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Here Are the Eleven Toughest Reservations in the World (And How to Get Them)

Here are eleven restaurants around the world that are almost impossible to get into. When discussing the question of exclusivity and restaurants, José Andrés (chef and owner of #8 on this list, minibar) recently told Eater: "In America, people are used to 'I want it now, I get it now.' That's not sustainable. You have to be patient to get to things that are worth it. Like a relationship: this is the girl you want to marry — you have to work for it."

The list that follows is the result of deliberation between Eater editors and writers, friends of the site, and a trio of some of the world's most seasoned diners: Ali Kurshat Altinsoy, Adam Goldberg from A Life Worth Eating, and Bonjwing Lee from The Ulterior Epicure.

On it you will find the usual suspects — René Redzepi's Noma (#1), Jiro Ono's Sukiyabashi Jiro (#2), Grant Achatz's Next (#3), and Thomas Keller's The French Laundry (#10) — but also restaurants that are perhaps under the radar, like Quintessence, in Tokyo, and Yam'Tcha, the list's wild card, in Paris.

In addition, Eater consulted with general managers, restaurateurs, and chefs to get the inside scoop on the best ways to go about snagging one of these reservations. Bottom line: if you really want it, you can get in.


1) Noma

Location: Copenhagen, Denmark Chef: René Redzepi
Michelin stars: 2
World's 50 Best ranking: #1

After two straight years at the top of the San Pellegrino list — not to mention the closing of elBulli over the summer — there is little question that René Redzepi's Noma is the most in-demand table in the world.

How to make a reservation: on the 6th day of every month, the third month out opens up for reservations online and by phone (this coming February 6th, for example, they start taking requests for May). If the last cycle is any indication, it takes only a matter of hours for an entire month to book up; Noma managing director Peter Kreiner estimates that about 20,000 people attempt to get a table on reservations day.

As Redzepi will tell you, people cancel or even no-show with some frequency, and he'll sometimes announce openings on his Twitter account. You just have catch it and get yourself to Copenhagen. And of course, there's a wait list. [Photo credit]


2) Sukiyabashi Jiro

Location: Tokyo, Japan
Chef: Jiro Ono
Michelin stars: 3
World's 50 Best ranking: N/A

The Ginza location of Sukiyabashi Jiro is likely the world's most hallowed sushi temple, a 10-seat bar where chef Jiro Ono (b. 1925) presides over the short but expertly orchestrated affair.

With three Michelin stars, an acclaimed documentary on the chef, and limited space, it's no mystery that it's tough to get in. What makes it nearly impossible to pull off, though, is that no one on staff speaks English, and that they tend to not welcome foreigners without a Japanese host. "If they detect an accent, it's likely that they'll tell you nothing is available," says A Life Worth Eating's Adam Goldberg, who had trouble getting in for quite some time but has since managed to dine there on multiple occasions.

How to get a reservation: According to Goldberg, "What you need to do is have your hotel call and tell them that you eat everything with no exceptions and will be dining with a Tokyo native." That means you'll either need to hire a guide or know someone in Tokyo. [Photo credit]


3) Next

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Chefs: Dave Beran and Grant Achatz
Michelin stars: N/A
World's 50 Best ranking: N/A

By introducing a ticketed dining experience at Next, Chef Grant Achatz and his business partner Nick Kokonas simultaneously managed to combat the inconveniences of a traditional phone reservations model and to embrace the notion of restaurant as theater. Among the pluses: they don't have to pay people to pick up phones and say "no" all day, nor do they have to worry that a party might not show for their reservation, since it's all paid for in advance.

But getting one of those tickets is no small feat. To give you an idea, when Kokonas announced an on-sale date for their second three-month menu cycle, "Tour of Thailand," the site crashed when tickets went live.

How to get a reservation: Most likely, you'll have to follow the restaurant's Facebook, which Kokonas manages, to see when a quarter will go on sale or to get wind of randomly released tickets. A number of same-day tables are made available throughout the season, but once their elBulli menu debuts next month, there'll only be one of those per night, auctioned off for charity. If none of that works, you can stop in for some drinks at The Aviary, their bar next door, and let them know that you're interested in dining at Next; they'll try to accommodate you.

Then again, you could always try your hand at Craigslist — just like a Bears game — or get really lucky and nab season tickets when they go on sale next month. [Photo credit]


4) Tickets

Location: Barcelona, Spain
Chefs: Albert and Ferran Adrià
Michelin stars: N/A
World's 50 Best ranking: N/A

Despite the fact that the year-old Barcelona tapas restaurant from Ferran and Albert Adrià has ninety seats and more turnover than a typical fine dining destination, it's still practically impenetrable.

