine at any of the restaurants in that hotel because of how we were treated that evening on what was supposed to be a special occasion for us. They ruined it. And the next time you're asking yourself why anybody would eat at a chain, read this post again and you have your answer.

              1. re: TexSquared

                I was there about a month ago with some friends; they all loved the food, but I thought it was mediocre. I was sick at the time, so it was probably just me (I say this because the second last meal I had at Truffles was also boring, and I wasn't sick at the time). We didn't have any of the service issues you guys did.

                1. re: TexSquared

                  No excuses for that type of treatment. The restaurant is small. They should be able to handle it. I'm sorry to hear that they ruined your special occasion.

                  tjr, glad you had a more pleasant experience in terms of service. Agreed that the food is a bore (the last couple of visits at least). But that is Truffles I guess - classic and traditional. I just wish they did it well, then I would have no complaints. My dining companions enjoy that type of food. They didn't enjoy the bad food that came out of the kitchen though. My poor dining companion swears to never speak of the meal at Truffles ever again. It was a milestone birthday, so I see where he is coming from. Poor guy. It's a sensitive topic now and it's quite a hush-hush topic now.

                  1. re: BokChoi

                    I love classic, traditional food in general, but by boring I mean it was a poor representation of these classic, traditional dishes. I've been frequently enough over the past however many years that I can tell the kitchen has slipped enormously; to add service issues is, well, astounding. I wouldn't be surprised that service issues exist because the quality in the kitchen has dipped as well. Too bad, I had enjoyed many meals there in the past...

                    1. re: tjr

                      My first meal there was back in the heyday when Crawford was there. I had a great meal. Amazing. I could not believe it was the same restaurant. The service back then was amazing and polished. Exceptional.

                      Last visit? One waiter was very competent, so I don't want to dismiss all their efforts. I was just left with a bad taste in my mouth nearer to the end of the meal. The food, well.. that was just dreadful. Charles, you may be right. I had hoped that they would not have let someone take the reigns when they were not yet prepared to do so. It seems like such a risky thing to do with such an established restaurant. I know I will be taking my money elsewhere from now on. It's so sad to have to scratch some favourite restaurants off my list.

                    2. re: BokChoi

                      Of all the fine dining restaurants in town, Truffles can be the most inconsistant. The reason being, it is the 'stepping stone' for chef seeking for greener pasture in the Fourseasons empire. Specifically, New York, LA and Chicago. The best time to eat there is when the executive chef is well entrenched in his or her position. Eg., Patrick Lin or Lynn Crawford prior to their jumping ship. Worst time is when a new chef takes up the helm and still trying to consolidate his/her position. Like now.

                2. I know no one on this board believes me but lunch at Langdon Hall was hugely disappointing and not just because of the drive (I only had half the drive BokChoi did). I'm still not sure if our dinner the night before at Scaramouche clouded our judgement of LH or not.