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sadistick

Ambassador Restaurant: Terrible experience

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I felt it my duty to share tonight's 'event' with some fellow food lovers.

I have heard and read some good feedback regarding the chinese resturant Ambassador up at hwy 7 & Leslie...so tonight I was up at my GF's in that area and we decided to give it a try.

We got there and sat down. First things first, tell the manager and waiter that my GF has a bad allergy to shell fish, done. I start to peruse the menu while noticing the manager is hovering right above me with pen and paper in hand...one of my pet peeves and a definite no no. I tell him we will need a few minutes, so he extends his circling radius to 10-15 feet.

I make it my mission to try the hot and sour soup at all venues which serve it, so I first ordered that while my GF wanted something light, so she ordered a noodle soup with chicken and vegtables in a broth. I then ordered (mistake?) a general tsow chicken, one steamed rice, and told him to leave a menu with me as I like to stagger my orders in chinese restaraunts as sometimes they tend to bring things too fast. He asked if we wanted msg (!?!?) in our food, to which I replied with a baffled expression...'no thank you'.

So my soup comes, lots of nice fresh seafood, good size portion, decent flavours, a 7/10...quite respectable. A minute or two later, they bring out the general tsow chicken (while I was not even 1/4 of the way done my soup, I guess to let the chicken come down to room temp???) and my GF's noodle 'soup' which appeared at first to be just some noodles and boiled chicken with a few pieces of bok choy in a VERY clear broth...which set off a few bells and whistles. I look at her and she gives me the 'look' and I taste the soup, yup...my hunch was right, hot water.

Yes, Hot water, they served noodles and boiled chicken and veg in HOT WATER...for $6.50 I might add!

I get the managers attention and nicely explain that we didn't order noodles and chicken in hot water, we ordered soup, you know, the flavoured variety...he apologizes and returns a few minutes later which what appears to be a light brown broth, with said noodles and chicken. Fine. The taste factor was about a 3/10, but the fly floating around in the soup definetly brought it down quite a few notches......

At this point I was absolutely baffled and somewhat disgusted. You can go down to china town, eat at a handfull of 'hole in the wall' type establishments, pay half the price, get twice as good service and a heck of a lot better food...not to mention no flies.

Enough was enough, I asked the manager to bring me a bill for my soup, stating I was not interested in eating cold chicken, nor any half assed noodle soups with flies in it.

I paid (against some inner voice which just screamed to walk out) and left.

So, in closing, if you want good flavourful chinese food, without insects, do not go to ambasador.

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I am so sorry that you had such a terrible experience there. It has been a couple of years since I last dined there and can say that my experience was not nearly so negative. Mind you, I have only dined there for brunch, not dinner.

Anyone else have a recent dining experience from the Ambassador to share?

You should have taken pictures of the fly floating in the soup with a camera-phone or something.

Mark

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I was there once for an 'accidental' lunch (we were moving somebody and the van blew a tyre, so we had to wait for CAA).

There were 5 of us - and we didn't finish a single dish. They were all bad. Mostly consistency (alternated between spongy and rubbery) - not a single crunch anywhere.

We tried about 8 dishes. probably the worst Cantonese I've tried.

But no flies - I believe they're crunchy!

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I wold have pointed to the fly and told them that I'm not paying a single cent for the crappy meal, service and added insect bonus in the meal.


Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

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Yikes....I have never been there - although I hope I have not been there. Better a fly than a spider that my spouse had in her soup one day.....(not there but at another place)

When I am in the area I usually go with the spouses relatives (all from HK in case you are wondering) (and I am usually the only white guy in the entire place) and we almost always go to Man Woo at 8425 Woodbine Ave which has been very good each time I have been but used to go to a place called Magic Wok 4331 14th Avenue but that place is just too damn busy but the fish three way dish was always outstanding - too much pushing by others to get in. That said, both my spouse and her parents who lived in Toronto for 25 years (and now live in Vancouver although my spouse has returned with me) and her relatives who also visit Vancouver regularly say the Chinese food is much better there across the low and high end spectrum and they noted it was always tough to come by good places in Toronto that would be open one day and then change owners the next. There was one very high end place I went to just off Woodbine a few weeks back (it was directly across from the Costco on west side of Woodbine that was very high end but just did not compare with Sun Sui Wai on Main Street in Vancouver (as some of you may know). Damn, now I am dying from some fresh King Crab from Sun Sui Wai (drooling).


