Wednesday, August 31, 2011

YEG ChocoWalk - The Dining Experience

At Niche
After eating out so much and realizing there were so many great restaurants downtown with enticing chocolate desserts, a random thought became the impetus for hopefully the first of many YEG ChocoWalks. With my partner in crime, @thepolishviking, we began to plot a deviously delicious plan to eat our way through the chocolate desserts of downtown Edmonton.

To read more about the food, visit @thepolishviking's blog post about the evening. I am going to take a bit of a departure from my usual thoughts on food to share my ideas on customer service, which I believe makes up a large part of the dining experience.

Flourless chocolate brownie at Niche
When people go to a restaurant to eat, it is rarely the back of house staff (ie. the chef, sous chef, line cooks, etc) that a patron interacts with. The job of the front of house staff (manager, host, servers, etc) is to make the patron's dining experience go smoothly and to ensure that they feel welcome, whether it is their first or hundredth time dining there. Rarely do I find that the food is so spectacular that it can make up for poor customer service.

Trying out a motorcycle helmet at Corso 32
Doing an event such as YEG ChocoWalk, exposes participants to restaurants they might never have heard of or been to before. Although groups such as these are taking up a table and only order perhaps beverages and desserts, firstly, they are still paying customers and secondly, making a good impression can encourage participants to come back another time to try a whole meal. When we planned out our walk, we had told all the restaurants about our event being the reason we were visiting their particular establishment.

Chocolate Hazelnut Torta at Corso 32
Our first stop was Niche for their flourless chocolate brownie with salted caramel. Delicious as always, although the server was unaware of our purpose there when we arrived, he quickly and eagerly began suggesting other desserts found at other restaurants downtown that might be of interest to us if we were going to stop at other restaurants that evening. Enjoying the company and the atmosphere, he encouraged us to relax, take our time and to stay a while. A great way to start the night, we appreciate the servers' knowledge of other restaurants downtown, his willingness to share his knowledge, and the fact that although we only order 3 desserts and some drinks, we were not rushed out the door after consuming them.

At Lux Steakhouse
Our next stop was Corso 32, where we had to wait a little while for our 8pm reservation. Knowing that their chocolate hazelnut torta was to die for, we didn't mind the wait. Unfortunately, although the Chef knew why we were there, the server did not. Not a huge issue, except once he found out, he immediately said, "So since you're only here for dessert, you should be out of here by 8:30 or so right?". Least to say, this set the tone for our evening and we felt rushed as the bill swiftly arrived the moment the dishes were cleared. Not a stop where we got a chance to really chat, enjoy, or even have drinks. Although I love their food, their customer service skills were severely lacking that evening. We left feeling a bit dejected, unable to even sit a while to let our dessert settle. Although I know I'll return as the food is always amazing, they need to consider coaching their servers on their customer service skills. I know their tables are at a premium since they are such a small restaurant, but I would argue no smaller than Niche. Nor are they making a very good impression on those participants who had never been to Corso 32 before or even on those who had.

The always entertaining Ed at Lux Steakhouse
We arrived at our last stop of the evening, Lux Steakhouse almost a full hour earlier than we'd planned, luckily for us they were prepared and waiting. We were immediately shown to our seats by our server, Ed. A mysterious tweet arrived from Chef Tony Le very shortly after we sat down, telling us there was quite the treat in store for us. Of all the restaurants we had been to that evening, Lux was hooves down the winner for customer service. No ordering was required as they had noted that we were there for the YEG ChocoWalk and had planned a surprise for us. Although we had come to try their new chocolate decadence cake, we got much more than what we had planned on. A few moments after our arrival, @SousChefEric and Ed came out with a chocolate tasting plate for each of us! We also gave us a ton of suggestions for our next YEG ChocoWalk from the trio.

Chocolate Tasting by @SousChefEric at Lux Steakhou
A brownie with white chocolate ganache accompanied by a fruit sorbet, chocolate truffles, and of course, a sample size of their chocolate decadence cake. By this point in the evening, the sorbet was a welcome reprieve from all the heavy chocolate we had been eating. The chocolate brownie had a create crunchy base, while the truffles were rich and creamy. Despite our best efforts, we were defeated and had the remainder of our desserts packed to go. We were truly impressed by the creations that @SousChefEric devised for us, and entertained by Ed's comments, quips and stories throughout the night.

Least to say, we were wowed by the level of attention and treatment Lux put into our experience, and overall, enjoyed our night. Despite the one slightly unsavory experience, we look forward to planning YEG ChocoWalk #2, and I only hope that there are more Niche and Lux type experiences on parts 2 and onwards.

11011 Jasper Avenue NW
Edmonton, AB T5K 0K6
Twitter: @NicheYEG 

UPDATED (December 20, 2013): CLOSED

Niche on Urbanspoon

Corso 32
10345 Japer Ave
Edmonton, AB
Twitter: @CORSO32

Corso 32 on Urbanspoon

LUX Steakhouse + Bar
Commerce Place
10150 - 101 Street
Edmonton, Alberta T5J 4G8
Twitter: @luxsteakhouse, @ChefTonyLe, @interupt2, @SousChefEric, @PballEdCordova & @CenturyHG
LUX Steakhouse and Bar on Urbanspoon


  1. Totally, totally agree with you on the customer service assessment. "So we can rebook this table for 9?" isn't a 'sit and enjoy yourself at our establishment' kind of comment.

  2. I would like to propose a round of other restaurants for chocowalk part deux…

    MRKT - flourless chocolate cake
    Copper Pot - flourless chocolate cake
    d'Lish - flourless chocolate cake
    Highlevel Diner - flourless chocolate cake

    Oooooo I see a theme emerging… ;-)

  3. OK _ I gained 5 pounds by just READING this post!

  4. Have you thought about doing a chocowalk with sweetlollapalooza, Kirstens, and callebaut? they are all down town 8)

  5. @theinfiniteyums - That was considered but we'd have to work on the logistics a bit more with those. Be nice to get a chocolate making demo with that kind of tour.

    @Acanadianfoodie - I think I did gain 5 pounds that night!


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