Restaurants, especially mom & pop outfits, are a tough business in Vancouver. Knowing this I try to be very forgiving when I have a bad dining experience. Every restaurant has a bad day.
I also judge restaurants in their respective context. I don't expect to a busy noodle place in East Van and expect cheery, smiley service, and have the server ask if I'm enjoying my meal and if I want my water glass topped up. That's strictly for Rob Feenie like places; not a noodle place where you go to have good, cheap, eats.
What I DO expect is consistency and, above all, professionalism.
I have only gone to Pho Tan a few times - usually under protest to friends who want to go - and have never enjoyed my dining experience. While I appreciate the many positive ratings given to this restaurant I find that the Vietnamese food is mediocre. The pho broth lacks flavour and excites me as much as a bowl of instant ramen.
The portions are skimpy at Pho Tan for what you pay, and for what their competitors more north of 30th Ave offers along Main St., and Fraser St., respectively -- although I will give Bon Cafe on Main and 33rd Ave a thumbs up for a grilled pork Vietnamese sub that more than rivals offerings at Au Petite Cafe.
So I already had reservations about going to Pho Tan because the food is unexciting and I leave hungrier than when I started.
However, today was the straw that broke the camel's back. The server, older lady, screwed up my order. My dining companion distinctively heard what I ordered yet when the server brought my food it was incorrect.
I pointed out that she had brought me the wrong plate and she put up a fuss and kept insisting it was what I ordered. Knowing this was futile, and not wanting to make a scene, I accepted the wrong order.
To me, a server making a mistake, not making any effort to correct it, not even apologizing, and then blaming the customer is wrong. While I don't believe the adage, "the customer is always right", in this case the server was wrong but could not care less.
I left my payment separately from my friends, and left only the price of the meal, and no tip except two pennies; the second penny was to let them know the first penny was not a mistake!
I don't ever recall a time I refused to leave a tip. Even in the worst times where the food was bad, or the server was having a tough day, I would leave 10-15%. However, I was so annoyed that I gave her and restaurant what I thought they deserved and will never go back there again. My friends may want to go back but I'd sooner eat alone elsewhere than to give Pho Tan my business.
I'm not discouraging people to NOT go to Pho Tan but please don't think it's the best Vietnamese restaurant in a 2 km radius just because you heard it was. There are much better ones who give better food, better portions, and better service.