Edited by mkjr (log)

officially left egullet....

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I've heard the same about about Van vs Toronto for Chinese (and Korean)restaurants. I suspect the problem is that there's enough of a market here that even the mediocre / inauthentic / downright crappy versions can still survive. So finding a good Chinese restaurant here relies really heavily on experience and word-of-mouth because anyone can just open up shop and sling whatever.

sadistick, I'm sorry to hear you had a bad experience at Ambassador. I've been several times (both for dinner and for dim sum) and it was always amazing. As an aside, "General Tso's chicken" isn't really something you can judge a Chinese restaurant on. I don't mean to say that excuses boiled water / flies / etc. though.

wish I had suggestions for a dinner alternative in that area.

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I have read on some boards (chowhound maybe?) not to go to Ambassador for any meal other than dim sum. The consensus seems to be that it's the only time it's good.

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We got there and sat down.  First things first, tell the manager and waiter that my GF has a bad allergy to shell fish, done.  I start to peruse the menu while noticing  the manager is hovering right above me with pen and paper in hand...one of my pet peeves and a definite no no.  I tell him we will need a few minutes, so he extends his circling radius to 10-15 feet.

While I understand you might not like that style of service, I've noticed at many Chinese restaurants, this is the style. Many places I frequent assume diners have a certain familiarity with the menu, and so they do not stray far from the table, thinking the diners will place their order rather quickly. At a Chinese place, I would hardly refer to it as "a definite no no."

I make it my mission to try the hot and sour soup at all venues which serve it, so I first ordered that while my GF wanted something light, so she ordered a noodle soup with chicken and vegtables in a broth.  I then ordered (mistake?) a general tsow chicken, one steamed rice, and told him to leave a menu with me as I like to stagger my orders in chinese restaraunts as sometimes they tend to bring things too fast.  He asked if we wanted msg (!?!?) in our food, to which I replied with a baffled expression...'no thank you'.

Why reply with a baffled expression? Many people don't mind msg in their food (like the millions of Chinese and Japanese who use it in their own cooking, and the millions of Americans and Canadians who eat prepared foods that contain msg).

I get the managers attention and nicely explain that we didn't order noodles and chicken in hot water, we ordered soup, you know, the flavoured variety...

If you put it that way, I can understand why they put the fly in your girlfriend's soup.... :hmmm:

About the order of dishes, I think it's important to note that Chinese dishes are often meant to be communal dishes. That $6.50 was probably not intended to be an individual serving, however weak the flavour. And soup is often served along with the other dishes, rather than before other dishes, and eaten along with the meal. Same goes with other dishes ordered--they don't bring the dishes out "too quickly", but perhaps you prefer not to eat them in the style which they are meant to be eaten (in a Chinese restaurant, anyway, where many dishes are eaten at the same time, rather than one by one).

While I do not defend the reportedly poor quality of the food you ate, I do take some offence to some of the complaints you made about the service which, at at *Chinese* restaurant, are not necessarily indicative of a bad restaurant. And if you really said the things you said you did, in the same kind of tone in which you wrote of them, I'd have put the fly in your soup, too. :biggrin:

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Endy - What would you suggest is a dish that you can judge a chinese restaurant on? I just enjoy general tsao chicken and figured I would give it a shot.

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While I understand you might not like that style of service, I've noticed at many Chinese restaurants, this is the style.  Many places I frequent assume diners have a certain familiarity with the menu, and so they do not stray far from the table, thinking the diners will place their order rather quickly.  At a Chinese place, I would hardly refer to it as "a definite no no."

