Hot tables: The world’s most exclusive restaurants
Groucho Marx’s famed “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member” quip well befits the epicurean world. Sure, neighrbouhood hangouts and local favourites are imperative to daily dining out, but exclusivity stokes the desirability of a dinner destination. A celebrity chef, novel cuisine, a decent location, small stature, or a combination of the above can expand a reservation list exponentially. From rural Spain to New York City, here’s a look at the world’s most sought after reservations. Good luck getting a table.
Behind the News
Do you really need a description of El Bulli ? Time and again, Albert Adrià’s storied restaurant has taken home esteemed honours, including this year’s prestigious S. Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurant award (its dynasty continuing 5th time). Its list of accolades alone would recommend it as would its locale and décor, though it’s Adrià’s stunning fare that makes it a highly sought after reservation. On the forefront of molecular gastronomy, Adrià’s concoctions aren’t simply art plates: they’re engineered tongue pleasers of the blow-your-mind ilk. Constantly changing and improving, you don’t know what you’re going to get and that’s part of the fun, as is the halcyon setting, which kisses the sea in a semi-remote area of Catalonia. Cala Montjoi . Ap. 30, Roses, Spain, +34 972 150 457
Here’s a common anecdote: before Per Se’s 2004 opening, Chef and Owner, Thomas Keller frequently downplayed rumours that the new restaurant would be an incarnation of his beloved French Laundry saying, “it won’t be French Laundry, per se.” And it isn’t. Though, it does share many of that fabled restaurant’s finest attributes, including décor elements and an epicurean ethos. The fare here is contemporary, French-indebted, and dynamic. Every day, Per Se offers two unique menus featuring nine entries apiece. A recent Chef’s Menu offered Scottish Langoustines A La Plancha, Tartare of Pacific Big Eye Tuna, and Rib Eye of Marcho Farms Nature Fed Veal Roti a la Broche. Look for the season to play a huge role in ingredients and concoctions. The libation menu, especially the wine contingent, is well thought out and the service is reportedly stellar. 10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY, 212-823-9335
Expensive and perennially buzzing, Japonais is one of Chicago’s most contentious restaurants. It’s also one of its most popular. Licking the river, external views, especially from the Riverwalk Café, are stunning. Inside, a number of spaces, all conceptualized by Jeffrey Beers, have different auras but share a modern bent with purported instances of European inspiration. Executive chefs, Jun Ichikawa and Gene Kato, form a culinary hybrid, creating sushi and modern mains respectively. For the best of both, try Chef Specials and tasting menus, or you can go the a la carte route with little chance of an error. Adsthe name implies, it’s a Japanese restaurant, but it’s not the average grab and go roll and seaweed joint. Look for well-pressed diners complaining about the wait time (“… but I have a reservation.”). 600 West Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL, 312-822-9600
Despite enduring a brief health scare earlier this year, celebrity chef, Heston Blumenthal’s world-renowned restaurant, the Fat Duck, remains a hot ticket stalwart. Located in sylvan Bray, United Kingdom — don’t worry, it’s not that far from London — it’s an outpost of epicurean excellence in an atypical milieu. Menus change often, though the current a la carte roster features Crab Biscuit, Cauliflower Risotto, Pot Roast Loin of Pork, Roast Turbot, Black Forest Gateau, and others. The tasting menu features Roast Fois Gras Benzaldehude, Salmon Poached in Liquoriche Gel, and Petits Fours. Of course, by the time you manage to book a table the above will likely have changed. Regardless, you’re tantalized. High Street Bray, Windsor, United Kingdom, +44 1628 580 333
Thus far, this list of illustrious, hard-to-get-into restaurants includes the culinary world’s leading lights and internationally famous joints. Many an inclusion garners its popularity from its fare or an esteemed chef. Waverly Inn is an entirely different entity, culling most of its interest from its exclusivity itself (there’s a chicken-and-egg parable in there somewhere). Under the auspice of Vanity Fair guru, Graydon Carter, it nightly hosts a convergence of I-know-yous. The New York neo-institution has yet to officially open after over two years of epicurean service and has managed to retain its air of mystery (good luck finding its phone number). Executive Chef John DeLucie creates inspired meals from familiar paradigms (the Mac and Cheese is a much-heralded favourite). Nestled into a townhouse, its homey vibe and sought-after air meld together uniquely. 16 Bank Street, New York, NY, no phone.
