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Catharsis in Chinatown

by Archives January 22, 2008

It’s a rare cathartic pleasure for a restaurant reviewer to write a scathing review. For some reason, restaurant staff seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to spotting reviewers and this tends to force them on their best behaviour; not so with Van Roy.
We arrived as a group, a little tired from our collective days, with an unrestrained desire for spicy soft-shelled crab. We were quickly herded to our seats, where the waitress unceremoniously dumped our menus before leaving.
I must take a moment to give a little background about my relationship with this restaurant. This is the place where I spent almost every lunch during the work week, for close to three years. I wasn’t unknown by them, neither was I unaware of the quality of it’s food. I’d become such a regular that, for a period of time, the waiter would simply bring me my lunch without bothering to hand me a menu; I was a little predictable.
“Don’t worry about it guys. I know this place, It may be a little rough around the edges, but it’s really the best Won Ton soup in Montreal.” We looked over the menu and we decided to order a bunch of everything: a noodle dish, a meat dish, some seafood, some Vegetables, and the Soft-shelled Crab. It was during this time that we realised that the television behind us made it close to impossible for us to hear ourselves think, much less enjoy our meal.
Seeing as I was the regular, I flagged down the waitress in hopes of getting her to turn the television down only to be promptly ignored. After a few more failed attempts, I managed to get her attention long enough to ask, with as much charm and politeness as I could muster, if it was possible to simply lower the volume a little.
“No” she said, and walked away from our table. I was, to say the least, a little stunned. I’d been giving them my patronage for years, multiple times a week, and this was the service I was getting? My dining partners tried to convince me to forget about it, so we waited for the food to arrive.
When the food did arrive, I tried to ask a second time. I appealed, as best I could, to her sense of logic. “Sorry, it’s just that there’s no one watching it right now, and it would really make our meal more enjoyable if you could just lower the volume a little bit.” This time she seemed a little upset about it and stormed off muttering to herself in Mandarin.
As we started on the food, the head waiter, who tends to be the one I see most often during lunch time, came by our table to ask us how our meal was. I promptly explained the situation with the television set and he acquiesced, walked away to have a little chat with his waitress. We finished the plates that had been brought to the table, drank some tea, and waited. The waitress, having been talked to by her boss, somehow still did nothing about the uncomfortable auditory situation.
I looked around the table, everyone seemed more or less full, but something was wrong. “Didn’t we order a plate of vegetables?” Someone asked. When said plate did arrive, it was roughly ten minutes after we’d all finished eating. Needless to say, we were not interested in digging into the side dish after the rest of the food. Not wanting to waste, we did the best we could, and polished off the last plate before I got up to pay the bill at the counter.
I was dissatisfied. I was also determined to overlook this one mistake in years of good service. I decided to tip ten percent. Imagine my surprise when the head waiter arrived at my table with the waitress in tow, put down a plate of fortune cookies and cut oranges, and promptly told me: “Excuse me, but, you know that tip is fifteen percent. Was there something wrong?”
Now this was the last straw for me. I can understand wanting to know why the tip was lower than the average, but I can’t understand confronting your customer by telling him he’s not tipping you enough. I kept my rage in check and calmly explained what the situation was; Rude service by the waitress, plates being brought in late, and her complete refusal to turn down the volume of the television set. He seemed to understand, since he apologized and walked away, but the waitress had one last card to play. Angrily, she snatched up the plate of fortune cookies and cut oranges, and swiftly left, leaving us a little taken aback. “Did, did she just steal our fortune cookie?” “I think it’s time we left.”
As we stepped outside, one of my dining partners turned to me let me know of another tidbit of discourtesy leveled at our presence. Apparently, twice during the evening, the waitress had managed to hit her in the back of the head, in the process of depositing the plates and refilling our tea kettle. Not once did she apologize or even call attention to this fact. My dining partner isn’t one to make a scene, so she simply took it in stride and vowed never to set foot in that establishment again. I on the other hand, decided to write a column about it. I’m never going back, and hopefully, reading this will make a few more people stay away from Van Roy. It’s too bad as well; they really did make the best Won Tons in town.

Van Roy
1095 Clark
Tel: 514.871.1724

(Good Food, Terrible Service)

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