Have to sternly disagree here and it is "a definite no no" whether it's Chinese or Italian. In fact, I've been to more European restaurants than Chinese Restaurants where the waiter "hover" wanting to take your order early. Not only is this not the "style of service" of Chinese restaurants, on the contrary, good Chinese restaurants are so busy and the staff running around so fast that you'd be hard pressed to try and flag one down to take an order.

Generally speaking, where Chinese restaurants differ from most European restaurants is that wait staff don't have dedicated tables so you won't normally get the same attention and the tip jar is pooled (or in some extreme bad cases, go to the owner). So, if you're ready to order at a Chinese restaurant, you almost always have to flag down staff rather than to have one of them approach the table unsolicited. The only exception would be if the restaurant is not busy in which case staff might be hovering because they have nothing else to do.

As for Ambassador, it's living on reputation alone as it's not a good restaurant and have not been for a long time. I would be surprised if it was that busy for dinner and if the manager was hovering, it means they weren't.

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You hit it spot on SY.

They were basically dead, with multiple staff members just floating around the restaurant. Heck, one was even checking her makeup in a mirror on a pillar right next to us while the other 2 staff members spoke above us in mandarin from two tables away. Truely unprofessional.

Everyone I have told thus far have pretty much responded with a similar shocked expression and a response of "wow...I can't believe you paid"

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Endy -  What would you suggest is a dish that you can judge a chinese restaurant on?  I just enjoy general tsao chicken and figured I would give it a shot.

no doubt, choosing something you enjoy is good, but "General Tso chicken" is kinda like...I dunno, going to Romagna Mia and asking for pepperoni pizza...or a California roll at Hiro. It's not Chinese food, so not only are you going to get crappy food, you're also going to be treated like...a "tourist" I guess, I'm not sure how to express what I mean. Sort of a "oh, you're looking for chop suey, I guess we can throw together some slop for you.".

whether or not such treatment is fair/polite/etc. is not my argument here, just that it will happen.

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Endy -  What would you suggest is a dish that you can judge a chinese restaurant on?  I just enjoy general tsao chicken and figured I would give it a shot.

no doubt, choosing something you enjoy is good, but "General Tso chicken" is kinda like...I dunno, going to Romagna Mia and asking for pepperoni pizza...or a California roll at Hiro. It's not Chinese food, so not only are you going to get crappy food, you're also going to be treated like...a "tourist" I guess, I'm not sure how to express what I mean. Sort of a "oh, you're looking for chop suey, I guess we can throw together some slop for you.".

whether or not such treatment is fair/polite/etc. is not my argument here, just that it will happen.

Here's a prespective from Vancouver. To get a good gauge of a Chinese restaurant I think it is generally best to order something simple. Chinese food is ingredient driven and the goal is to enhance the inherent postive qualities of that ingredient. A simple stirred fried vegetable with garlic is a good starting point - the vegetables should be impeccably fresh and green, not over cooked but not cruncy raw either - it should not be greasy or taste of MSG. This will tell you if the kitchen cares about the basic things.

Even when the dish gets more complicated - good ingredients and a sure hand should show itself. The dish should be tight and the flavors distinct and bright - if there is too much sauce or the flavors are muddy - then you know things are not so good.

Though I am not too familiar General Tso's Chicken - I don't there is anything inherently wrong with ordering what you like. Endy is right in saying though that some places may take this as a qeue that you are not be a 'serious' eater - clearly a mistake on the restaurant's part. I personally like ordering sweet and sour pork at Cantonese restaurants - and it should be done well. Crisp fresh coating - a good balance between fat and meat, and a nice clean tasting sauce. Good!

Sorry to hear about your crappy experience. Simply unacceptable and there is nothing that you did that should have illicited such sloppy cooking.

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What a terrible experience! I've had (wedding) dinners at the resto and catered by them, and it was good. I don't think I've gone there for dinner specifically.

