The above statement then leads me to Father's Day dinner, a meal frequently booked eons in advance to secure the best table in the house for our daddies. Not unlike other children on the hunt for the ideal restaurant, I also made the effort to call Diana's two weeks prior to confirm their Father's Day menu (as their website was still displaying the set course from the previous year) and the availability of a table for three.
Ultimately, a table was successfully booked over the phone; I even completely disregarded the unpreparedness that was the chef's indecisiveness in confirming a proper selection of items for the celebrated Sunday evening. And on Sunday, in the early evening, we made our way over in hopes of undergoing a culinary experience as exceptional as the suede-booth-and-dark-wooden-table-featuring environment indicated possible.
"Here you go." She almost left us with the menus as we stared in horror at the seating arrangement being offered to us. Along with the standard tables, Diana's had opted to maximize the number of seats in the house by adding temporary tables in between each booth.
This wouldn't have been an issue, normally, though the fact that I had purposely booked a table - might I add, two weeks in advance, with the intention of enjoying a proper meal void of worrying about whether other guests entering the establishment would be brushing by us every few minutes was, indeed, a massive problem.
I wasn't about to simply settle for a temporary table awkwardly situated in the middle of the restaurant, especially not when only three chairs had been embarrassingly placed around it.
My first reaction to the catastrophe was to request a different table from the hostess, who replied with an uninterested "This is a table for three people."
"We would like a booth." I calmly responded.
"Did you say you wanted one?"
"I booked two weeks in advance." I retorted, adding "before your chef even decided on the menu" under my breath.
"So did everyone else." she glared.
I almost lost all composure at this point, but instead heaved greatly to prevent causing a disturbance to my parental units beside me.
The hostess tone remained unchanged, "Did you request for one when you booked?"
I returned her glare. "I wasn't given that option."
She hesitated, and eventually agreed to check whether other tables had specified a booth table, offering to yield should she fail to locate such specifications.
I nodded and watched as she clumsily trudged back to the hostess podium, being intercepted along the way by a balding, crude-looking middle-aged man dressed sloppily in slacks and a Salvation Army-esque sleeveless fleece zip-up.
"What's the matter?" he spat at us in a thick, Chinese accent.
I merely restated my request as the hostess returned, face once again devoid of apology, shame, concern, and any other acceptable customer service expressions for that matter.
"Well, did you check?" I glowered over her, eyes slowly filling with fury and exasperation.
Her next steps of action only threw me further off the edge: a silent gesture was cast in the direction of the middle-aged man whose apparel and demeanour would be unfit even for serving customers at a Pho bar. "Talk to him." she seemed to be implying. "I don't need to check because he's here."
Positively outraged at this point, I stood my ground, further expressing the need to satisfy my demand for an acceptable seating arrangement. This was no longer a matter of making a simple request, but also an absolutely repulsive encounter with a team of front-line management staff clearly unaware of the concept of customer service.
"We have over 200 people here tonight!" The middle-aged man almost threw his arms up in the air for the sake of exaggerating his already grammar-less, accent-tainted statement.
He bitterly yammered, "What do you want?!".
"I want a booth."
"Ok, fine. Pick a booth."
I immediately walked over to one of the many empty booths, sliding into the middle table against the wall before being rudely shuffled into a corner. The impossibly rude duo waltzed away, and soon the timid-looking glasses girl re-appeared to remove one chair from our table, leaving behind nothing else but an embarrassing gap and insufficient seating area.
"Do you have a scarcity of chairs here??" My voice retained an ironic edge, clearly looking for our chair to be re-instated.
The girl hovered, evidently shaking in anxiety, before ducking away and mumbling an almost inaudible "Yes."
Well, I'll be. A restaurant like Diana's expanded to Markham, and yet management has become this stingy over the amount of chairs placed on the floor for an event such as Father's Day? My my, you aren't making much sense now, are you?
Embracing our newly-earned - why did we even need to earn it though? - seating arrangement, we took to gazing through the menu in search of exclusive menu items for the day. To our dismay, the waitress explained that, as opposed to the previous year's unique three course, the only "special" item being offered this year was a Surf 'n' Turf at a discounted price.
This wasn't to our liking, of course, so we opted for several other items instead.
< Pictured above and below: Blanch de Chambly, Kusshi oyster, Clam Chowder, Grilled Atlantic Salmon w/ Mixed Greens Salad, Lobster and Shrimp Tagliatelli, Penne Alla Vodka, and Virgin Colada >
The Clam Chowder, on the other hand, was a more disappointing dish. According to the conclusive agreement, the soup retained little of shellfish essence but majority of the blended potato base that had been used to create a more substantial aftertaste. Chunky and satiating in not the most satisfying manner, it was promptly compared to previously-tasted proper chowders and crossed off the list.
Our entrees, aka the highlight of our meal, was nowhere to be seen for the next hour after the departure of empty appetizer plates. This situation ensued even after reminding the waitress several times of our unceasing famine and witnessing tables that had been seated after us receive their drinks, main courses, and dessert.
The Lobster and Shrimp Tagliatelli, which was neither loaded with lobster nor even created with Tagliatelle pasta, was a decent dish. Creamy sauce and semi-firm pasta is difficult to mess up, though I found the shrimp to be slightly overcooked.
Grilled Atlantic Salmon lacked in presentation as well as vegetable variety. It was observed that the base of wilted veggies upon which the fillet rested was comprised mainly of bok choy, an economical variety of greens which are also extremely easy to obtain, and heavily salted spinach. The fish itself had been grilled and seasoned well, but wasn't memorable by any means.
My order of Penne Alla Vodka was, hands down, the most depressing dish of all. Originally depicted as pasta served with "vodka-cured salmon, double-smoked bacon, and roasted bell peppers in a vodka-dill cream sauce", the plate failed to exceed the standards of blanched penne tossed in oil and topped with bits of crisp, fatty bacon. Sickeningly greasy, I would have been unable to consume the dish had I not added a generous drizzle of the lemon juice on top. Had I not been exhausted and hungry, I probably wouldn't have touched more than two bites, though.
In addition, the devastating differences between Diana's Father's Day dishes and Grand Opening event hors d'oeuvres was made noticeable in the quality and portion size of the dishes delivered. Not only was presentation lacking in many of the items we had ordered (dirty plate edges were my main concern), flavour and ingredients had also been greatly compromised amidst the chaotic atmosphere and were not nowhere near deserving of the price that was being charged.
Lastly, it is crucial to reiterate that the customer service, or rather lack thereof, provided by the two hostesses and distasteful brute of a middle-aged man was appalling and completely unacceptable. While I've experienced my fair share of horridness as a customer, this was truly taking miserable attitude to the next level. It at least made for a memorable Markham adventure, though I'm certain that I won't enjoy re-living it a second time.