FULLY BOOKED by jennyyingdi




When booking a table at one of the world’s hottest restaurants,
you will need perseverance, commitment and unabashed determination.
Text by Jacqueline Yang

                                            A                                     B                                     C                                       D                                        E                                    F                                             G
                                         El Bulli                               French                              Momofuku                                    The                                    Noma                                 Rao’s                                         Minibar
                                                                               Laundry                                 Ko                                     Fat Duck

            hen Shanghai-based foodie Mark            like that for 40 minutes before I finally gave up.   So was all the effort worth it? Chin says the        were happy, we weren’t. We quickly went            toughest reservations to get in town.              which currently has a two week waiting
            Chin took it upon himself to reserve      “I must have dialled at least 80 times during        food absolutely lived up to his expectations         back to one round of covers an evening.            According to Li, this wasn’t their original        list for the weekend – reiterates the
            a table for four at French Laundry        that period.”                                        but the arduous experience he had getting                                                               intention. He cites the foodie grapevine and       importance of quality as well as value.
in Yountville, California in 2009, he was                                                                  a table has put him off going back. When             “I have the utmost respect                         positive word of mouth for their quality food as
aware it is one of the most notoriously                                                                    a restaurant becomes as famous for its tricky                                                           the reason behind the ever-growing waiting list.   “Good dining is an experience and
difficult bookings to nail in the world.
                                                      “After a two-hour break to calm                      booking system as it is for its food, it is hard     for restaurants like French                                                                           part of that is good value for what
                                                      my nerves, I started calling                         not to feel like the pawn of a gimmick.              Laundry. It’s not that they                        “So many restaurants open in Hong Kong             you get. I went to Per Se in New York
Chef Thomas Keller’s restaurant, which                again. It was still busy at noon                     But Gerald Li, co-owner of private kitchen
                                                                                                                                                                don’t want to serve you,                           all the time, and everybody rushes to try          about two years ago when the waiting list
serves contemporary American fare, has                                                                     Liberty Private Works – with its 16-seat                                                                it. They get lots of opening publicity but if      was about two months, and I was
three Michelin stars and seats just 60 covers
                                                      time. So I gave up for the                           capacity and four week waiting list - disagrees.     it’s just that they obviously                      the food is bad, people don’t return. Then,        let down. The meal turned out to
for each sitting. Unsurprisingly, seats at French     day and thought I’d try again                                                                             want to maintain their                             three months down the line, you see it             be about US$245 per person and
Laundry are, to put it mildly, highly sought after.   tomorrow. This time I started                        “As a private kitchen, most of our clientele
                                                                                                                                                                food standards and keep
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   was all smoke and mirrors,” he says.               even though the food was good,
                                                                                                           are true foodies.” Li says. “They are just as                                                            “We didn’t want to be like that. We wanted        it wasn’t worth that much. In contrast,
                                                      calling at 9:50am and it was
Reservations can only be made two months                                                                   passionate about food as we are, so quality          that attention to detail.                          to focus on showcasing the best and                The Drawing Room’s four-course tasting
in advance so Chin picked up the phone                still busy! It was like that every                   is our number-one priority. With the increase                                                           most interesting food possible, even if            menu is only $580 per head.”
                                                                                                                                                                It’s not about money
when the booking line opened at exactly               day until the fourth day when                        in demand for bookings, last December we                                                                that means we have to serve less people
10am, 62 days ahead, and dialled.                                                                          tried doing two seatings each night, one at          but about the food.”                               each night - it’s worth it in the long run.”       But whether the wait is worth the menu
                                                      I finally got through to a human
                                                                                                           7pm and then another at 9pm. But we noticed                                                                                                                these restaurants boast, you’ll have to
“It was already engaged,” he recalls. “I kept         voice, and managed to snag                           the quality of our food wasn’t the same.Our          Since opening last year in July, Liberty Private   Jeffrey Mui, executive director and owner of       let the food speak for itself – if,
redialling but it was permanently busy. It was        a table for April 27, 2009.”                         chefs were rushed and though the guests              Works has managed to become one of the             The Drawing Room in Causeway Bay –                 of course, you can get a table.

  40                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 41

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Fat Duck

                                                                                      A                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Despite the food poisoning scare last year,
                                                                                    El Bulli
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          chef Heston Blumenthal’s unique gastronomic
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          style is still attracting the masses.

                                                                                 No introduction is needed for this culinary                                                                                                                                                                              To reserve, call between 10am to 5pm Monday
                                                                                 haven of molecular gastronomy. Chef Ferran                                                                                                                                                                               to Friday, two calendar months in advance.
                                                                                 Adrià is a legend and so is the reservation
                                                                                 system.                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Maximum number in a party is six and
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          be warned, if you do not give sufficient
                                                                                 The restaurant is open for only half the year,                                                                                                                                                                           amount of notice for a cancellation,
                                                                                 with bookings opening on a single day after the                                                                                                                                                                          each person will be charged £100.
                                                                                 closing of the current season. This means all the
                                                                                 tables are booked for 2010. El Bulli is closed from                                                                                                                                                                      Credit card details are taken during time of
                                                                                 2012 and will re-open in 2014 as a non-profit                                                                                                                                                                            reservation.
                                                                                 gastronomic foundation.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          High Street, Bray, Berkshire,
                                                                                 Cala Montjoi, Ap. 30 17480, Roses, Girona, Spain                                                                                                                                                                         United Kingdom
                                                                                 +34 972 15 04 57                                                                                                                                                                                                         +44 1628 580 333
                                                                                 www.elbulli.com                                                                                                                                                                                                          www.fatduck.co.uk
From top left clockwise: Chef Ferran Adrià; El Bulli; kitchen                                                                                                                 From top left clockwise: Heston Blumenthal portrait; The Fat Duck signage; dish by The Fat Duck

                                                                                                  David Chang’s latest eatery has taken restaurant
       B                                                                              C           bookings into the future. Open an account on
                                                                                                  the website with credit card information and book                                                                                                                                     F
    French                                                                        Momofuku        a reservation through the open schedule plan on                                                                                                                                      Rao’s
   Laundry                                                                           Ko           the site. But good luck, as you will soon find there are
                                                                                                  no openings for next week, or the week after that,
                                                                                                  or the week after that.

