HOME > Chowhound > Ontario (inc. Toronto) >
Brewing beer, curing meat, or making cheese? Share your food adventure
TELL US

dBar and Cafe Boulud - Huge 'service' disappointment!!

Charles Yu Jan 23, 2013 04:48 PM

House inside a world renown 'hospitality' destination, the Fourseasons hotel and operate by a world renown Michelin 3* chef, Daniel Boulud, one would expect service to be 'out-of-this-world' top notch?!! Uh!! Uh!! Unfortunately, that was far from the case yesterday evening!!
Our group of 5 dropped in at dBar for drinks and dessert. Noticing our favourite dessert was featured in Cafe Boulud's menu but not dBar's. We made a small 'in-house' request to our server as to whether it would be possible to obtain that particular dessert from upstairs down to our table.
We were flatly declined!! Citing excuses like different operation on different floor ...etc...??!!

I recall a few years back, whilst dining at O&B's Jump, I made an off the cuff remark to our server about why Biff's ( another O&B property ) just down the road has better dessert than they do and wish they have the 'Clafoutis on their menu'. Guess what was the result to my remark was??!! The server actually send a bus-boy all the way to Biff's to pick up a couple of Clafoutis for us!! Wow!! Now, that's what I call SERVICE!!!

Guess both the Fourseasons and the Boulud organization still have a lot to learn about 'customer satisfaction'!!!

  1. CocoaChanel Jan 23, 2013 05:05 PM

    I concur. I like to call the new bar at the Four Seasons the "D-bag Bar". Service is not like the old Avenue. And Cafe Boulud (the restaurant) - service is standard, food is underwhelming and decor shockingly abhorrent

    1. g
      GeeDee Jan 23, 2013 05:45 PM

      I had similar experience at Daisho some months ago, except it was over bottles of coke.

      Initially, our waiter told us that it was available, but went to check and changed his mind, saying that while they sell it at Noodle Bar, it isn't available upstairs. Fair enough - I can understand why they wouldn't want their waiters running up and down on a busy day.

      So I went downstairs and asked to pay for a bottle to bring back upstairs but the waiters at Noodle Bar also refused without any explanation! Finally, I had to run back up to Nikai and talk to the much more accommodating and business savvy bartenders, who promptly delivered two cold bottles!

      We practically had to BEG the restaurant to sell us these drinks, and on top of that, we were rushed through our meals! It seems that the service at these outposts simply aren't on par with their NY companions.

      1 Reply
      1. re: GeeDee
        t
        Toucan67 Jan 24, 2013 07:17 AM

        Maybe this confirms the benefits of going to Nikai. A group of us were at Nikai and Shoto last night and at least between those two it was made very clear we could carry any unfinished drinks upstairs. We also only had to buy our bottomless glass of sparkling water once in the lounge and it carried over all night in the restaurant. Our waitress went upstairs ahead of us and took care of it all.

      2. ingloriouseater Jan 24, 2013 04:25 AM

        I find it interesting that you asked "if it was possible" and then outraged when they said no....now having said that-they should have been able to provide it. It would be different if Buca at the 4 seasons had a dessert and you wanted it in douche bar-i mean d-bar as they are completely different owners.....

        12 Replies
        1. re: ingloriouseater
          y
          ylsf Jan 24, 2013 05:20 AM

          When I first read Charles post I thought the same thing, but, then I looked again and felt like it really was more "disappointment" than outrage. It sounds like this may have come up before and staff may have been instructed that this was the response to give. Otherwise the least the server could have said was "let me check with the manager" type comment and then still declined.

          1. re: ylsf
            GoodGravy Jan 24, 2013 07:25 AM

            How much of these service issues are handled at the discretion of the local management team and servers vs. spelled out in the restaurant operations guide for the Boulud group of restaurants (if one even exists)?

            For ex., when asked a non-standard question, policy might be made up on the spot and the answer "No" given because it's easier than actually fulfilling the request, no matter how reasonable it is. Or is it actually covered and servers are instructed to deny those types of requests?

