Not our Sushi experience


The latest Wine & Dine adventure took a bit of a sour turn when we went to Zenya for a night of sushi. There aren’t too many great quality sushi joints in Montreal, and I was thrilled when my old colleagues introduced me to this hidden gem. It’s past the bridge on the second floor of a nondescript building on St Catherine’s (cross street Union). For years, this has been my ‘nice’ sushi go-to place and the place I recommend joyously to anyone wanting to have sushi in this city. Sadly, not any more.

I arrived a little early and immediately let the waiter know that there would be a few more friends joining our reservation. I wasn’t concerned as there were only a few other patrons that night and the waiter didn’t raise any objections, though he didn’t take the initiative to add the extra table. This should have been a warning sign for what would ensue: ninety minutes of the most atrocious service I have ever encountered.

…also not our experience (but looks fun)

There were three main incidents that highlight what is now known as the ‘worst dinner service of my life’, but the real problem was our waiter’s attitude. He was condescending and rude, he even went so far as to make insulting remarks and argue with us about it.

Incident number one involved a friend asking for a spoon and explicitly being told she would be made fun of for not drinking her miso out of the cup. I appreciate the desire to provide a genuine ethnic experience (by the way, you may want to scratch the ice water then), but making someone feel bad about the way they eat their soup is not going to enrich anyone’s experience.

Incident number two happened while we were waiting for our food. Along with not adding the extra table, our waiter also failed to bring water glasses for our additional guests. After being asked three times for the missing water, the waiter told my friend, in all seriousness, that someone stole her water. Since he only brought four glasses, all of which were accounted for, he couldn’t possibly mean to insinuate someone actually stole a glass. Even if he meant to say that another friend may have taken hers (by accident or otherwise), we were still missing three glasses! I still can’t understand why he would argue instead of bringing everyone their own glass.

Then, after an intolerable long wait for our food, we were finally served our first dish, which came with a warning that the rest of the food would be a while longer. How does it take over an hour to prepare various sushi and sashimi pieces for seven people in an almost empty restaurant? My growling tummy and I had been willing to overlook their inefficiency until the waiter stated unapologetically that they had run out of quail eggs so one of the pieces in our order of the ‘sunrise’ sushi was missing the quail yolk, a key component of the deliciousness. I couldn’t keep quiet anymore and asked him why he didn’t inform us of this before serving it (in case we wanted to change the order), and what he planned to do to make it up to us (I was already unhappy that they ran out of uni after the lunch service). He seemed annoyed that I was even talking to him but eventually remembered the basics of the service industry and offered to not charge us for that piece I’m sorry, you still intended to charge us for it?!

I wish!

After eating the ‘sunrise’ in incredulous silence we waited for the rest of our food to come out. Then we all had a collective lightbulb go off. We got up in unison and headed across the street to Kanda.

I stayed back to pay for the little food they brought out and to offer an explanation in hopes that the waiter would realize the errors of his ways. Instead I got more attitude as he condescendingly told me not to worry about the bill and that he would pack up the rest of the food for us to take out. Even writing about it now is making my blood boil! I firmly insisted to pay for what we consumed, turned down the doggie bag, and walked as fast as I could across the street hoping to leave behind the bad taste in my mouth.

By the time we got to Kanda we were beyond hungry and were glad for their all-you-can-eat to satisfy our bellies. The service was night-and-day compared to Zenya; the waitstaff smiled at us, happily answered our questions, and brought us everything we ordered in record time. The food by itself isn’t particularly noteworthy, but the experience redeemed our night.

Zen Ya on Urbanspoon

At Eduardo’s, you’ll feast on a ginormous plate of pasta for about the same price as a fast food meal. Keeping expectations in check it is a $10 meal after all this is a great choice when you want to have the experience of going out but don’t actually want to pay for eating out.

On my way to the restaurant, which is located just east of St Denis on Duluth, I popped in at the SAQ and picked up an Italian ‘[white] house wine’ did I mention that Eduardo’s is BYOW? On my way out I noticed a neat brochure suggesting wine pairings for various Italian dishes. After browsing their decidedly fancier options, I felt happy with my humble selection, which I felt was much closer to what you would get in any small village in Italy: a lovely unpretentious wine that costs less than bottled water. Fontana Morella Cerveteri, a liter for $8.80 offers you a light, fruity, pleasant wine, perfect to match a low key meal.