Forget hotshot chefs, hidden hideaways, or Michelin Star favourites. The most exclusive restaurant in the world is Talula’s Table in Kennett Square, not far from Philadelphia. If you haven’t heard of it you’re not in the minority. Epitomizing exclusivity, the restaurant only has one table, with room for eight to twelve lucky — or prescient — diners. Reservations are taken exactly one year in advance from the numerical date and are made available at 7:00am each morning. The fixed price carte is $120 per person and has eight courses. By day, the restaurant is a gourmet market with private dinner running from 7:00pm until close. Charming, quaint, cozy, and purportedly scrumptious, it’s a novel resto that draws feverish adoration. 102 West State Street, Kennett, Square, USA, 610-444-8255
The name alone sends shivers down the spines of foodies the world over. Thomas Keller’s famed French Laundry , located in Napa Valley, takes a French countryside restaurant template and infuses it with American accents. The combination has led to countless awards, pleased tongues, and international blog love. Like its New York sister, Per Se, French Laundry emphasizes the importance of component parts, in terms of both meals and overall experience. Expect carefully orchestrated mains, sides, appetizers, and desserts as well as topnotch, attentive service. Since its 1978 inception, the Yountville (I swear that’s a place) spot has thrilled in-the-know biters and serendipitous diners alike. It’s slightly off the beaten path, though the wine-heavy locale fuels the vino selection and makes the trip multi-faceted. Of course, book well ahead. 6640 Washington Street, Yountville, USA, 707-944-2380
It’s hard to read a foodie blog these days without coming across Rene Redzepi’s name. The rising star has logged time at some of the world’s hardest-to-get-into restaurants, including two entries on this list (El Bulli and French Laundry). Now, he owns and operates Copenhagen’s Noma. Scandinavia has lately been a hotbed for culture of all kinds, from fashion to indie music, and the food scene continues to gain attention. On the forefront of the boom, Noma mixes Nordic ingredients with abandon, letting influences from other spheres leak in to create novel dishes. Set up inside a former warehouse, the space is at turns loft-cool and modern chic. A hot dinner ticket, Noma also serves lunch, which is always a decent back door into a beloved restaurant. Strandgade 93, Copenhagen, Denmark, +45 3296 3297
Le Comptoir du Relais
For as long as accents have sat atop “Es” France has dominated haute cuisine — I know, it’s a French phrase — though some of its most noted proponents exist outside of the homeland. Of course, Parisian bistros abound and none encapsulates the zeitgeist as well as Le Comptoir du Relais in Saint Germaine. Beside Hotel Relais, the left bank bistro is perennially popular and dynamic. Since opening in 2005, Yves Camdeborde et have churned out countless concoctions, all with subtle touches and distinct Frenchness. The space isn’t huge, but that’s part of the charm (and a good reason why reservations are so hotly contested). Given the locale, it’s hardly a little known haunt, though it effuses neither haughtiness (see what I did there?) nor standoffishness. 9 Carrefour de l’Odéon, Paris, France, +33 44 27 07 97
Laughing in the face of the “Second City” tag, Chicago teems with arts, culture, and heavily starred restaurants. One of its most precious is Grant Achatz’s Alinea. Known for feats of creativity, Achatz’s kitchen continually pushes epicurean paradigms to the limit, creating novel fare on a daily basis. The menu is in constant flux and always relies on intricate innovations and the juxtaposition of atypical ingredients. Aesthetes will feel guilty biting into dinner, as each dish has aesthetic panache. The space doesn’t quite match the fare, though it is appropriately modern and always (always, always) full. Laid out in several small courses, expect to settle in for a long evening (which doesn’t help the waitlist) of bites. The tariff is steep, but the “I got a reservation” cred alone is worth the cash. Oh, and the food is predictably, singularly stellar. 1723 North Halsted, Chicago, USA, 312-867-0110
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