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Restaurant secrets from a waiter

Ramit Sethi · February 2nd, 2015

Years ago, I started reading an anonymous blog written by an NYC waiter. He wrote about what really happened behind the scenes.

The most ridiculous things customers demanded…how to get VIP service…secrets of tipping…and tips that only restaurant insiders know.

I was hooked.

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And I think this is a perfect addition to continuing along the year of MORE.

See, I got a ton of comments about what a Rich Life means. One of the most common ones was being able to eat out without worrying how much it costs.

ramit_dinner

We all eat out. Maybe it’s once a month (like when I was a kid — only when we had coupons), or maybe it’s multiple times a week.

So how come we hardly know anything about what really goes on at restaurants?

We think we walk in, sit down, order our food, eat, and leave.

The truth is, there’s an entire game being played around you that you don’t even know about.

I got exposed to this from the anonymous blog…

…and thanks to the reach of IWT, I was able to bring the author in for an interview where he shares it all.

He’ll tell us what he did to get customers to spend more (watch for this when you eat out), how to have a superlative experience when eating out, and all the things going on around you that you have no idea about.

PLUS, you can apply these insights to your own life. If you’re a casual diner, you’ll learn to spot these techniques. If you run your own business, learn how to spot the “tells” of good and bad customers and how to ethically maximize sales.

I’ll send you more — including long excerpts of our video interview — this week. Stay tuned.

For now, let me know in the comments below:

What’s the best experience you’ve ever had at a restaurant?

And if you could eat ANYWHERE in the world, where would it be?

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134 Comments

 
  1. Hi Ramit,

    1- My best restaurant experience was at Gaggan Bangkok, this Chef is a-ma-zing

    Close seconds: Alain Passard (l’Arpège Paris), Alain Ducasse at Plaza Athénée and Alexandre Mazzia in marseille

    2- I dream about having dinner at UltraViolet by Paul Pairet in Shanghai .. great concept and awesome chef, have a look if you’re going there !

    Kind regards
    Sophie
    ps: what about you?

    • Prescott Paulin

      Sophie – have you tried Ian Kittichai’s restaurant in Bangkok? It’s called Issaya Siamese Club. Right up there with Gaggan and Nahm in my book.

  2. Hi Ramit,

    My best dining experience was at Frenchie’s (yup, the name really is Frenchie’s), in Paris. It was P E R F E C T, down to every last detail. My runners-up were also in Paris, and San Francisco.

  3. I would definitely go to Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck.

    Price per person is £220. It must really be an experience since the website read “Please allow 4 1/2 hours for this menu”.

    After that, I would love to go on the first 10 of this list http://www.theworlds50best.com/list/1-50-winners

    • I love Heston! I used to live in the UK and tried to get reservations there whenever I was near London. It was always booked up months in advance, so planning is essential. He does have several other restaurants now, though, that may be worth checking into as well.

  4. We are currently on a quest to try all Spanish Michelin Star restaurants, bit by bit. For this we are going to a new one every 5-6 weeks. And it is SO worth it! The food is usually very impressive as is the service. And the more you eat this high end food, actually the more you can appreciate the nuances. We are much more picky now with what we eat, both when buying ingredients as well as when eating out.
    Do we spend more? Yes. Do we enjoy it more? Hell yes! Eating out is now an adventure full of flavours and discovery.

  5. ramit, my favourite restaurant i ever ate is: http://www.malakuhinja.ba/bs/ – it’s in sarajevo bosnia.

    the part i like most about it is you walk in there, the chef sits down with you for 10 minutes to find out your palate. then goes to the kitchen to create a 3 course meal for you. on the spot. open kitchen. you get to see, hear and smell all the ingredients fusion together.

    every meal is different. i can’t believe the chef is able to create 30~40 different meals every day for 10 years. he does the menu creation on the spot. kind of like how you re-write your sales pitch/copywriting for your students in the videos.

    just like watching magic happen and how tasty the food is. your can byow, $0 corkage. no fuss, and just serene to eat there.

    • That sounds amazing. Now THAT sounds like a master chef that I would want to dine with on a regular basis. This is getting added to a list. Thanks for sharing.

    • Parul Sharma

      You just made me want to travel to a country to try out a restaurant, no corkage makes it just the kind of place I want to be in

    • Wow! I will definitely love to experience that too. lol. #salivating

  6. Tang Cang Newport Seafood in Southern California.. best lobster I’ve ever had!

    Although I’ve had plenty of great food in both Europe and Asia as well as the US, Southern California is one of the best places for a foodie in the world. You simply can’t beat the sheer variety of different foods from around the world.. and I could pretty much find everything I discovered from my overseas trips back home here. Although I haven’t lived in NYC, I’m sure it’s probably a similar situation for you there.

