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Sep 17, 2013 08:38 AM

Extremely disappointing experience at Mistura

Had dinner at Mistura with 2 friends last night and must say, with a couple of highlights, it was a very disappointing experience.

The highlights: highlight 1: the calamari was outstanding. Deep fried in a tempura batter, beautifully presented - perhaps the best fried calamari I've had in years. Highlight 2: a lovely pre-dinner cocktail.

The disappointments:

1. one of our party was brought the wrong main dish. Not sure there's ever an excuse for that. There was an 'oops', but not the level of concern we would have expected.

2. my main was painfully salty. And understand, I *love* salt. The sauce was basically inedible. When the staff came to remove my half eaten plate they did ask if everything was ok, and I clearly said that the dish was incredibly salty. He asked 'the sauce or the rabbit?' I said 'I think it's the sauce'. Him: 'ok'.

That was it. 'ok'. No 'can we bring you something else?' No, 'I'm terribly sorry - I'll be sure to let the chef know.' And not that a free drink would have fixed things, but had one been even offered it might have made me at least feel like someone actually cared.

3. the service was, on the whole, bleh.

I have to say, there are too many terrific restaurants in Toronto to go back to one where not only was the food poor, there was no sense that anyone gave a damn about it.

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  1. Did you talk to whatever management was on site???

    23 Replies
    1. re: Sadistick

      We were there for a colleague's birthday dinner, so I didn't want to make it any more awkward by making a big deal of it.

      1. re: T.O. Diner

        Well you could have easily called the restaurant the next day and talked to the management. I feel that if we don`t complain about these things then it only encourages such behaviour. It`s very important to let management know about these things as I am sure they do care. They don`t always know everything that happens either.

        1. re: Flexitarian

          I have to disagree. After all, the OP did say he told the waiter he was not happy with his meal. Sometimes its just not worth the energy to take it any further.

          I believe it's up to the owner to ask and/or make sure his customers are satisfied. Not the other way around.

          At one time Mistura was top of my list but we found once Massimo launched his television career, cookbooks, and all the other pr stuff, the restaurant began to suffer.

          1. re: millygirl

            Wow I agree with Millygirl (creepy).

            No restaurant should be this incompetent. When the list stacks that high, there isn't much point in complaining.

            1. re: justxpete

              Sorry but you are both off the mark.

              Granted Mistura is a B+ restaurant, as such it is not on par with places such as Scaramouche, Splendido, etc, where the wait staff would never hesitate to cater to your whim and fancy (assuming your request is not outrageous).

              The fact is the waiter just did not give a damn, in such a case, as Flex mentioned, if the circumstance does not permit, you wait till the following day and either write a letter or speak to someone in management.

              *IF* at that point you do not get a satisfactory resolution, you can write them off and tell all your friends.

              1. re: Sadistick

                No, you're off the mark. When a restaurant is completely incompetent, as appears to be the situation in this case, then there's no point. They can't be so blissfully ignorant as to be unaware that they're dolling out this type of service. And if they are, then they shouldn't be asking the price of admission that's on their menu.

                1. re: justxpete

                  So you ASSUME, justxpete, that management was aware of the situation and simply took no action?

                  Did you perhaps stop to think that the server simply doesn't care, did not tell anyone, and OP was simply faced with the server's response, which may or may not have represented what Mistura's mantra might have been?

                  Perhaps by making management aware of the situation and how it was handled, they would not only properly train said server, but *GASP* address the OPs issue and comp a meal to retain them as a customer?

                  Sorry, you are way off on this one.

                  If this was Scaramouche, perhaps your argument would hold greater validity, but even then, if that occurred, I would talk to the Maitre D and the situation would quickly be resolved to my satisfaction.

                  1. re: Sadistick

                    No, you're really the one that's off. It's not our responbility to make sure the servers are competent. It's managements'. It's exactly as Charles & Milly state.

                    IF there are minor issues with a server - then sure. It would be nice of us to do them a favour. But if they're so completely incompetent, then management is not doing their job. And if they're not a restaurant at this level, then they shouldn't be asking for those prices.

                    1. re: justxpete

                      Agreed - many people do take their concerns up to the next level in the chain of command, but I don't think that's necessarily a customer's responsibility. If they take your money, then they're responsible for what they provide in return. You don't work for them, and you aren't responsible for quality control - their kitchen, and their floor staff are.

                    2. re: Sadistick

                      By the way, and not to belabour the point, but I don't understand your remark about Scaramouche when In fact Mistura's prices are very much on par with Scaramouche, perhaps even higher.

                    3. re: justxpete

                      It is impossible to know what is going on with each and every customer all of the time. I have had bad service at Scaramouche (like really bad service once) and I consider them the epitome of good service. That means I right them off? Hardly!

                      1. re: Flexitarian

                        When service is as poor as described, this isn't a one-off incident. It implies that both the server and management are incompetent - so why bother writing to them? So they can comp a meal at a place you don't want to return to? Whoop-de-do!

                    4. re: Sadistick

                      The fact is, it's the owners responsibility to hire and train staff and supervise them to make sure that they do their job properly - not the diners.