I have gone for dimsum though and that's usually quite tasty, though if I'm going to pay that much, I'd rather pay the extra dollars to go downtown and eat at Lai Wah Heen. There are too many good dimsum places around there to bother paying more.


foodpr0n.com 11/01/17: A map of macarons in Toronto // For free or for a fee - bring your bottle! corkagetoronto.com

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Endy -  What would you suggest is a dish that you can judge a chinese restaurant on?  I just enjoy general tsao chicken and figured I would give it a shot.

no doubt, choosing something you enjoy is good, but "General Tso chicken" is kinda like...I dunno, going to Romagna Mia and asking for pepperoni pizza...or a California roll at Hiro. It's not Chinese food, so not only are you going to get crappy food, you're also going to be treated like...a "tourist" I guess, I'm not sure how to express what I mean. Sort of a "oh, you're looking for chop suey, I guess we can throw together some slop for you.".

whether or not such treatment is fair/polite/etc. is not my argument here, just that it will happen.

completely irrelevent. You put an item on your menu and contend that

people should expect something less than your best effort?

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completely irrelevent.  You put an item on your menu and contend that

people should expect something less than your best effort?

whether or not such treatment is fair/polite/etc. is not my argument here, just that it will happen.

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you would think that a hamburger from Trotters would be mindblowing

not 1/2 assed, served with a side of attitude.

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you're right, it's different for me; I'm more interested in figuring out how I can get more out of my time, money, and energy that I spend dining, rather than looking for ways to have a bad experience for the sake of having something to complain about. If that requires such drastic steps as *acknowledging reality*, then so be it.

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Endy -  What would you suggest is a dish that you can judge a chinese restaurant on?  I just enjoy general tsao chicken and figured I would give it a shot.

Shark fin soup or their Mapo Tofu

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you're right, it's different for me; I'm more interested in figuring out how I can get more out of my time, money, and energy that I spend dining, rather than looking for ways to have a bad experience for the sake of having something to complain about.  If that requires such drastic steps as *acknowledging reality*, then so be it.

AMEN

I have patronized the Ambassador 3 times in the past 4 months, ie; every time I go to TO. I have not had a bad experience. (In my past life, I had been a food professional with my own restaurant.)

On a more pleasant note to the Chinese restaurant scene in TO, my favourite is the "New World Seafood" on Spadina (west side), between Dundas and College and has been for a long time. I guess other people think so too for I have met a rather famous world class Toronto Chef, the one with the sibilant first name, and his whole famdambly there on more than one occasion. Basically this is a family run place and most of their regulars are treated like village folk or "heng li". Like a homecoming for this old "loh wah kieu".

Lai Wah Heen is in a class by itself, but not for everyday eating. Their food and prices are a little too "refined" for this village boy, who just want great food at a reasonable cost.

I have never set foot inside the Swatow, and I can't see why it's so popular unless it's because of the late hours they keep. :blink:

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Ben - What do you order at New World Seafood that you love so much?

BTW - Dont knock Swataou...Their noodle dishes are amazing, as is their shrimp wonton soup.

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it's isn't JUST because they're open late, although that's a good reason. But the food is better than you'd expect for such a hole in the wall. It's hardly the best in Toronto, but it's excellent value and they do some dishes really well (I like the shrimp wonton soup too, there's a bitter melon / oyster / egg dish that I really like, and even basics like their yeung chow chow fan are good).


Edited by Endy' (log)

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Not really knocking Swatow because as I said, I have never set foot in it. But that restaurant has never been mentioned by any of my family, friends and associates. Maybe I will try them next month.

As for ordering at New World, I don't. I just ask the wait staff to bring me whatever is freshest and/or are the specials of the day, unless I am really craving a certain dish. Usually I have my family with me, so they make up enough dishes for a communal dinner. I trust them fully and I have never been disappointed with their selections. This trust comes from longterm patronage and mutual familiarity and friendship.

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So what are some dishes that stand out in your mind which you have had there?

I am not always comfortable letting them order for me, as there are certain items (especially in Chinese cuisine) which I wont eat (chicken feet for one :P)

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So what are some dishes that stand out in your mind which you have had there? 

I am not always comfortable letting them order for me, as there are certain items (especially in Chinese cuisine) which I wont eat (chicken feet for one :P)

I will not ever recommend dishes to people I don't know, especially if they have already put caveats out. Sometimes it's best for one to try something other than the tried (trite) and true (mundane).

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