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Jul 21, 2010 06:34 PM

La Maison Kam Fung - horrible service

After SERIOUS MISSING Lotte Furama after it moved off Rene-Levesque Blvd years ago and within the boundaries of Chinatown proper on Clark St., and after it closed ALTOGETHER several years after that, and having tried Ruby Rouge in 2009 and found it disgusting, I was in Montreal again this year and this time, I sauntered into the mall where La Maison Kam Fung is located, and went up to the 2nd floor...

Service SUCKED! The set-up and the placement of the tables and chairs were greatly awkward. I saw many couples and families having difficulty navigating with their strollers. Any dim sum restaurant owner with half a brain should anticipate a fair number of toddlers and infants at any time, right? Especially on the weekends, right? Well, not this one. They had the tables set up such that while the dim sum carts were circulating, some patrons were separated such that they couldn't see what was on the carts and were forced to get up, walk over and look. Poor design and forethought.

While I was there, I witnessed an argument between a waiter and a family. I didn't see the genesis of the argument, but I could gather it was over tips. The family didn't like the service, I gather, and didn't feel like putting tips. The head male customer (I'm guessing the dad of the family) said he was going to complain to the manager. The waiter, for his part, started lecturing the family on what the government of Quebec taxes, and said something about the guy should have some respect for himself, and pay up. (The waiter's statements really reminded me of this bit that Russell Peters does in his act called "Be a Man!" where the Chinese proprietor tells the customer something entirely irrelevant to the issue at hand (ie, the price of a piece of merchandise) and instead, says "Be a man! Do the right thing!" LOL) Anyway, like I said, I didn't see how it all began so I can't offer an opinion, but to have that argument in public in a restaurant and for the waiter to start lecturing a customer, right or wrong, is just plain unseemly, inappropriate and unprofessional for any server. Another little incident around me further turned me off to this place. Another family had claimed that the waitress had double-marked them for 1 order of dim sum. It turns out that the waitress was right and it was a misunderstanding on the customer's part, but the way she conveyed her impatience and annoyance at having to explain it to the customer really bothered me. Another couple I saw had to ask several times before being provided with metal utensils and glasses of water. Like I said, I could go on and on, and I will!...

At peak time, the restaurant serves its dim sum using old-fashioned carts. During a "last call" (which itself is a good idea), they ask patrons what they want, they put in the order, and the dim sum is heated and brought out from the kitchen. Now, you gotta figure they've been doing this for a while, right? And you have a number of tables. How difficult is it for the management to figure out a logical system and train the staff in following this? Not too difficult, right? They could pay me, and I could put some thought into it, and maybe over a couple of days, I could come up with a plan, right? But, these guys? Noooooo....the servers were walking around the tables like chickens without heads on...not knowing which container of dim sum should go to which table. It was soooo's not the servers' fault. It's the fault of management who's too thoughtless or lazy to devise a proper system. I was so PO'ed I thought about complaining to the 2 female managers/owners I saw near the front, but they were too busy counting their money when I left to even have the courtesy of acknowledging or thanking a customer upon departure. Sad, so sad....

Jeez, I could go on and on....all this I saw in 1 MEAL! On a Saturday! (busy weekend!) Mind you, other than the first waiter that seated me forgetting to bring me a glass of water that I asked for, they did me no wrong. But that's because I know the system. Based on service alone, I would NEVER return to this place, absent a serious service overhaul, which I don't anticipate happening.

ABSOLUTELY NONE of the dim sum here was superb, nor even very good. Some were bad; others were just average to above-average; a couple of minor things were good. One good thing - the soy sauce they use on the rice crepes is sweetened - yummy - but that's it. Oh! and the chicken feet were tasty, yeah, that's true. Otherwise, I had the shrimp dumplings (har gow); egg custard tarts (dan tat); and tripe (too light and bleached). All those go thrown into my mental garbage can of mediocre dim sum over the years.

