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the best service in the city


Andrew Morrison
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hi all, my first topic post. please bear with me if you've been asked this before...

where in vancouver can you find the best table service?

criteria:

1. experience

2. wine and food knowledge

3. execution

4. personability

thanks in advance for your toleration of my post virginity.

Andrew Morrison

Food Columnist | The Westender

Editor & Publisher | Scout Magazine

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editor,

Welcome to eGullet. I'm looking forward to the launch of waiterblog in January ... looks like a good addition to the on-line scene.

Service ... some of the best in recent memory:

  • Bluewater
  • Lumiere (Gaston, you rock!)
  • Wild Rice (granted, we were at the bar with one of the owners ....)
  • Hamilton Street Grill
    Accuse me of shilling if you must :cool: I am refering to two of his staff in particular ... initals A. & E. for your info Neil

A.

Edited by Daddy-A (log)
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Best service in the past few years as I recall:

Lumière

Pastis

Provence Marinaside

Brix

The last three in particular I remember being helpful without being condescending about wine, although the service at Provence and Brix can be a bit on the slow side if they are slammed. But that's only to be expected.

Brix staff, also, were stellar when the power went out and the kitchen was unable to operate.

Agenda-free since 1966.

Foodblog: Power, Convection and Lies

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West, by far. Darryl is an outstanding waiter and makes one of the best cappucinos in Vancouver, trained in his barista skills by none other than the crew at Caffe Artigiano.

And Cru as well. We were fortunate enough to be in for an early pre-concert dinner on a Sunday evening and have Mark Taylor himself as our server. Phenomenal.

Also second Deborah's mention of Pastis. John Blakely is the consummate host, and his service staff are excellent.

Joie Alvaro Kent

"I like rice. Rice is great if you're hungry and want 2,000 of something." ~ Mitch Hedberg

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criteria:

1. experience

2. wine and food knowledge

3. execution

4. personability

I really appreciate this new topic if for no other reason than to find out what criteria is most important to diners. Another topic altogether...

I can not agree with Arne regarding Blue water. I have been there a number of times and have never had very good service. They also have one of the highest turnovers of serving staff in the city. It's rare that they can go longer than a few weeks without placing an add in the classifieds for servers. Constant staff turnover is never a positive thing for a restaurant.

I definately agree with Lumiere but when the average guest check is $125-$150, I certainly expect it to be.

Fresco's in Kelowna is always a treat. Their service and kitchen staff are amazing to watch.

I've had great service at Joe Fortes a number of times.

West has been very good.

For my own criteria, It's not always the "name" places that have provided a great experience. Depending on where I'm going, I'm just as happy having a server that shows me that they love their job and enjoys serving me. I don't need to know the 35 characteristics of a particular wine. Smile, know your basics, have a laugh along with me and I'm happy. I have one set of expectations for certain restaurants, and an entirely different set for others. But a personality is always at the forefront.

Derek

Derek

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For my own criteria, It's not always the "name" places that have provided a great experience. Depending on where I'm going, I'm just as happy having a server that shows me that they love their job and enjoys serving me.  I don't need to know the 35 characteristics of a particular wine.  Smile, know your basics, have a laugh along with me and I'm happy.  I have one set of expectations for certain restaurants, and  an entirely different set for others.  But a personality is always at the forefront.

Derek

Here, here Derek. There's a time and place for unobtrusive service, but my decided preference is for a server whose great personality compliments their food and wine knowledge and makes my dining experience a happy one.

And welcome!

Joie Alvaro Kent

"I like rice. Rice is great if you're hungry and want 2,000 of something." ~ Mitch Hedberg

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I can not agree with Arne regarding Blue water.  I have been there a number of times and have never had very good service.  They also have one of the highest turnovers of serving staff in the city.  It's rare that they can go longer than a few weeks without placing an add in the classifieds for servers.  Constant staff turnover is never a positive thing for a restaurant.

Moosh, you know I can't take it when you disagree with me!! :raz:

I should qualiy my Bluewater experience by saying both times were at a private function, and it was two servers in particular. I have no experience there outside of that.

A.

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Fresco's in Kelowna is always a treat. Their service and kitchen staff are amazing to watch.

Agreed. I dined there on a visit to Kelowna last June--the service was excellent. Also exceptional service from Richard Toussaint and his staff at Bouchons (the corner of Water and Sunset Drive in Kelowna).

