World's 10 Hardest Restaurant Reservations (Slideshow)
March 18, 2016
Getting a dinner reservation at any good place can be tricky, but at these restaurants across the globe, it’s almost impossible
Damon Baehrel, Earlton, New York
Damon Baehrel — the private, single-table restaurant in chef Damon Baehrel’s Upstate New York home — has been one of the most difficult reservations to get for years, and as of now, it’s currently impossible. The demand has been so high that the reservation office has temporarily closed, and the place is apparently booked solid through 2025. (Seriously.) However, the James Beard-nominated chef, server, grower, forager, cheesemaker, meat-curer, and sommelier will occasionally open up his restaurant-home to a lucky party from time to time if they have been on the waiting list for an especially long time.
El Celler de Can Roca, Girona, Spain
When it comes to making reservations a while ahead of time, not many establishments can top El Celler de Can Roca’s 11-month advanced notice. Requests also can only be made online at midnight (Spanish time) on the first of every month. However, diners lucky enough to score one will be delighted by the contemporary Catalan offerings of chef brothers Joan, Jordi, and Josep Roca, whose 55-seat restaurant won the top spot in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2013 and again last year.
minibar by José Andrés, Washington
In America’s capital, there’s no tougher reservation than minibar by José Andrés. This is due to a combination of notoriety (Andrés is the genius behind Bazaar and a dozen other restaurants), high-quality Spanish avant-garde cuisine, and the fact that the micro-restaurant only has 12 seats. Zagat recently put together a four-step plan for getting a reservation at minibar: Don’t call (reservations are now made by email), don’t name-drop (it doesn’t work), mark your calendar (reservations can only be made at midnight on March 1, June 1, September 1, and December 1), and if all else fails, try barmini, the attached experimental cocktail lab the shares minibar’s kitchen.
As if getting a reservation at Noma — René Redzepi’s two-Michelin-starred, frequent World’s 50 Best winner, and our own number three best restaurant in Europe — wasn’t hard enough already, it was announced late last year that not only would Noma be temporarily closing from January to March of 2016, but it will permanently close at the end of the year. Now it’s a mad dash to get to a reservation at the Nordic restaurant that focuses on using fresh, local ingredients direct from the foragers, farmers, and fishermen. However, there’s still a tiny sliver of hope: Since Noma generally books once every month, three months in advance, hopeful patrons can still attempt to score a table through the summer via the restaurant’s website. But act quickly; once it’s gone, it’s gone for good.
Yelp / トモ T.
Sukiyabashi Jiro gets a lot of attention for being the toughest Tokyo restaurant in which to get a reservation, but please excuse us while we discuss another that’s arguably just as difficult (but not quite as complicated): Quintessence. While successful reservation stories pop up semi-regularly for other eateries, the three-Michelin-starred Quintessence — number 36 in our 101 Best Restaurants in Asia — is the Fort Knox of Japanese restaurants. If potential guests want to sample chef-owner Shuzo Kishida’s cuisine, they better get to know someone with an in, because local businesspeople and regulars are the ones that almost always fill the restaurant’s tables via the traditional method of calling. Interestingly, Kishida studied under chef Pascal Barbot, whose three-star restaurant L’Astrance in Paris is actually easier to get into.
Rao’s, New York
Generally when a restaurant is named the hottest new spot, it might take a while to get a reservation. Rao’s on East 114th Street in Manhattan has been the hottest spot for 120 years. All right, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the classic Italian red-sauce joint has been selling its tables in a manner similar to timeshares for decades, so potential guests either need to own a table, know someone who owns a table, or somehow win an opportunity via auction or some other method. Even then, getting a “reservation” is still a fight — sometimes literally. Bo Dietl has owned one of Rao’s 12 tables since 1977, but he recently auctioned off a night at a charity auction. The winner, Christopher Bond, spent $6,000 to win it, but has had trouble nailing down a night as Dietl keeps canceling on him. Bond said he’d simply show up one night, to which Dietl responded that if he did, Bond would receive a prompt punch in the face. “He ain’t gonna get the table … Let him sue me,” Dietl told The New York Post. Your best bet to land a table at Rao’s? Go to the Las Vegas or Hollywood locations instead.
Talula’s Table, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
Please allow us to list the reasons why it’s almost impossible to get a reservation at Talula’s Table in Pennsylvania: 1) There are only two tables, 2) The eight-person chef’s table is available via invite only, 3) The farm table seats 10-12, and the whole table must be booked, 4) Reservations must be made by phone exactly one year in advance, 5) By 7 a.m. every day (when the restaurant opens), the table is usually already reserved. But for an exclusive, eight-course, farm-to-table meal that changes daily, it’s worth it. Clearly.
The Fat Duck, Bray, England
Yelp / Michael U
Ever since getting named the best restaurant in the world by World’s 50 Best back in 2005, getting a table at England’s one-and-only The Fat Duck has been an enormous challenge. In fact, the only time it wasn’t next-to-impossible to get a reservation at Heston Blumenthal’s eatery was during last year’s six-month, $4 million renovation, when it was literally impossible to get one. The menu has been completely overhauled since then (Blumental nixed some of the odder dishes like snail porridge, egg and bacon ice cream, and quail jelly), but because he’s still part-Willy Wonka, part-Mad Hatter, the Alice in Wonderland-style website only offers riddles and hints to potential diners. The Fat Duck uses a pre-paid ticketing system that books tables three months in advance via the restaurant’s reservation system.
Yelp / Tammy K
Sure, a restaurant run by brothers Ferran and Albert Adrià (of elBulli fame) is expectedly tough to get into, but this isn’t some tiny nook-of-a-restaurant: Tickets has 90 seats. Yet the big-name chefs delivered at this Barcelona tapas restaurant, and now reservations are needed a solid three months in advance. Requests are taken online at midnight (Spanish time), but a number is also provided to check for last-minute cancelations. Diners have also been known to gain admission by simply showing up at the front door and asking nicely (but don't count on it).
Yelp / Jay L
After an agonizing eight-month break, Yam’Tcha in Paris finally reopened for business last summer — albeit in a new location, 121 rue Saint-Honoré. Good news for lovers of Chinese-influenced French food, or, let’s face it: lovers of food in general. Now guests can continue to be wowed by chef Adeline Grattard, whose cooking has been described as “deeply personal, gently creative, and unfailingly delicious.” The three secrets to getting a table are calling, calling, and more calling.