I'm sorry I brought my New York bluntness to the review. I've noticed that Montrealers (and probably most Quebecers) are more polite. I'm just being very honest.

La Maison Kam Fung
1936 Boul Thimens, Saint-Laurent, QC H4R2K2, CA

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  1. maybe it's because I've become inured, but I'm so used to indifferent service in dim sum restos, I don't notice. But yeah, Kam Fung can be really chaotic.

    1 Reply
    1. re: TheSnowpea

      It's unfortunate that it's come to that. I don't know if you remember the old Lotte Furama when it was on Rene-Levesque (it was in the same building as a hotel on the corner). My friend who discovered it when traveling in Montreal actually told me about it. He loved the tofu fa (tofu dessert) and one year when we were much younger, on a very early Sunday morning, decided on a lark to drive up to Montreal to try their dim sum. The food was amazing! I still remember, not only the tofu fa, but the steamed oysters with black beans. As well as the service. I remembered remarking to my friend how friendly and helpful the staff was, and how happy they actually looked working there. It showed in their efficiency. Their operation was really smooth and seamless. There is a natural level of clamor and noise that comes with any dim sum resto, but there should never be chaos. That, plus the cute tri-lingual hostesses, and the other tasty dim sum they offered, really made them the complete package. Years later, I found out that LF moved onto Clark, and ultimately closed. There has not been any dim sum resto in NYC or anywhere I've traveled to (outside Hong Kong), let's say North America (except Vancouver which I've not been to), to ever match the old Lotte Furama's operation in its well-roundedness. That's the standard by which I judge all dim sum restos. So far, I've tried Ruby Rouge and Kam Fung, and they've failed miserably to measure up.

    2. Last time at KF a couple of weeks ago we shared a larger table with 4 others and had no issues with the service until the fried shrimp dumplings came around. We asked for a plate but they didn't look quite right & when I touched a couple, they were all soggy so, while still touching the dumplings I motioned to the server that it was not good. She threw me a dirty look and took the plate back ... and then she reshuffled all the dumplings back onto the platter. I tried to stop her & tell her to not serve them to anyone but her Eng and/or Fr were non existant so I called over a waiter and told him that I had touched some dumplings that were put back and he just looked at me like I was nuts! KF now off my list, besides had way better DimSum at Tong Por VSL last Saturday!

      17 Replies
      1. re: RhondaB

        While i agree about the service i also am not shocked by it. In these places, even when i loved in Hong Kong, you get shoddy service only to them it is not considered as such. It's sort of the difference between our culture and theirs, what 'good service' entails to them, we don't notice and they miss what we need.

        And the dirty look she tossed you was because you touched the dim sum or she suspected you did. Since SARS and all that stuff they are very picky about hygiene. In practice, you should not use your hands or your own chopsticks to pick stuff from common food, there is a dedicated pair of chopticks for that.

        Oh well, in any case New York's chinatown is vastly superior to ours. Hopefully the OP can get comfort in that :)

        1. re: SourberryLily

          SourberryLily, oh how I wish that were always the case. There are more options in New York, but there are a lot of mediocrities also. Come to New York, I'll show you a few doozies...:)

          RhondaB, good and fresh dim sum always has a certain look. Trust your instincts. If it doesn't look right, it isn't good. I've sometimes violated my own rule and ordered something that looked questionable because I really wanted the item. I always regret it.

          Yeah, maybe the touching was a no-no. I understand that it is sometimes the only way to tell whether a piece of dim sum is good or not, but unfortunately, until a better way comes about, visual inspection is the only acceptable tool available. Or as SourberryLily said, use the communal set of chopsticks to test it. Even that may be frowned upon. But, the waitress was hypocritical too. She gave you a dirty look because you've now "soiled" perfectly good dim sum, but then she mixed it back into the platter to be re-served to someone else.