                                                                                                  163 First Ave. New York

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Mads Damgaard

                                                                                                                                                                              Noma’s interior                                                                                                  Entrance of Rao’s
                     From top clockwise: French Laundry Restaurant; kitchen
                                                                                                                                                                                                  Nordic cuisine is not world famous but Chef René                                             This ten-table Italian joint is all about home cooking
                      Located in the heart of the Napa Valley, this is widely
                      considered to be one of the best restaurants in America.
                                                                                                                                                                                     E            Redzepi paid his dues at both El Bulli and
                                                                                                                                                                                                  French Laundry before opening Noma. To reserve,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               so don’t expect any avant garde gastronomic tricks.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Don’t even bother calling as the answer will be no.
                                                                                                                                                                                   Noma           it is best to use the booking system online, which                                           Only friends of the owner or VIPs get to dine here
                      The bookings office is open from 10am to 6:30pm (PST)
                      and they take requests two months in advance with a                                                                                                                         allows you to see all the available dates and times.                                         but if you’re lucky, you might win a reservation through
                                                                                                                                                                                                  Reservations are accepted up to 90 days in advance.                                          their regular charity auctions and online contests.
                                                                                                                                                             Noah Kalina x3

                      credit card guarantee only.

                      6640 Washington Street, Yountville, California                                                                                                                              Strandgade 93, 1401 Copenhagen                                                               17 Battery Place, Suite 610, New York
                      +1 1707 944 2380                                                                                                                                                            +45 3296 3297                                                                                +1 212 169 0151
                      www.frenchlaundry.com                                                                                                                                                       www.noma.dk                                                                                  www.raos.com
                                                                                                 Momofuku’s interior



                                                                                           There are only six seats at this innovative
                                                                                           restaurant, with two seatings a night.
                                                                                           You can see why the waiting list is booked up
                                                                                           a month in advance. But with 30 mini courses
                                                                                           such as cotton candy foie gras cooked up
                                                                                           in front of you, it is well worth the wait.

                                                                                           405 8th Street NW, Washington DC
                                                                                           +1 202 393 9812
From top clockwise: Dishes at Minibar; Jose Andreas, owner of Minibar

           TIPS & TRICKS ON                                         SOUGHT AFTER TABLES IN HONG KONG
                                                                 THE CHAIRMAN                                        TBLS
  •	        If	you	don’t	want	to	be	burdened	
       with the stress of repeated calling, then                 This throwback to nostalgic Hong Kong has           Chef/owner Que Vinh Dang’s innovative take
          best go through a concierge service                    been one of the hardest tables to score since       on comfort food has certainly reached the
          such as Quintessentially. If you have                  opening in September, 2009. And if you are          ears of Hong Kong foodies. So popular is
         an American Express Centurion Card,                     after kitschy oriental decor and MSG-free           TBLS that it is now become one of the hottest
        they should be able to score you some                    Cantonese cusine, this is the place to be. To       tickets in town. Be prepared to wait a month
       seats. If you are travelling, then call your              ensure seats, call at least two weeks in advance.   for a Friday or Saturday evening booking.
       hotel’s concierge service two months in
       advance and let them do the hard work.                    G/F, 16-18 Kau U Fong, Sheung Wan                   7/F, Hollywood Road, Central, Hong kong
                                                                 +852 2555 2202                                      +852 2544 3433
  •	          The	bigger	the	party,	the	easier	
          it will be to fit you in. Especially for
       restaurants with small capacity such as                   8½ OTTO E MEZZO BOMBANA                             THE KRUG ROOM
       Liberty Private Works – grab 16 friends
          and book the place to yourselves.                      With only 55 covers in the main dining              The menu at this exclusive private dining venue
                                                                 room at any given time, reservations at             is tailor-made for each event so the kitchens
  •	     Lunch	times	are	less	busy	than	dinner	                  this ltalian eatery are ever so elusive.            need a minimum of 24 hours notice.
        seatings, and, of course, the earlier in                 Call a week in advance for weekday lunches,         However, a month is recommended for
       the week, the better luck you will have.                  two weeks for weekend dining. But if you            weekend bookings and they might be
                                                                 simply can’t wait, grab a group of friends          able to fit you in on weeknights with a few
  •	      Even	if	the	date	and	time	you	want	                    and book the 12-seat private dining room.           days notice. Last year, every November
       is unavailable, make sure to put your                                                                         weekend was already booked by September;
     name down for the rolling reservation list.                                                                     Christmas and New Year by October.
      Cancellations are not uncommon and if
      you are lucky, you could be next in line.                  Shop 202, Alexandra House,                          Mandarin Oriental, 5 Connaught Road,
                                                                 18 Chater Road                                      Central
                                                                 +852 2537 8859                                      +852 2825 4014

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