I am passionate about the importance of a strong front of house in the restaurant business. No matter how good the food, if I'm not feeling welcome, it's game over. I get enough attitude in my day to day life and when I'm eating out at a nice restaurant, I want to feel good about being there.
In this regard, I am a fan of Fernando Temudo, the legendary Maitre D'/General Manager at Bistro 990 who left in the fall after over 20 years of service to go work at MATCH in Woodbridge (a restaurant I'm keen to try, but for the drive from my downtown abode).
A nicer, more hospitable man you'll never meet. I emailed MATCH to find out if it was true that he'd left Bistro 990 and he replied with a warm telephone message inviting me to phone him because he'd love to hear from me. (Just to be clear- I'm nobody special. I ate at 990 maybe twice a year, generally on my parents. So, it wasn't like Fernando and I were buddies.)
While Bistro 990 won't make any top 5 lists for its food, it's service under Temudo was impeccable and genuine. Fernando and his staff made you feel welcome (not in a fake, obsequious way). Somehow Fernando remembered who you were, if you'd been there before, and made you feel like you were as important as the celebrities that 990 is known for.
I think that true class is the ability to make anybody feel good, and Fernando is a classy guy for sure.
I went for dinner there in the fall, after he'd left, and you could feel the difference. The maitre d' was more your standard, somewhat prickly individual. He didn't know who we were and didn't much care. We got a decent, but not great table, even though much of the restaurant was mostly empty...the server was great and recognized my parents from when he'd worked at Browns, but overall it wasn't the same. The warmth wasn't there.
Anyhow, I just learned that Temudo is taking over as Maitre D' at the Fifth. I've never eaten there, but I've heard good things about the food. So, for this year's birthday dinner, I'm going to head to the Fifth.
I guess my overall point is the importance of service in the restaurant business, because most of us aren't heading out to michelin starred joints on a regular basis. We want delicious food, made with care and we want to feel relaxed and taken care of while we eat it. I don't care about perfection. I care about enjoyment.
So, let me know if there are any other restaurants or staff in Toronto that epitomize excellent service? any standouts? At any price point (but decent food would be good too).