            1. re: GoodGravy
              j
              julesrules Jan 24, 2013 08:57 AM

              That's what I am wondering... the staff gets all sorts of training from HO I'm sure, but how empowered do they feel to make decisions? Maybe it's a case of too much training, not enough empowerment.

            2. re: ylsf
              p
              pourboi Jan 24, 2013 10:20 AM

              also if i remember right are the service staff not unionised? I have heard crazy things that union service staff have to do in other places like bartenders not being aloowed to move a plate into a diningroom when someone moves from the bar to a table as that is the waiters responsibility etc..

              1. re: pourboi
                ingloriouseater Jan 24, 2013 10:43 AM

                the old four season staff was unionised but i don't think that that is the case anymore as it is a new building not covered by the old cba...in any case it is a leased out space and shouldn't be covered...ruth's chris isn't even though the previous trader vic's was as it was operated by the hotel

                1. re: ingloriouseater
                  p
                  pourboi Jan 24, 2013 11:30 AM

                  They are unionized...

                  http://www.torontosun.com/2012/09/27/...

                  "Her union only had collective bargaining rights at the old hotel, not the new one. Gleeson claims her local agreed to gut seniority rights in their new collective agreement in return for getting to represent the new employees on Yorkville."

                  1. re: pourboi
                    Charles Yu Jan 24, 2013 01:03 PM

                    ??? What has 'union' to do with preventing a conscientious, willing to please, server walking up one flight of stairs in the same premise to get desserts for her patrons??!!
                    We'll be happy and she'll be getting extra tips?!!! Win-Win situation!

                    1. re: Charles Yu
                      y
                      ylsf Jan 24, 2013 03:44 PM

                      Pourboi seems to be saying that if they are indeed unionized there could be different rules about who is responsible for what that would complicate matters. Maybe not the case in this situation but in the instance of bar staff duties vs. waiter duties above I could see how it could be an issue.

                      Someone should go dine at the cafe and request something specific from the Dbar to see if they will accommodate :)

                      1. re: ylsf
                        Charles Yu Jan 24, 2013 04:32 PM

                        Interesting suggestion!!

                      2. re: Charles Yu
                        p
                        pourboi Jan 24, 2013 09:33 PM

                        I usually fing "conscientious, willing to please" are not terms that describe most union employees. :-) But seriously especially in a union environment they have many additional rules, maybe they get reprimanded if they leave their station... sure it is only going upstairs for one desert for you but maybe they do not have the dish in their POS system so there is no way to order it without walking upstairs then having to go back up when it is ready (and not knowing when it is ready).. leaving their other tables un-serviced for that time. And what if the table beside you now wanted that dessert... and so on...

                        I do not think not getting you the dessert is a "huge" mistep, being denied special treatment should not reflect badly on them as it was special treatment that you were asking for.

                        1. re: pourboi
                          MissBingBing Jan 25, 2013 04:50 AM

                          +1

                      3. re: pourboi
                        ingloriouseater Feb 4, 2013 07:09 AM

                        a little further info is that the restaurant is leased out and not unionized-everyone there including the cooks are making minimum wage... the only people that were able to move over to the new hotel were about 30 housekeeping and engineering staff.

              2. s
                Sadistick Jan 24, 2013 01:23 PM

                When faced with situations such as the one Charles described, especially in instances whereby the on-site staff do not resolve the matter to one's satisfaction, I have had some amicable and in some instances even exemplary results, by writing a letter to the owners.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Sadistick
                  Charles Yu Jan 24, 2013 03:38 PM

                  Thanks Sadistick! Just send off an e-mail to their management!

                  1. re: Charles Yu
                    s
                    Sadistick Jan 24, 2013 07:23 PM

                    I am curious to hear the outcome. They would be foolish to not offer you some gesture of 'good will' to retain your patronage.

                    1. re: Sadistick
                      Charles Yu Feb 4, 2013 08:16 AM

                      I send a complain letter to their 'main mail box' which was acknowledged. They also informed me my message will be forwarded to the Hotel and Restaurant managers.
                      So far NO RESPONSE!!!

                2. Non Doctor Jan 24, 2013 10:03 PM

                  Stop getting so excited Charles, I fear you may pop a hernia!