          As to service, granted, there is a great difference between east and west, stemming from the respective cultures and values. However, at my personally most admired places, even in Hong Kong, the key is both efficiency and harmony. Rudeness and negativity are never valued traits. A sort of cheerfully quick standard should be aimed for. Because time is money to Chinese, they strive for efficiency. Laziness, slothfulness, and what westerners consider a "laid back attitude" is frowned upon. But in being quick, service should never fall to the level of being curt or in any way unpleasant with a customer. Displaying any kind of impatience is not acceptable. Because that violates the harmony principle and in the long run, hurts the bottomline. Rather than engage in a debate, which would waste time, they would rather take the more pragmatic solution. In the waitress' case, that might have been to offer you a dish of something else instead as replacement for the failed dish.

          1. re: nooyawka

            Yeah, politeness is appreciated when getting served, even just a small smile if the waiter doesnt speak our language. One thing for me: efficiency is mandatory. I'm often eating out on lunch hour or on the run so i expect to be in and out fast.

            BTW, the Kam Fun gin Ville Saint-Laurent is much better. It gets less traffic and the dim sum are fresh i noticed.
            Tong Por, again in Ville Saint-Laurent is more popular and the dim sum is superior. The service isn't that friendly but it is quick!

            1. re: SourberryLily

              Kam Fung in VSL looks like a haunted house, at least around supper time. I never see anyone there. maybe it's busier for dim sum and lunch and that's how it survives?

              1. re: hungryann

                Thank you all for the tips folks. I have a couple of new spots to try the next time I'm up in Montreal, which could be very soon ;-)

                1. re: hungryann

                  Where's Kam Fung in VSL(or is it Kam Fun as SourberryLily spelled it)?

                  edit. it seems to be a La Maison Kam Fung location at 1936 Thimens I just noticed. This is the 3rd location of Kam Fung(this location is not listed at La Maison Kam Fung website)? Maybe it's a franchise location?

                  1. re: BLM

                    That's the correct address. I'm not sure if it's a franchise or not.

                    1. re: hungryann

                      Maison Kam Fung (earlier i made a typo) is a small franchise. It's on Thimens, in a small strip mall near a sushi place called "Japon". Blink and you'll miss it. It's not busy at night because normally, that's not when you eat dim sum. dim Sum is ususally a breakfast thing, though it extends to lunch. Anyways, for Dim Sum, Tong Por is a bit better.

                      Side note: VSL has a really big asian community, my building is almost only asian, there are a few mandarin sunday schools around and the asian grocery boom speak for themselves.

                      1. re: SourberryLily

                        Just to be clear. So the Brossard & Thimens locations of Maison Kam Fung location have different owners than the original Chinatown establishment(a true franchise operation)?

                        1. re: SourberryLily

                          I am well aware that dim sum is not a supper thing but the restaurant is not exclusively a dim sum place either, so it does not explain why it is so dead in the evenings.

                        2. re: hungryann

                          Have you been eaten at Brossard La Maison Kam Fung location? I usually go there now, as it's much closer to me.

                          1. re: BLM

                            I haven't been to the Brossard location sorry.
                            A friend TOLD me it was the same owner, but i haven't asked the staff to verify this 100%. I will do so next time i go. It was pretty good though and the cart ladies were sweet though the language barrier is ever present. I speak a little mandarin but it can only take me so far.

                            1. re: SourberryLily

                              It's not a Franchise. Kam Fung Thimens was open many years ago with quite a few partners. I would say atleast 15 so years ago? They eventually split up and a couple of those partners took over. Chuck went off to open the one in Chinadowntown and Brossard. That's a mini rough history of Maison Kam Fung.

                              1. re: Jaetee

                                Thank you Jaetee. It did not sound like a franchise from Sourberrylily response earlier today(previously this person said it was a small franchise).

