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.
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?!
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.