I enjoy fine dining, not only because the food tastes amazing, but more importantly, for the whole experience. Fine dining is so much more than an expertly-crafted meal: it’s an experience, a form of entertainment, a work of art, and most of all, a life event you’ll remember for years to come.

plates
Clockwise from top left: (1) amuse-bouche egg custard with truffle; (2) Ibérico steak with broccolini; (3) pollock-roe bibimbap with sticky barley rice and water parsley, served with sesame oil – Jungsik, Seoul; (4) corn soufflé with caviar – Eleven Madison Park, NYC.

If you’re no stranger to Michelin Star restaurants and find yourself planning your next destination based on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, I’m sure you can relate—after all, food and travel create the perfect cultural experience!

The reality is, foodie travel can be competitive, especially if you’re planning to dine at top-tier, high-demand restaurants. These tips for booking restaurants are sure to come in handy for your next trip and ensure you get the fine dining experience you’ve been craving!

closeups
Clockwise from top left: (1) white asparagus with grapefruit – Jungsik, Seoul; (2) ibérico steak with black garlic and wild parsnip leaves – Soigné, Seoul; (3) diamond turbot sashimi prepared using the ikejime technique, served with lemon, plum sauce and edible flowers – Saison, San Francisco; (4) lacquered lobster tail tagliatelle with black truffle sauce – Le Bernardin, NYC.

Tips for booking high-demand restaurants

Getting a table at a restaurant in high demand can be challenging. To save yourself the stress of travelling all the way to your destination only to be told there are no tables available, I’ve got some insider tips for you.

  • Do your homework and book in advance. Once you know you’re travelling to a specific destination, find out when your restaurant of choice releases its bookings. There’s no standard, and restaurants tend to have different policies. Some restaurants may release their reservations 3 months in advance, while others might release their reservations for the next 2 months on a certain date. Always add the restaurant’s release date to your calendar so you don’t forget!
  • Set up an account. More upscale restaurants are moving over to a ticketed reservation system, such as Tock. Like going to a movie or sporting event, diners pay for the experience and purchase tickets up front. Creating an account before trying to book a reservation could save you a few minutes, and those few minutes might be the deciding factor in getting a table!
sides
Left to right: (1) scallop and geoduck sashimi with sea grapes – Yu Dow Son, Taipei; (2) salt-grilled ayu (sweetfish), seasoned with waterpepper vinegar – Kikunoi, Kyoto; (3) veal, duck and pistachio pâté with young bitter salad – l’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Taipei.
  • Be flexible. Add yourself to the restaurant’s waitlist if there’s nothing available for your preferred time. You never know when someone might cancel!
  • Dine with friends. Booking a table for 4 drastically ups your chances of snatching a table! This certainly applies for The French Laundry, as demand is usually higher for tables for 2.
  • Use your resources. Restaurants in some countries won’t take overseas reservations, as they’re afraid of no-shows. This is the perfect reason to contact the hotel you’ll be staying at during your trip and ask them to make the reservation for you!

Some credit cards also offer booking services for popular restaurants, so it’s a good idea to check and make use of all the resources available to you.

unique-plates
Clockwise from top left: (1) tarts of geoduck, sea urchin and stone fruit – Atelier Crenn, San Francisco; (2) shaved white asparagus with mini anchovy, hazelnut and white chocolate – Soigné, Seoul; (3) cherry tomatoes 3 ways, with melon and tomato gelée, smoked crème fraiche and tomato sorbet – Atelier Crenn, San Francisco; (4) wagyu beef with garlic sauce – Yu Dow Son, Taipei.

Things to note before you dine

  • Check the menu options. Most high-end restaurants offer a pre-set tasting menu, so there’s no a-la-carte option. Before you go, check to see if there are different menus at different prices. Lunch is often less expensive, yet you still get the same, mind-blowing experience!
  • Understand gratuities. If you don’t want any surprises when your bill arrives, make sure to do some research to see if the tip is already included in the menu price. For some restaurants, service fees are included in the tasting menu price, but for others, when service is not included, it can add up quickly!

For example, if the tasting menu price is $300 and it includes taxes and a service fee, then you’re paying $600 for 2 people. On the other hand, if $300 is just the base price, with tax and a service fee, it could easily add up to over $400 per person, which is close to 35% more!

  • Bring an empty stomach! One of the misconceptions about fine dining is that you don’t get full. False! Most tasting menu experiences are 3 hours long, and I’m usually pretty full half-way through.

In addition to the listed courses, you’ll also get amuse-bouches to start, and usually a few throughout your meal. On top of that, you’ll get delicious bread, coffee or tea at the end, AND petit fours (on top of the 2-3 dessert courses). Do yourself a favour and don’t eat too much before your meal!

OK, enough talking, let’s look through some more pictures to get you really hungry.

two-steps
Top to bottom rows: (1) seasonal hoe-muchim: buckwheat, lotus root and mustard leaf, with hidden treats inside – Soigné, Seoul; (2) mango perroquet, rice crispy soufflé and exotic fruit sorbet – l’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Taipei; (3) fresh run farm strawberry with vanilla, rose and cilantro – Quince, San Francisco.

Have your own foodie travel tips? Share in the comments below!

Prefer your food outside? Check out 7 Best Cities to Dine Alfresco Around the World.

Bon appetit,

Tracy

Travel Tips for the Fine Dining Foodie

Sep 13 2019