The best service I had in Vancouver: Lumiere, Bishop's, The Fish House in Stanley Park.

-Christine

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i've always believed that at the better restaurants good service is always the opening intent of the server. our livelihood depends on good service. most of us strive for it at every table, but there are a myriad of variables that can always sneak into play to work against us.

there is a complex interplay at work with support staff, grumbly chefs etc., but the guest seldom sees anything beyond their server's face. that's the way we like it. it's an illusion. when it works well, it's seamless and you've hardly noticed that you've been served at all. when things fall apart, it's in your lap. in the best restaurants, things go wrong usually without the server knowing or is not his/her fault at all.

for example, from the moment you walked in the door, things went awry. the hostess rubbed you the wrong way with her thousand yard glare, and you watched the bucolic valet rub a trail of snot on the back of his hand before taking your keys. you then are forced to wait 20 minutes at the bar for your reserved table while the bartender takes his sweet time mixing your gal a lukewarm, watery cosmo. when you finally get to your table, it's next to the kitchen door and you can hear the sous chef berating the dishwasher with epithet after epithet in cantonese as you wearily thumb a winelist stained with last night's buerre blanc. the busser brings bread that is stale and cold and then finally, the hapless server, totally oblivious, approaches the table to say "good evening" with just about the milkiest smile you've ever seen. too late, bubba.

already you've likely made your mind up to never return to the restaurant and only a herculean retrieval effort on the part of the server can turn back the tide of disappointment that jades every dish thereafter presented. service can be immaculate from there on in, but the restaurant has blown it's wad. it just doesn't matter anymore.

my point is this: the intent was there, but things fall apart. like in football, anything can happen on any given sunday. at the highest level, no one restaurant can claim it's service is better than another and no savant can predict how an evening will unfold for even the city's best servers. as with all illusions, sometimes they just don't work.

Andrew Morrison

Food Columnist | The Westender

Editor & Publisher | Scout Magazine

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criteria:

1. experience

2. wine and food knowledge

3. execution

4. personability

My own criteria are (in order of importance)

1. execution (timeliness, correctness, mis en place etc.)

2. personability

3. food knowledge (in specific the knowledge of the restaurant's menu, strength's and weaknesses)

4. wine knowledge

5. Psychic powers

By my criteria I would rank my top 5 experience's in the last 12 months as.

1) Provence Marinaside

2) Cru

3) Pastis

4) Joe Forte's

5) The Keg on Granville Island (party of 8 with 2 seniors, 3 children under the age of 7 everybody left smiling - an amazing accomplishment).

As we all know timing is everything - some of the establishments listed as other peoples "bests" would appear on my "worsts" list and I am sure the reverse is true

''Wine is a beverage to enjoy with your meal, with good conversation, if it's too expensive all you talk about is the wine.'' Bill Bowers - The Captain's Tavern, Miami

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for example, from the moment you walked in the door, things went awry. the hostess rubbed you the wrong way with her thousand yard glare, and you watched the bucolic valet rub a trail of snot on the back of his hand before taking your keys. you then are forced to wait 20 minutes at the bar for your reserved table while the bartender takes his sweet time mixing your gal a lukewarm, watery cosmo. when you finally get to your table, it's next to the kitchen door and you can hear the sous chef berating the dishwasher with epithet after epithet in cantonese as you wearily thumb a winelist stained with last night's buerre blanc. the busser brings bread that is stale and cold and then finally, the hapless server, totally oblivious, approaches the table to say "good evening" with just about the milkiest smile you've ever seen. too late, bubba.

I never would have made it to my table in the above scenario :laugh:

While I beleive that certain mistakes can happen in any restaurant, the good ones minimize those mistakes. In my opinion, service starts when I walk in the door, not when I sit down. There are so many people involved in my night out.

While serving a VIP last week, he commented on how amazing the busser was. He was watching her work and was amazed at how she responded to my needs before I asked. That added to his experience. My point being this; while I spend more time than anyone in the restaurant with my guests, all the other employees are equally important to my guests perception of service. A busser can help make or break a night out, as can a sous-chef who gets the food out in a timely manner versus one who forgets to pick up the table after it is called.

I'm sure I'm going off topic but I believe in some cases a server gets too much credit when things are going smoothly and gets dumped on too much when they are not.

Derek

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In my opinion, service starts when I walk in the door, not when I sit down.  There are so many people involved in my night out.