Eduardo’s is divided in to two rooms. When I arrived it seemed like the room to the right was for either mellow peeps or couples; my friends were of course sitting in the room to the left, where noise and laughter filled the space. It turned out to be a girls-night, which was perfectly complimented by copious amounts of wine and carbo-loading.

The appetizers were rather meh the escargot were under-salted and the calamari were pretty chewy. The pasta dishes on the other hand were great (again, keeping in mind what you’re paying for it). I vaguely recall that they used to offer half portions, and I wished they still did. I intended to share a lasagna dish and pasta bolognese with a friend. Unfortunately, I think we had a little too much of that house wine and were too engrossed in conversation so that she ended up feasting on the bolognese while I finished the lasagna. Unfortunately each dish would be enough to fill two people; I’m impressed we both cleaned our plates. Again, the wine and chatter kept me too distracted, and I didn’t get to try the other dishes I know two other friends shared the steak and shrimp, and there was a third pasta dish; the general consensus was that it was good cheap comfort food.

I somehow managed to make room to try their tiramisu. Once again, I’ll blame the wine I don’t know how else I could have eaten more food. The tiramisu cake was ok, but easily skippable (which sane sober people would do after that much pasta…). All in all, it was a really fun night. We once again closed down the place, which I think is pretty badass for a Wednesday night.

Photos by Andrea Merlano

Going out to dinner can be awesome, it can be unremarkable, or in the worst of cases, it can ruin your evening. Many elements determine these things and each of these factors is of course contingent on a million others. So how do you know when a restaurant is good or bad, vs. when a particular experience at said restaurant is good or bad?

The latest Wine and Dine adventure took us to Outremont, to Mai Thai on Bernard (cross street Parc). We had the largest W&D turn out to date with twelve guests. Our large crew seemed to take the restaurant by surprise, despite the fact that we gave them a week’s notice. There was one server and one cook to take care of about twenty patrons that night.

The shortage of staff resulted in slow service. Although we were partly responsible for taking our time placing orders, the real tragedy was the restaurant couldn’t handle that kind of multitasking and so the timing was very off- the cook looked absolutely exhausted when she left at the end of the night. About half of the appetizers were brought out in one round, a couple more five minutes later, and the last were brought much later. There was the same timing issues with the main dishes; the last plate of food was delayed leaving my friend staring at the ceiling for what seemed like an eternity. It begs the question: do you wait for everyone to be served even if that means people’s food gets cold? Or do you go ahead and eat while a hungry companion watches?

The main dishes would have been enjoyable had we had good service, I might even say it was great. Unfortunately we were too distracted by hunger to really savour it. Considering the alternatives, I won’t be going back when my next craving for Thai strikes. A few comments on what I do recall; the duck spring roll was rather bland I’m not even sure it had any mint. The rest of the dishes I tried though did hold their own. The fried monkfish was good, as was the beef curry. The veggie curry, the shrimp with lychee and the Pad Thai were ok I kept thinking back to a lunch I had a week earlier at Bangkok and was left unimpressed with this dinner, which does not bode well for Mai Thai.

They were out of the house wine, so we had a bottle of an Italian Pinot Grigio and a Californian fumé blanc (Fetzer 2009). Both were served too cold- the fumé blanc in particular, and neither was remarkable.

Dinner took so long that some of our companions left before we could order dessert, only a handful of us stuck it out till the end. I heart fried desserts, bananas and ice-cream are my weakness, and I was excited to try the fried mars. I’m very peculiar about chocolate, but the promise of a deep fried candy bar seemed so ostentatiously indulgent that I couldn’t pass it up. Unfortunately, they were out of mars bars and wouldn’t accept our offer to go buy one at the dep. So we stuck with fried bananas and what do you know, it ended up being my favorite dish of the night.

When we got our bill we realized that dessert was once again on the house we seem to be building a W&D tradition of free sweets. I just hope this tradition stops being as an apology for slow service and continues simply as a recognition of our awesomeness.

Mai Thai on Urbanspoon