How to get a reservation: You really have to plan ahead for this one, as reservations are only taken online, and three months to the calendar date. On the bright side, as Albert has mentioned, not everyone shows up for their reservations, and tables are often set aside for friends. If you're in town, pop by, talk to the ringmaster out front, and see what happens.

NB: For the moment, Tickets eclipses its neighbor 41 Degrees in popularity. That space, which recently transitioned from progressive cocktail bar to sixteen-seat restaurant, serves 41-course tasting menus many have compared to elBulli. Bookings are taken one month out online, and as more and more Adrià devotées get wind of it, it'll probably become a fortress. [Photo credit]


5) Quintessence

Location: Tokyo, Japan
Chef: Shuzo Kishida
Michelin stars: 3
World's 50 Best ranking: N/A

It is easier to get into chef Pascal Barbot's three-star L'Astrance in Paris than it is to get into the Tokyo three-star of one of his disciples. That restaurant is Quintessence, where chef-owner Shuzo Kishida assiduously follows Barbot's tenet of the three processes: respect for the product, a thorough understanding of the cooking process, and attention to detail in seasoning.

Goldberg has never managed to get in, even though he's tried on his own and through his hotel on several trips. "You can attribute a bias against foreigners to many restaurants in Tokyo, especially the traditional ones," he says, "but Quintessence seems to favor local businessmen and regulars."

How to get a reservation: Get to know someone with an in, or keep trying. Other sources have told Eater that it's not a completely impossible feat. [Photo credit]


6) The Fat Duck

Location:Bray, Berkshire, England
Chef: Heston Blumenthal
Michelin stars: 3
World's 50 Best ranking: #5

At the height of its popularity (let's say 2005, when it was named best restaurant in the world), Heston Blumenthal's sensorial wonderland in Bray was getting 30,000 calls a day for reservations. Things have toned down a bit, but it remains so difficult to get into the Fat Duck that its chef has spent years developing an interactive video to thank and congratulate those who manage to get in; it features the actor John Hurt and music from Willy Wonka.

How to get a reservation: Nowadays, the reservations line is only open for three hours a day, Monday to Friday (11 AM to 2 PM), and they've logically shifted their emphasis to online reservations. The next round of tables (the month of April 2012) will go live at 9:30 AM on February 1st.

The online situation is kind of bleak at first blush: go on there when a new month opens up to find an online calendar that doesn't indicate which days are already booked up and doesn't have a feature that allows you to select the next available opening. But if you know which date you want and are quick about it, you can get yourself a table the honest way. [Photo credit]


7) Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare

Location: Brooklyn, New York
Chef: César Ramirez
Michelin stars: 3
World's 50 Best ranking: N/A

Bouley alum César Ramirez quietly opened this 18-seat restaurant connected to a supermarket three years ago. In that time, he's managed to climb his way up to three Michelin stars with a wholly unorthodox fine dining experience: metal stools, a casual environment, BYOB up until just recently, and a Brooklyn address. The most mind-bending aspect of the experience, though? Booking a meal there.

How to get a reservation: Every Monday at 10:30 AM, the restaurant takes bookings for an entire week, for the sixth week out. Getting through to someone is a pain, but it's not as backwards as it used to be just a year ago, when you'd call, leave your name and information, and then have to wait until they decided to ring you back and put your party in the calendar. The thing is, it's getting more and more popular as it racks up the accolades. [Photo credit]


8) minibar by josé andrés

Location: Washington, DC
Chef: José Andrés
Michelin stars: N/A
World's 50 Best ranking: N/A

Minibar has room for six diners and serves an extended tasting menu from one of Ferran Adrià's greatest acolytes, José Andrés.

How to get a reservation: It is, understandably, a pain to nab one or two of those spots. Seats are available one month before the calendar reservation date, and reservations must be made by phone. As ThinkFoodGroup chief of operations Hollis Silverman explains, "Seats are full within about fifteen minutes from the time our reservationists answers the phone at 10 AM. It's difficult to gauge how many people are getting a busy signal, but we have close to a thousand requests for seats each month that we are unable to fill." Since it can be quite frustrating, they are kind enough to allow you to be on the wait list for up to three different nights.