                    2. re: nooyawka

                      "If I'm curt with you it's because time is a factor. I think fast, I talk fast and I need you guys to eat fast if you wanna get out of this. So, pretty please... with sugar on top. Eat the fu***ng dim sum".
                      - The Wolf in Pulp Fiction (edited for clarity)

                      1. re: nooyawka

                        BTW I only touched the fried dumplings after they were served to us & I was pointing out that they were soggy. The servers at Kam Fung downtown are by no means friendly and some are downright rude and language is a barrier in some cases. The waiters are more friendly, but barely ... again in some cases. IMHO, Tong Por VSL is way better, from food to service.

                  2. I second that sentiment. I unfortunately had my wedding rehearsal supper there. And it just reinforced our choice to not have a chinese reception dinner for our wedding. I am originally from Toronto where the chinese food and service is really good and that is what i miss most from Toronto. The service at our dinner was HORRENDOUS. There was a miscommunication about the fact that it bwow place. But it was handled very badly and embarrassed both our families (who are - were - regulars there) The situation could have been handled much better. The food is merely mediocre. I think there is not much competition in montreal so they feel there is no need to improve themselves. The service was slow and the plates did not come out in order. We had reserved several tables and it was not a particularly busy night (relative to weekends) and the service was simply awful. I will never go back there, neither will my family, my husbands family and many of my friends. We have seen a gradual downward spiral in that restaurant over the last few years and the last incident was proof of its downturn. On the flip side, the Kam Fung that has opened on the south shore is surprisingly better. I hear it is run by the daughter who is big on customer service. While the food cannot compete with toronto standards the experience there is better and i think that is because of the daughter's management of the restaurant. Overall I think we are in dire need of a GOOD chinese restaurant in montreal.

                    1. Maybe it's just my Montreal heritage, but I've always considered dim sum and bad service to go hand in hand. It's almost part of the kooky charm of waiting in lines, being shuffled through hoardes of tired, bored, hungry masses, food carts zipping past by servers with complete lack of english communication skills and a seeming disinterest in your dining, etc. It makes brunch a lively eccentric event, especially when waking up early/hungover on a Sunday to catch the carts in time! Of course, I'm sure there are much more laid back and pleasant examples, but it's never been my experience in this city... I still love Kam Fung for what it is!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: OliverB

                        Dim sum is meant to be a "assembly line" type of experience. I neither find it "kooky" or "eccentric" but it is what it is. It is a casual breakfast/brunch experience - NOT a formal dinner. I dont expect the same type of service in a chinese restaurant as I would expect in a french or other european type restaurant. Moreover, you will find that the service at a formal dinner with a banquet meal in a chinese restaurant is often much better (and again this is relative to other chinese restaurants). The price of dimsum and the price of a banquet are extrememely different. My personnal experience at kam fung was rude period. It was by far not the norm for any type of restaurant chinese or not Montreal or anywhere else Ive been.

                        1. re: Stephkwong

                          In my experience the secret to good Dim Sum is to go early as soon as they open. The food is fresh and less hurried, plus give a list to your waiter and they will usually get the items you want with out having to wait for the carts.

                          I have had bad service at Kam Fung; once when a waiter wanted to be paid immediately because he was going on break and when we got hell because we said we needed a table for three and were told that a 5yr old was not a person we should have asked for a table for two plus one kid!

                          I had a funny experience at Tong Por once went I went for dinner with a friend. We just sat down and were chatting; the waiter was very impatient and came by our table 5 times in 15 mins to take our order. We asked him to give us a few minutes, he returned and looked at us both and said F----in Guys. I looked at him shocked and asked him what he had said; we had misunderstood him as he had said “Fork and Knife”. It was an experience right out of Seinfeld.

                      2. I was at Kam Fung in Chinatown on Sunday with a friend who is used to eating dim sum in NYC and London. Got there at 10:30, before the rush, and were seated right away. Service was normal for dim sum in my experience...and one server even encouraged us to try a certain item like a sage grandmother...glad she did. Most dishes were tasty, and we left satisfied and full. Similar experience in February; we got there later and had to wait a long time but once we were in, it was fine. It's not a fine-dining experience for sure, but no different service that the dim sum I've had a few times in NYC myself.