                      1. re: millygirl

                        Agree millygirl!!
                        Always wonder how decent restaurants can have incompetent, moody and un-courteous staff walking the dining room floor?? Didn't management do 'interview' before hiring?!

                        1. re: Charles Yu

                          If interviewing someone before hiring assured good work performance no one would ever get fired.

                          And, as if a decent restaurant never had an incident of a person not doing their job.

                          Charles, I love most of your comments, but the ones you just made are laughable. Anyone who has ever run a business knows that some employees can be very good at hiding bad performance (not for long mind you) and it doesn't take very long for a customer to be affected by it.

                          So, we just write off every business that has a miscreant employee? It happens to the best of businesses you know.

                          1. re: Flexitarian

                            And the only way to help any business; in the OP's case for example, is to approach a member of management and inform them of said events.

                            Assuming you care, of course. If you have no desire to visit the restaurant again and are willing to accept mediocrity, don't voice your opinion; what ever would be the point of making them aware of their realities, or at minimum, the ones their customer's faced. Just roll over and take it!

                            1. re: Flexitarian

                              @ Flexifarian
                              I too own a retail 'service oriented' business. When I did my interviews of new hires, through direct face-to-face chats and observing body languages...etc, I can tell almost 100% of the time whether the individual's demeanor is genuine and friendly. Furthermore, to ensure the hiring decision was a right one, shouldn't management provide guidance and make observation on thie new hire during the 'probation' period rather than just letting he or she run free?. Afterall, in the hospitality business, its not just the food, its the service that also counts! One bad seed can impact the whole crop. Especially in this age of social media!!

                              1. re: Flexitarian

                                Describing the server as "miscreant" is a little overboard. They didn't respond to the problem appropriately. That's all.

                                This is a management problem, not staff. Had the person in question been properly trained, they would have known the correct response and been confident in executing it.

                                I've conducted literally hundreds of interviews. I can tell you who will perform within the first 5 minutes of meeting each and every one of them. It's still my duty to train them, put them in mentoring situations, and provide clear guidelines.

                                millygirl's observation of the owner's hands-off approach is likely the culprit. If you spread yourself thin, you have to have someone you trust in command on site and give them the authority to act autonomously.

                      2. re: millygirl

                        Unless the Manager is hovering over the employee every second there is no way he/she would know what happened. Anyone who has ever run a business no matter how much they train their staff realizes that sometimes things do go wrong and that employees sometimes have to be retrained or terminated if they are not up to par. But, that is only if they know something went wrong. I know in the number of businesses that I have run I have always appreciated when something was brought to my attention that I would have had no other way of finding out about.

                        Even if it is feasible to ask each and every customer if they were satisfied with the service, as is the case in the restaurant business (but not if you are processing thousands of orders an hour like my business was), you wouldn't always get an honest answer especially in this case where the customer clearly said they 'didn't want to make it any more awkward by making a big deal of it' as it was a special event. So, certainly if asked, they wouldn't have said anything and just left as otherwise they would have been making a big deal of it.

                        So, the only way in this case for the restaurant to know would be if the customer contacted the manager later, which then wouldn't put them and their special guest at the special event in the middle of an awkward situation of complaining about the service in front of them.

                        1. re: Flexitarian

                          Sorry but we're not talking McDonald's here.

                          A smart passionate owner knows what's going on at all times, front and back of the house. He / she has eyes in the back of their head. And if he doesn't, HE SHOULD. It's not up to the diners to enlighten him.

                          My feeling from experience is that Massimo has too much on the go these days to concern himself with Mistura, and Paulo, well whatever.

                          1. re: millygirl

                            Agree again!!
                            When I was dining at Treadwell a couple of weeks back, I noticed owner/chef Stephen not only interacted continuously with the kitchen staff, he was equally engaged with customers to check on them pertaining to the food served. In addition, he was also helping out and coordinating with James regarding the front of the house!
                            Yannick of Nota Bene, another great owner, also gets involved hands-on if he's in!

                            1. re: Charles Yu

                              And interestingly, Massimo was actually there that night (not always the case that a head chef is there on a Monday). I saw him walk through the dining room 2 or 3 times, but no interaction with customers. That said, I know it's an incredibly busy job, so I don't fault him for that, but if this is how the staff act when he is actually on the premises, I go back to 'not my job to tell you how to fix your resto'. And on another note, no one in the kitchen thought to question why a plate was returned with less than have of the dish eaten? So many ways for them not to have failed that night, and they took none of them.

                              1. re: T.O. Diner

                                Interesting because Massimo used to make it his business to chat everyone up. He was always stopping by tables and doing the schmoozing thing.

                                Again, I think he's just spread himself to thin (pardon the pun) to care as he once did.

                                We stopped going for the very same reason, things seemed to slip about 3 years ago.

                2. Here's where this really went wrong: "the sauce or the rabbit?" What? Did you cook the effin dish? You say too salty and don't finish half the plate, I feel a free drink or dessert coming on. Clearly you weren't scamming. Poor judgment on their part.

                  1. Response 1: Voice concerns to management.
                    Response 2: Vote with feet and don't go back there.

                    Either way, management should be getting the message.