Andrés recently opened é, a similar restaurant in The Cosmopolitan Las Vegas. It seats eight, and reservations are made via email. For the moment, it is less difficult to access than minibar. [Photo credit]


9) Schwa

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Chef: Michael Carlson
Michelin stars: 1
World's 50 Best ranking: N/A

What makes the gastronauts at Michael Carlson's 18-seat Schwa so wonderful is that they don't seem to give a shit about anything besides the food. It's a decidedly informal, borderline anarchic affair in which the chefs do basically everything.

The experience begins with the randomness of their reservations system, which is either the most egalitarian or completely unfair thing you've encountered. To get in, you're supposed to call and leave a voicemail request, but that inbox is usually full. If you do happen to get through and get a call back to confirm a time and date, keep in mind that there's always the chance that Carlson will decide to close the restaurant at a moment's notice. So delightfully absurd is the current arrangement that the restaurant's PR company is now using Twitter to field more reservation requests, likely in disorganized fashion.

How to get a reservation: Keep trying, or become a restaurant industry type. [Photo credit]


10) The French Laundry

Location: Yountville, California
Chef: Thomas Keller
Michelin stars: 3
World's 50 Best ranking: 56

Chef Thomas Keller's bastion of New American cooking — the place where Grant Achatz, Jonathan Benno, Corey Lee and many other heavy hitters cut their teeth — remains one of the premiere restaurant pilgrimages in the world. For that reason, it's still one of the toughest tables, a reservation more difficult to obtain than for its younger New York City counterpart, per se.

How to get a reservation: You can book up to two months to the calendar date by phone, which gives you the opportunity to put yourself on the wait list. Or you can try OpenTable, whose "Find Next Available Date" feature will at first probably just remind you of how hopeless the situation is. But if you keep clicking here and there throughout the course of days, there is a good chance something will open up. [Photo credit]


11) Yam'Tcha

Location: Paris, France
Chef: Adeline Grattard
Michelin stars: 1
World's 50 Best ranking: N/A

Paris food writer Alexander Lobrano has described the Franco-Chinois cooking of Yam'Tcha chef Adeline Grattard as "deeply personal, gently creative, and unfailingly delicious."

Such praise would be cause enough for wild popularity, but add to it the fact that the restaurant sits in one of the more perfect areas of Paris — the rue Sauval, in the 1st Arrondissement — and it becomes clear why this place has proven so elusive for seasoned Paris diners and traveling gastronomes. "For me, the toughest tables have been The French Laundry, most recently Brooklyn Fare, and then, Yam'Tcha," admits Ali Kurshat Altinsoy. It is harder to access than the big names (Pierre Gagnaire, Guy Savoy, Jean-François Piège) and even the popular bistronomic spots (Le Comptoir du Relais, Frenchie).

How to get a reservation: Call, and call, and call. Some see it as one of the toughest tables in the world, especially of late, but others have had plenty of luck. [Photo credit]

Restaurants That Didn't Make The List

It is difficult to set exact standards for what qualifies as a restaurant, but for the most part, we've tried to eschew pop-ups, special experiences or tasting menus within a restaurant that is somewhat accessible, and places that veer too far into private club territory.

Honorable Mentions

These are some of the very popular restaurants that almost made the cut: Alinea (Chicago); Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road, Dinner By Heston Blumenthal (London, England); Sant Pau (Sant Pol de Mar, Spain), El Celler de Can Roca (Girona, Spain), Diverxo (Madrid, Spain); Momofuku Ko, Eleven Madison Park, Babbo, Blue Hill Stone Barns (New York); La Bigarrade, Frenchie, Le Chateaubriand (Paris, France); é by José Andrés (Las Vegas), and Momofuku Sei?bo (Sydney, Australia).

Rising Fast

These are some of the restaurants that you can still manage to book but may soon find themselves on listicles of this sort: Pujol (Mexico City), Quique Dacosta (Denía, Spain), Frantzén/Lindeberg (Stockholm, Sweden), Fäviken Magasinet (Järpen, Sweden), Ryugin (Tokyo, Japan), Husk (Charleston, South Carolina), Attica (Melbourne, Australia), and Osteria Francescana (Modena, Italy).


These are pop-ups, restaurants that are practically private clubs, or exclusive experiences within a somewhat accessible restaurant. While hard to get into, they're not technically restaurants with reservations: Ludobites (Los Angeles), Rao's (New York City), Talula's Table (Kennett Square, Pennsylvania), the tasting menu at Roberta's (New York City), and Table 21 at Volt (Frederick, Maryland).

· All Reservations Coverage on Eater [-E-]