  7. 1. The best experience was in a restaurant located at the top of a cliff watching the sea and the moon enjoying sea food and wine in Kraimorie, Bulgaria.

    2. I dream about going in the luxury hotel restaurant from the movie Scent of a Woman: Waldorf Astoria, Park Avenue, Manhattan. I don’t know whether it still exists.

  8. Masa, now located in New York City. I wish he was still in Los Angeles.

    http://www.masanyc.com/#masa-takayama

  9. My favourite place to eat in the world, so far, was at the Iru Fushi Hilton resort in the Maldives. We dined on rock lobster and fresh tuna almost every day. The food was amazing, and I believe that a huge part of the experience was the environment. It was second to none.

    My favourite places to eat don’t involve the fanciest restaurants or famous chefs. If I could go anywhere, it would be somewhere tropical where I could have fresh mangos picked right from the tree and fish freshly caught from the ocean. Heaven 🙂

    • Africa is the place to be for the fresh mangoes off the tree and fresh fish.

  10. 1. Best experience was definitely at Bazaar in LA. The waiter was amazing, attentive and knowledgeable. The food was fantastic.

    2. I want to eat at Le Bernadin in NYC. I love seafood and I’ve heard that his food is to die for.

  11. It’s so difficult to pick just one! One of my best dining experiences was at Three on the Bund in Shanghai. Jane’s restaurant in New York was pretty damn good, too.

    If I had the chance, I’ve love to head over to Delhi and try the street food there, I’ve heard it’s fantastic!

    • Parul Sharma

      Street food in Delhi is definitely a class apart, a lot of these street food places graduated to full blown shops and are now world known brands.

  12. Hands down best is Eleven Madison Park. The food is inventive and familiar at the same time with impeccable service. They actually have a 1:1 ratio of kitchen staff to diners. I’m curious to try Noma in Denmark to experience what the best restaurant in the world is like.

  13. I actually had a great dining experience at Mastro Chicago this weekend.

    I’ve had a shellfish allergy for 9 mos- I have to carry around Epi-Pens, inform waitstaff before I arrive… and that’s IF I even go out, which I usually don’t because its such a big risk for me. Call me crazy, but stabbing myself in my leg with adrenaline and going to the ER isn’t big on my list.

    It sucks because I love food, but moreover, I love a good dining experience.

    My friend knows how anxious dining out makes me and said “Ok, I’m going to test our waitress and see how good they are here”.

    When she arrived, he asked if there was anything special about our table. Her face gave nothing away, but she just shrugged her shoulders and said “Yeah. Shellfish allergy. I know, chef knows. There is a whole section in the kitchen that just for food allergies so everything will be cooked separately. We’ve got you. Not a big deal.”

    Knowing how their kitchen works put me at ease big time. I love that she went into detail about it.

    In appreciation, we left her a massive tip.

    As for where I’d love to eat? Well, I’d love to be given all access to Laduree in Paris and watch masters make macarons. And eat said macarons.

  14. charissa

    Best experience — probably at a tiny restaurant in a small town near here (called Ballygiblins). Obviously the food was great, but it was more that the owner took care of our whole table and really made sure everyone was happy and enjoying their meal.

    Meal I’d like to try — Au Pied Du Cochon’s Caban a Sucre experience in the spring. They’re only open for 2 weeks, but oh! The celebration of maple and pork!

  15. My favorite experience was at Farmstead in St. Helena – beautiful atmosphere, outdoors, practically eating in the garden where my food came from.

    If I could eat anywhere in the world, it would be the nine course chef’s tasting with pairings at the French Laundry.

  16. My best experience was last year, at an indian restaurant in Buenos Aires! Super simple and ABSOLUTLY delicious. The owner and staff were all indians, they spoke a terrible spanish, as we either. But our waitress was so kind and patient that it just made everything more fun.

    Now, choose one place in the world for me is really difficult, as food and travel are my passions. Today my dream is a giant bowl of pho in Vietnam. Tomorrow it´ll certainly change.

  17. French Laundry

    • French Laundry is at the top of my dining bucket list. I LOVE food and wine so here are my other top 5 :

      The Fat Duck
      Le Bernardin
      Daniel
      Spring

  18. 1. My best dining experience was at a very small restaurant called “Barbakan”, in Czech Republic. There were just 5 tables or so, and the staff consisted of two guys — the chef/owner, and his assistant.

