With every vlog we do at View the Vibe, there is excitement. Of course, the concept of eating fine fare accompanied by good wine and good company is sure to tickle anyone’s fancy. There are, however, rare times when something special happens that sets the experience apart. It may be an original new dish, an undiscovered wine, or above-and-beyond service. Although everything at Pan on the Danforth was a delight, it was none of the usual suspects that saw us leaving with a warm feeling inside. It wasn’t the talented belly dancer who went out of her way to make everyone in the room feel like part of the show. Nor was it the perfectly cooked sea bass that melted like butter on the tongue. It wasn’t even the complimentary chocolate shots that came to polish off our meal.
As we were getting ready to leave, we were treated to a 10-minute chat with owner, Chris. Boy, did he charm the pants off all three of us. And not in a trying-too-hard, opportunistic way. Rather, he spoke with such a genuine, heart-felt passion; a true desire to do right by his customers rather than scramble to make a quick buck. It’s a quality that’s hard to come by these days in Toronto, as restaurants multiply by the month resulting in an industry becoming increasingly competitive; and restaurateurs are desperate to succeed.
So imagine our delight as we listened to Chris talk of his discomfort when servers boast about their “up-selling” skills. He sees no need to make a customer spend a penny more than he or she is comfortable with. If they want to drink ice water and share an appetizer, so be it. To simply offer someone “flat or sparkling water” omitting the option for Ontario’s finest, well, that’s a dishonest practice in his opinion. He treasures the old-school values that restaurants used to hold many moons ago. He consciously creates a place for people to come and unwind with no pressure, no rush, no minimum spend. It’s an admirable quality, a rare quality.
Too often I feel unwelcome in Toronto’s “hotspots,” made to feel inadequate because I order the $45 wine rather than the $80 and am pressured to order every course at once so they can hurry us out and flip the table. Dining used to be such a treat, an opportunity to unwind from the hassles of the week. Restaurateurs have forgotten about the importance of customer service and instead focus more on how they can turn a quick profit.
At Pan, Chris and his enchanting wife Sula pay tribute to the way things used to be. They are fiercely committed to providing warmth and familiarity to both locals and newbies. To dine in their establishment feels like being enveloped in a ginormous bear-hug from a long lost Uncle. They’re different than most. And I think that’s worth a visit.