Pei Modern is a restaurant that I have been wanting to eat at since it opened. Chef Mark Best and ex Vue de Monde chef Florent Gerardin are at its helm. In the decor stakes it is a disappointment. Lacklustre grey concrete walls in a dimly lit space, do not evoke a sense of beauty, but at 1pm on Tuesday 22nd December, the place is packed and buzzing. No doubt diners are holding staff X-mas parties or catch ups before X-mas.
The service is not as prompt as expected. The waitress appears stressed and does not respond favourably when I ask for the signature dish. Apparently there isn’t one, because the menu changes four times a week, but they are known for their grills, and they are the standard “size of a main.”
I choose the Duck Liver Parfait Donut $6 as a snack, the Chargrilled Calamari with Fermented Corn and BBQ Spice $24 for entree and the Aylesbury Duck Breast with Fermented Blueberries and Bitter Leaves for main $38.
My companion also chooses the Chargrilled Calamari as her main dish, and is also offered olives instead of bread since she is gluten intolerant. ( a thoughtful touch). Sparkling water is $4 per head for a bottomless supply, another plus.
The donut comes out dusted with Valhrona chocolate, and is soft, rich and indulgent. The chocolate rounds off the flavours of the duck liver parfait. A stunning looking and tasting snack. The Chargrilled Calamari arrives around a forty minutes later with snow pea sprouts on top. The calamari is tender, with a good amount of char and the tang of the corn complements the BBQ spice, but my companion does not have a meal, and wasn’t asked if she wanted her meal to come out the same time as mine. An hour has elapsed and her meal has not arrived. She makes do with morsels from my plate.
An apology is not offered, but the waitress informs us that our meals are being plated up. The duck arrives, is cooked perfectly with crispy skin and portions are generous. The blueberry sauce and bitter greens offset the richness of the duck. The food is divine. The quality and flavour of the food is unsurpassable, but the same cannot be said for the service.
The lady in the table next to me is complains that her parties’ entrees took an hour to be served. She is pleasant and a regular but instead of saying sorry the manager shrugs his shoulders and says “it’s X-mas”. My complaints are also met with stony silence, but when I mention an apology was not given to the patron next to me, one is offered albeit insincerely.
I loved the food, but not the service, nor atmosphere. An apology can go a long way. Clearly customer service is not high on Pei Modern’s agenda, and more staff were not employed to cope with the pre- Xmas rush. The food is so special that perhaps a second visit is warranted, but I am reluctant due to the poor attitude of the staff. Customers can make or break a restaurant. Treat them with respect Pei Modern or your space will become a vacant concrete shell.