I agree with this comment 100% winegeek. I remember Jamie mentioning this on the Bis Moreno episode as being of utmost importance too. Just as important is the time when leaving the establishment to complete the "experience".

Although not "in the city", I wish to add the Wick Inn to the list as my experience there has been mind-boggling.

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In my opinion, service starts when I walk in the door, not when I sit down.  There are so many people involved in my night out.

Just as important is the time when leaving the establishment to complete the experience".

If when I'm leaving a fine dining restaurant I walk by staff that do not say "thank-you", or at least acknowledge me, wether they have served me or not, it will not leave a great impression on me.

Derek

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from in the door to out the door, true service is holistic in it's approach. i think that as a philosophy, it should be pounced upon in this town and policed by gm's as their top priority.

name me one restaurant in vancouver where every staff member is on the same page, day after day. the wheels come off in training and on-the-floor management.

holistic service might be in the playbook of the top restaurants, but if i ever see it with my weary old waiter eyes when i dine out, i think it's a case of a broken clock telling the right time twice a day.

the key is, it doesn't have to be this way. train, train, train...manage.

Edited by editor@waiterblog (log)

Andrew Morrison

Food Columnist | The Westender

Editor & Publisher | Scout Magazine

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from in the door to out the door, true service is holistic in it's approach. i think that as a philosophy, it should be pounced upon in this town and policed by gm's as their top priority.

That's an important point ... that it's a philosphy. The question is, is it obtainable? Not just here, but anywhere.

editor, since you made the point, what establishments in Vancouver meet your requirements, or come the closest?

A.

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good news: i've seen it at wild rice, il giardino, west, brix, and fiction plus many other restaurants in other cities.

bad news: each time i was cozied up with a manager, a chef, or an owner in a situation where good service wasn't an option; it had to be excellent.

i think that really clarifies it.

service, by definition, is driven by incentive. if you skimp on service to the boss, you're likely going to hear about it in other ways that transcend the bulk of your wallet. i don't mean to dabble in extraneous psychiatry, but that's real, tangible incentive.

otherwise, is it attainable? it's the best question i've heard in a while.

answer: unfortunately, i believe, only through the dictates of serendipity.

very interesting subject matter nevertheless...

Edited by editor@waiterblog (log)

Andrew Morrison

Food Columnist | The Westender

Editor & Publisher | Scout Magazine

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Can I ask whether you folk who dine out normally tip on the price before or after tax? If I have had a good meal (and particularly if I have had some good beverages), I usually tend to take the first two numbers of the after-tax total and double them, more or less, and tip that. Which is definitely more than 20% on the total.

When I served, I was happy with 15% on the before-tax figure, and reckoned anything higher than that was gravy and a compliment to my service. Maybe it's just the higher cost of cute waitress outfits these days, but I recently tipped a scant 20% on the before-tax total after a very good meal that nonetheless had a rough beginning, and got a stone cold shoulder from my previously perfectly pleasant server for the remainder of the evening...I was also taught not to pout about a less-than fabulous tip, but then again, maybe that's just me.

Is it now de rigueur to add 20% to the after-tax total?

It reminds me of that story in Vancouver Mag, I think it was, about the server who ran after the couple and complained that the 25% she was left was not enough...I always thought anything over 20% was for extra-special service, not just service as it is to be expected somewhere where you're spending $80 or $90/person (or more, obviously)?

Please tell me if I am just too cheap to eat out any more!!

:shock:

Edited by *Deborah* (log)

Agenda-free since 1966.

Foodblog: Power, Convection and Lies

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I have also had the extremely aggravating experience of making a reservation, only to arrive at the restaurant and be told that we would have to wait about 20 minutes (this was at Montri's). Well, I thought this seemed close to the Seinfeld rent-a-car episode in which they knew how to take a reservation but didn't know how to hold it. I wasn't going to wait so we left and I've never tried to go back.

I love John Blakely at Bistro Pastis!! I went there with my father for dinner a few months ago and he is indeed the consummate host. Sat down with us and shared his knowledge of pastis and was just extremely pleasant all around.

And welcome, editor. I lurk a lot and have only posted a few times but egullet is the greatest!

Carla
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hi all, my first topic post. please bear with me if you've been asked this before...

where in vancouver can you find the best table service?

criteria:

1. experience

2. wine and food knowledge

3. execution

4. personability

thanks in advance for your toleration of my post virginity.