                  1. k
                    klyeoh Jan 24, 2013 10:32 PM

                    I wouldn't expect too much from Daniel Boulud's 2nd tier casual dining outlets, Charles. I tried his db Bistro Moderne outlets in Marina Bay Sands (Singapore) and Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park (London), and both had pretty average service and food quality - certainly not 3-star Michelin stuff which you'd expect from his fine dining restaurants like Daniel New York.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: klyeoh
                      estufarian Feb 4, 2013 12:47 PM

                      You might expect them - but they don't happen there either.
                      At Daniel NY service was definitely 'tiered' according to 'type of diner' - I know, I was mistakenly started in Tier 1 and then abandoned when they determined I was a 'nobody'.
                      And service at Cafe Boulud was so rushed I felt like dessert was served almost before I sat down - the only delay was navigating through the tables that were so close it seemed like communal dining.

                      1. re: estufarian
                        justxpete Feb 4, 2013 12:49 PM

                        How did that manifest itself in actuality? Just curious. Thanks Estufarian.

                        1. re: justxpete
                          estufarian Feb 4, 2013 01:39 PM

                          At Daniel we walked in and 'thought' we recognised the maitre d'. Similarly he appeared to know us (speculate from another restaurant but still can't place him).
                          We were seated in the more spacious area and received spectacular service - but several questions were asked by various servers over the first 30 minutes - it was clear they were trying to establish who/what we were. Finally I declared myself as an 'enthusiastic amateur' - but not one of the glitterati. From that point on we were virtually ignored (perfunctory service) and when Daniel Boulud himself came out to greet the customers and schmooze, he simply bypassed our table completely, while hitting several nearby. I was actually greatly amused by all of this as it was so obvious as to be laughable!

                          At Cafe I used my normal response in that situation - lingering over the last couple of bites on each dish, and not allowing plates to be removed - although they were smart enough to get the wine out quickly - I've been known to send back dishes that appear before the wine is served. My other response is to recommend the cheapest (or one of the cheapest) wine on the list to neighbouring tables as the 'best buy' - so as to let the server overhear and realize their gratuity will likely be smaller.

                      2. re: klyeoh
                        Charles Yu Feb 4, 2013 01:08 PM

                        Hello klyeoh,
                        Next time if I dined at NYC Daniel and per chance he walked by my table and sit down for a chat ( just like last time ), I'll definitely talk to him about the incidence and may be he'll offer me complimentary desserts?! Ha!!

                        1. re: Charles Yu
                          estufarian Feb 4, 2013 01:41 PM

                          He doesn't walk by (or sit at) any table 'by chance'. Clearly you passed the 'Tier 1' test (which I failed).

                          1. re: estufarian
                            Charles Yu Feb 4, 2013 02:28 PM

                            May be he noticed the copy of Gault Millau on the side of my table?! We actually had an interesting long chat. Comparing his style of cooking with Ducasse ( I just came back from Paris and ate at AD ). He even signed my guide book!

                            1. re: Charles Yu
                              k
                              klyeoh Feb 4, 2013 09:54 PM

                              Interesting, what he said about Vancouver in this old interview:
                              http://m.theglobeandmail.com/life/foo...

                              He's more a businessman than a chef these days.

                              1. re: klyeoh
                                justxpete Feb 4, 2013 10:23 PM

                                Some of his statements are rather amusing. He certainly didn't like Vancouver!

                                1. re: justxpete
                                  k
                                  klyeoh Feb 4, 2013 10:46 PM

                                  Indeed - for a so-called superchef to sound so petulant is rather surprising.

                      3. d
                        dubchild Feb 4, 2013 01:33 PM

                        Toronto life has a new review on its site. They gave it two stars

                        1. justxpete Apr 2, 2013 09:32 AM

                          What came of this, if anything, Charles?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: justxpete
                            Charles Yu Apr 2, 2013 07:01 PM

                            Main mail box referred matter to both dining room and hotel managers. They just 'ignored' it!! No reply, no apology, nothing!

                          Show Hidden Posts