I finished my work early today and had some time for a little more food before catching my flight.
It doesn't take more than one visit to Richmond Station to conclude that it is an outstanding restaurant. A beautiful, comfortable, airy space. Servers that remind me of Danny Meyer's restaurants (Gramercy Tavern, Union Square, etc)-- where, from the moment you walk in, you get the sense that the people there are enthusiastic about the opportunity to provide hospitality and take care of you. And, the food I had was outstanding, too. The charcuterie plate had me wondering if I've ever had a better charcuterie plate in my life. Still can't think of one. The standouts were the country terrine and the chicken mortadella, which was genius. Mortadella spices are a perfect pair with poultry.
Buca was an interesting contrast. The food I had was quite good. I am glad I do not have to judge the contest of who fries better smoked sweet breads: The Black Hoof or Buca. (In a pinch, I'd say the Hoof.) But, the service was very different from Richmond Station. Buca servers checked all the boxes. They were prompt, professional, etc. But, while at Richmond Station the servers gave the impression that they were on the same team as the guests, at Buca, they made the all-too-common mistake of making the customer-guest experience feel somehow adversarial. It's subtle. but, noticeable. At Richmond Station, the hostess noticed I was carrying a computer bag, and asked, unprompted, if I might like wireless access. How thoughtful and sensitive to a guest's well-being. Yes, I did. She brought be the information, and I was online. At Buca, after setting up my computer, I asked for Buca's wireless network key and was told - coldly - that it is just for Buca's "administrators." This us--vs-them feel permeated the experience. Not a huge deal. I'm all about food. This site is not called "Servicehound." But, as I grow older, it's something I notice more and more. Does the restaurant care about you? Or not? Richmond Station, absolutely. Buca? Not so sure.
And, the Maya shot at Soma lived up to the hype. I favor small government, but I could get behind a law requiring all restaurant meals to end with a Soma Maya shot.
Thanks for all of your help, hospitality, and great food, Toronto. I'm off.