Hi Editor

I like to sit at the bar when I go for a meal so in theory it is more bar counter service then table service, but here goes.

Chris Stearns was pure theatre as he glided back and forth behind the bar at Lumière. His efficiency and professionalism were balanced by a wonderful knowledge of alcohol lore and whimsy. His only downfall was that as the evening blurred on to its inevitable conclusion he looked more and more like a German Panzer commander (blond hair, blue eyes and black shirt). Alas, he is no longer commanding the Lumière bar/turret and can now be found holed up in Taiwan where in his own words he is fine-tuning his “rough-and-ready, highballs & cheap beer style” experience. You can follow his exploits at http://stearnsy.com

Jay was equally entertaining and attentive on those occasions that I dined at Ouest/West’s bar. He always had a story and the correct answer to every question. Tattoos, mohawk and great knowledge, a truly unique experience.

Stafford, Tim and the gang at Rodney’s put on a great show. The minute that you set foot inside the door you can sense the energy. Almost all of energy is flowing from the bar area and all the servers there seem to be channeling it through them. I have never had a bad experience there and always find that they deliver beyond expectation consistently.

On a recent visit we were informed that there would be a 40 min wait for seats at the bar. The host agreed to call me on my cell when the seats became available and thus we were free to have a couple of pre-dinner drinks at Coast (nice room if a little smoky) across the street. Previously I have never been able to get a Vancouver host/hostess to agree to this.

I don’t get to have many sit down, fine dining experiences these days. The majority of meals are eaten quickly and the restaurant is chosen more for their infant facilities then the quality of service or food. If I were to judge these restaurants I would prefer to turn your criteria upside down, ending up with personality on top and experience on the bottom. We all know servers that have years of experience, oodles of wine and food knowledge and can serve with a minimum of effort, however this counts for naught if they are not friendly or interesting. I will always enjoy my experience more if the server has a nice smile, quick wit and is honest with me. Call me a sucker but I can forgive inexperience, lack of knowledge and poor execution if the server is making me laugh.

Cheers,

Sean Heather

MAY THE WIND AT YOUR BACK ALWAYS BE YOUR OWN, MAY THE ROAD RISE TO MEET YOU AND SPLIT YOUR FOREHEAD AND IF YOU COULD SHITE WALKING YOU'D BE A HORSE OF A MAN

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for example, from the moment you walked in the door, things went awry. the hostess rubbed you the wrong way with her thousand yard glare, and you watched the bucolic valet rub a trail of snot on the back of his hand before taking your keys. you then are forced to wait 20 minutes at the bar for your reserved table while the bartender takes his sweet time mixing your gal a lukewarm, watery cosmo. when you finally get to your table, it's next to the kitchen door and you can hear the sous chef berating the dishwasher with epithet after epithet in cantonese as you wearily thumb a winelist stained with last night's buerre blanc. the busser brings bread that is stale and cold and then finally, the hapless server, totally oblivious, approaches the table to say "good evening" with just about the milkiest smile you've ever seen. too late, bubba.

already you've likely made your mind up to never return to the restaurant and only a herculean retrieval effort on the part of the server can turn back the tide of disappointment that jades every dish thereafter presented. service can be immaculate from there on in, but the restaurant has blown it's wad. it just doesn't matter anymore.

I agree that service this appaling would be pretty difficult to overcome, but a simple apology would go a LONG way towards a successful recovery. I understand that sh!t happens, and that everyone has a bad day sometimes. It's staff who pretend that there isn't a problem that don't get a second chance from me.

Always remember that you are unique. Just like everyone else.

www.leecarney.com

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Is it now de rigueur to add 20% to the after-tax total?

Being a server myself, maybe I'm not the best person to answer this but I think I will anyhow :hmmm:

I never look at the amount before tax when I am dining out. I look at the final total and tip on that. Now, is 20% the norm? It is for Americans :laugh: Seriously though, tip what you feel is appropriate. I do. For the longest tiime I tipped 20-25% regardless of service, keeping in mind that I am a server myself. I no longer do that. If I receive great service, wether it is a a local pub or a fine dining restaurant, I tip 20-25% on the final bill. Average service, average tip, @15%. Poor service, poor tip (10%). Lousy service, I tip enough to cover a servers tip out to support staff, which is usually about 5%.. NEVER feeel obligated to tip more than you think a server deserves just because it is the norm. On the other hand, great tips are very much appreciated when exemplery service has been provided :biggrin:

Derek

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