Would You Like to Be Seated?
When the prospect of snagging a table at one of the world’s hottest restaurants seems a little challenging, get creative, writes Charlotte Druckman.
Le Comptoir at Hôtel Relais Saint-Germain
9, Carrefour de l’Odéon, Paris
Phone: +33 (0)1 44 22 07 97
Fax: +33 (0)1 46 33 45 30
At Chef Yves Camdeborde’s Comptoir (counter), international foodies rub elbows with devoted locals. Stylewise? Casual and unassuming. Platewise? Loosen your belts and don’t bring a dieter or vegetarian. If boudin is on the menu, order it (it’s a recipe passed down from Camdeborde’s père, who cooked at the Ritz).
To reserve: Unless you’re a personal friend of the chef’s, call at least six months ahead (some book a year in advance).
Shortcuts: Get a room at the adjoining hotel – guests are never refused a seat. You can also do a ‘Hail Mary’ 7:30pm call-up and see if there are any last-minute cancellations. Or else, go during the first-come-first-served windows (no reservation zone) on a weekday afternoon or any time during the weekend; just be prepared to wait.
16 Bank Street, New York, New York
Phone: +11 212 243 7900
Back in the day, while brainstorming Spy Magazine, current editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair, b and his partners-in-crime dreamt of having a clubhouse – a ‘Cheers’ for the young-n-hip literati and glitterati. Finally, Carter’s dream is a reality in the form of this exclusive watering hole in New York’s West Village. And even though the concept may offend your democratic sensibilities, once you’ve had a taste of the Waverly life, you’re going to have to face a hard truth: it’s pretty great.
To reserve: Bottom line: it’s more like a members-only club than a restaurant. You’ll need to be a celebrity and/or an F.O.G. (Friend of Graydon); either way, the more you dine there, the better your chances of attaining ‘regular’ status.
Tip: Roll in late in the day (before dinner service starts) to ‘check things out’ and befriend the gatekeepers. You can ask them to save you a place in the dining room for the following evening; or, become a barfly and establish a presence.
Cala Montjoi , Ap. 30 17480, Roses, Girona
Phone: +34 972 15 04 57
For culinary enthusiasts who consider Molecular Gastronomy a religion, Chef Feran Adria is the Messiah. Adria is credited with putting foam (and the small town of Roses, Spain) on the map. And although it might sound like a case of The Emperor’s New Clothes, people make pilgrimages from far and wide to taste dishes garnished with ‘Cordoba air’. The menu changes constantly based on what the mad scientist is destabilizing in the laboratory.
To reserve: Visit the ‘Reservations’ department on the restaurant’s site and you’ll read that, “The restaurant is fully booked for our season 2007… but we will be at your disposal to revise if cancellations are produced…” Meaning: Keep your Learjet at the ready during ‘the season’ (April to September) and call or e-mail each day to check for cancellations. To secure a slot in 2008, launch a heavy contact campaign the second week in October.
The Fat Duck
High Street, Bray, Berkshire
Phone:+ 44 0162 858 0333
Heston Blumenthal is the chef that true food nerds taut as the founding father of hi-tech cookery. And although it is removed from London, there are plenty of savvy diners willing to make the journey to Blumenthal’s base. If you make it there yourself, sign up for the tasting menu and regale your friends with anecdotes about pommery grain mustard ice-cream and parsnip cereal.
To reserve: Call TWO months (as opposed to the standard one) before the desired date and do it first thing in the morning, Berkshire time. But be warned, a cancellation without sufficient notice can result in a £100 penalty per person!
6640 Washington Street, Yountville, California
Phone: +11 707 944 2380
Jackets (and reservations) are required for both lunch and dinner at Chef Thomas Keller’s flagship boîte. He introduces haute French culinary practices to Napa Valley’s easy-going luxury and regional ingredients. The menu changes daily, depending on what’s freshest. And when you’re biting into your foie gras terrine paired with poached rhubarb, you’ll be satisfied that the effort to land your seat paid off.
To reserve: The bookings office is open from 10am to 6:30pm (PST) and starts taking requests two months in advance with a credit card guarantee only.
Tip: You might have a better shot asking for a lunch spot (Fri – Sun, 11am to 1pm). Also, allegedly, two tables are available online at OpenTable.com. Remember to confirm 72 hours before you dine.
529 Kent Street, Sydney
Phone: +61 2 9267 2900
Heralding from Japan, Tetsuya Wakuda has not only become one of Australia’s most acclaimed chefs but holds rank amongst the world’s greats. His super sophisticated cooking style emphasizes purity of flavor and doesn’t rely on bizarre machinery or chemical manipulation (case in point, his signature dish: ‘confit of ocean trout served with unpasteurised ocean trout roe’). No à la carte here, folks; instead, a pre-set 10-course menu of Tetsuya’s choosing.
To Reserve: Download a reservation form from Tetsuya’s website or call. There’s no prescribed deadline, but common sense would have you give two months’ notice.
Plan B: Have a posse? The restaurant boasts three private dining rooms for larger groups, so when it comes to trying to snag a table, there may be safety in numbers.
Via San Marco, 38, Milan, Lombardy, 20121
Phone: +39 02 657 1658
To sum up Bebel’s and its clientele, two words: In fashion. Beloved by the couture elite, restaurateur Sergio Sorini draws a preternaturally well-dressed, high-profile fan base to his restaurant, which features multi-regional Italian cuisine in a not-trying-too-hard-to-impress, Art-Nouveau-inflected interior. Pizza gets a nod, but it’s the in-house grill (especially the whole fish of the day) that steals the show.
To reserve: The good news is that Bebel’s is not listed in tour guides, which means, for most of the year, you’re not competing with out-of-towners for a chair. Bad news: the regulars are not only loyal, but they’re also not-to-be-trifled-with. Code Red: FASHION WEEK.
When in Milan…: Have your ‘assistant’ book two weeks in advance for a non-market-week meal; a month in advance for show season supping.
Strandgade 93, 1401 Copenhagen
Phone: +45 3296 3297
It’s not that Noma hasn’t been getting heaps of praise since it opened in 2003, it’s that the world’s gone mad for all things Nordic. That’s why it’s so hard to get yourself on the books for some grub. Apropos of this list, the chef, René Redzepi, trained at both El Bulli and French Laundry before hitting a few of Copenhagen’s most illustrious kitchens. His goal: To create a new Nordic cuisine that fuses age-old methods of curing, smoking, salting, pickling and distilling with indigenous, just-picked or -fished ingredients and up-to-the-minute techniques. An example: King crab and ashes served with mussel stock and leek. Don’t turn up your nose! Nettles, woodsorrel and juniper are all the rage; didn’t you get the memo?
To Reserve: The website makes it seem as easy as woodruff pie, but don’t be mislead. Book at least a month in advance via phone or website.
One Clique Away: The website lists a special e-mail address for group parties (firstname.lastname@example.org), meaning 6 or more, and the fact that “Emails will be read and answered every day, except Sundays” is mentioned suggests that coming en masse will improve your chances. (Perhaps an ‘accidental’ e-mail to that address for a two-person rendez-vous will help you get your wish; just don’t try that more than once.)
Tables worth waiting (in line) for
The following do not take reservations:
Momofuku Ssam, New York City
Pepe’s Pizza, New Haven, Connecticut
L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Paris
Joe’s Stone Crab, Miami
Father’s Office, Santa Monica