Sunday, August 14, 2011

Saturday, August 13th - Woodlot, Toronto - Pitfalls of Poor Service Culture

Glazed Pork Chop - Woodlot - allow for 2hr wait, seriously
My mother happily offered/leapt for joy to babysit lil T while D and I went out with my cousine H for dinner downtown. Etobicoke is pleasant but for a couple used to living in city centres, a bit mind numbing. If you do not drive or have a car, well, you're trapped at home with a doting, newly minted grand-mother. So H offered to find somewhere nice to eat and give us a sense of pre-baby normalcy. It was a bit naive of us to think we would find reservations on a Saturday night in Toronto but H gave it a go.

She'd read about Woodlot and heard about it's social networking marketing success story. Woodlot leap frogged over regular modes of propulsion by using twitter and had them lining up on opening night. I think the accelerated ascension onto the foodie scene may have led some of the staff to forget some of the basics of customer service in the restaurant business. This aint a Ramsay joint and you cant treat customers like crap and expect repeat business on a month old brand! But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Woodlot was fully booked but they have a large communal table on the main floor of the old garage space that accepts walk-ins, first come. H arrived early for us to squat but even the was told it would be nearly an hour. She happily read her book with a cool beer and cheerful service around the corner at Teatro until we arrived or the table opened up. Luckily, or so we thought, they called to tell us that we could have a proper table up in the loft.

The space is interesting, like an artist's loft inhabited by a rogue baker. The menu is Canadian comfort food, featuring seasonal ingredients presented simply. The staff seemed rather good at first. She was very knowledgeable about the menu and the wines. She offered suggestions and was quick with our wine. Soon thereafter,it would all go wrong.

It's been a chaotic time for us with the new baby, changes to career and some sad family news. It's kept me busy, exhausted and distracted from blogging for a bit. BUT last night at Woodlot was sufficient motivation alone to get me typing.

D and H ordered the Pork Chop after the server praised it. I ordered the Pickerel though was very tempted by the Vegan option of Glazed Tempeh. We also ordered Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes and Mushroom, Beet and Wild Rice salad as sides. She then suggested we order a starter since the Pork Chops would take 20 minutes or so. I chose the Haloumi Bruscetta.

Haloumi Bruscetta - Woodlot
The bread arrived, some nice baguette and sourdough and the starter shortly after. Our water was refilled once and then ...nothing. It was as if we were in a vacuum in the corner. No one came to ask how the starter was, possibly because that might have solicited questions about our missing mains. No one refilled our wine glasses, ever. We did that ourselves for the rest of the bottle. The Haloumi starter was nice. The mound of fresh herbs on top was a nice touch. Still, that and the basket of bread was all we had to line our bellies, apart from wine, for an hour and a half. The tables nearby that had been seated half an hour after us, had had their starters and mains already. We had been chatting so we were being extra patient. At the hour mark from placing our order, near two hours from having parked (ticking pending), we called our server over to ask what was up.

Pickeral with Summer Peas - Woodlot
She was not easy to flag down though she darted from nearby table to nearby table. She did not explain and only said it would be up in three minutes. When after 10 minutes nothing appeared we rose to leave. H being the nice gurl that she is, stopped to pay for the wine, which I would not have done. We stood outside waiting for H when I realised what she was upto. It had been an hour and a half since we place our order for 20 minute pork chops and we were done. The manager chased us out the door to apologise and explain that the order was lost in the kitchen. We explained to him, it was not only that the order took so long but that the server never came to check on us or offer a truthful explanation of the whereabouts of our order. We told him we were two minutes from getting a parking ticket and we were leaving. He offered to comp our meal and pay for parking behind the restaurant. We conceded. I ran into the restaurant to stop H from paying for the wine. Softy that she is, she was even leaving a tip!

Japanese Cheesecake - Woodlot
They refilled our glasses with the Cab Franc we ordered, with additional wine. Our mains arrived a few minutes after we sat back down. The Pickerel was fried and then breaded after frying so as to leave it lighter. The fish itself was well cooked but the breading left a dry texture in the mouth. It was well seasoned though. The summer Peas were very good. The Pork Chops were over cooked. How ironic is that!?! Over cooked, well, they did take nearly two hours. The glaze was good, not to sweet which is D's pet peeve with chops. They could have benefited from some brining because they were a tad dry. H barely ate half. D was starving and had to drive us home so he finished it. The Radiccio was great. Great char and texture. The Jerusalem Artichokes were just there. Not alot of flavour or roastiness and some were a bit underdone. The Mushroom side was nice as well though sparing on the mushrooms.

Pannacotta - Woodlot
We were given complimentary desserts as well, a Japanese Cheesecake which we were not sure why Japanese. It was not to our liking. It had a strange gelatinous quality. Though the compote and the ice cream were nice. The Panacotta was delicious. Smooth, rich and the sponge toffee topping was fun.

Cuisine: sophisticated Canadian comfort food
Cost: $$$-$$$$ (mains ~21$)
Ambiance: cozy loft
Service: horrible, except for manager
Wine list: decent

Woodlot Restaurant and Bakery
Little Italy/Portugal Village
293 Palmerston
Toronto, ON
(647) 342-6307
Service was shocking except for manager

Woodlot Restaurant & Bakery on Urbanspoon


1 Leave a / Read COMMENTs:

Liz That Skinny Chick Can Bake said...

Gosh, what a nightmare! I think you stayed longer than we would have~ I hope the service improves as the menu sounds great~