    Why I loved it:
    – Fairly limited menu. Paradoxically, having less choice is better when you are eating out. It tells you that the restaurant mastered the few dishes it serves, and whatever you order is going to be Delicious with a capital D. And so it was.

    – Personal attention from the owner. He was the most amiable server/chef I have ever met. Plus, we got complimentary cherry vodka. 😀 No wonder I tipped him ridiculously well (30-something per cent).

    – Very cozy. The place was designed to look as much as a medieval tavern (the building was almost 1000 years old, so it helped).

    2. If I could eat out anywhere in the world, I’d probably choose Thomas Keller’s “French Laundry” or Grant Achatz’ “Alinea”.

  19. Best food experience: Visiting the Philippines in college, we bought freshly caught fish and sea urchin at the local market, took a boat to a remote island, dug out a fire pit on the beach and cooked it all right there, paired it an eggplant tomato and onion salad, and fresh mangoes and pineapples for dessert. I remember that meal more clearly than any I’ve had in a restaurant.

    But where would I want to go for possibly the nicest meal of my life (in a restaurant)? Both French Laundry in Napa and Per Se in NYC.

    The cost of nice restaurants is high, but I know to budget for it and appreciate value vs. cost. The real hurdle is logistics: getting a reservation at French Laundry seems to take serious planning, although I would gladly re-arrange my work and travel schedule around it.

    But I would really want to do before eating at these places is to improve my appreciation of food. If I’m going to spend the time and money to eat at seriously nice restaurants, where the value is in the experience and culinary craftsmanship, I want to make sure I’m maximizing my return. Otherwise, it’s easier to arrange and appreciate simple meals in beautiful places.

  20. We stayed at the Royalton in Montego Bay a couple of weeks ago. While we were at the Italian restaurant at the resort, it was taking FOREVER to get our food. The waiter came out dancing and carrying a wine glass on his head. Then they ran out of the panna cota (which most of us wanted to order) and he offered to go to another restaurant on the resort and get creme brulee. He brought the creme brulee out on a tray on his head, dancing. He turned an exasperating experience into an enjoyable one!

  21. The best restaurant experience I’ve had to date was when I was 13 at a small restaurant owned by a retired five-star chef in souther Mississippi when I was there for a school/work project. We had stuffed lobster and that is the measure by which I’ve judged every lobster I’ve ever eaten… none have come close. I wish I could remember the name of the restaurant, but I did find out that it has since closed.

    For eating anywhere in the world, Jiro’s sushi would be at the top of that list, and so would the underwater restaurant in the Maldives.

  22. Best experience I’ve ever had is at the Columbia Tower Club in Seattle. The service was top notch and the food was great. It didn’t hurt that I was eating there with a former employee so we got to “sample” some very pricey wines, etc.

    I would love to eat at either French Laundry or Per Se. Basically anything by Thomas Keller. That’s just the top of a long list though. Lol.

  23. The best experience I’ve had in a restaurant was where the food was fresh and delicious, filling enough that you don’t feel gross after, the staff were attentive yet smart enough not to ask “can I get you anything else every 5 min?” and interrupt your meal, it wasn’t too noisy, prices were reasonable, menu has variety but not too many items where you were bewildered with choices. Great attention to detail when it came to the choice of comfortable chairs/table/lighting. Might seem like small stuff but it makes a difference for me in the end. The service was fast and efficient. There are other things I could mention but I’ll leave it at that.
    Very few places I’ve eaten at include all of these characteristics but for me that rates as being top notch.

    If I could eat anywhere in the world it would be a sushi restaurant in Japan called Sukiyabashi Jiro.

  24. The best experience I’ve ever had at a restaurant was in Toronto at a very fancy restaurant. The food was incredible, the service was amazing, and I had a great time with my friends.

    I’ve ALWAYS wanted to eat at Jiro’s in Tokyo. He only seat 9 people and you have to reserve months in advance. It’s on my bucket list.

    • Hey Mark,
      I live in Toronto. Do you remember the name of the restaurant you ate at?

      I only found out about Jiro’s from a recent documentary I watched. Pretty amazing individual. I love great sushi so it’ll be great to eat there.
      If you live in Toronto I know some great sushi places you can try.

    • Ara,

      The place was called Canoe. It’s over by the financial buildings in Toronto. I don’t live there but it was an amazing experience.

  25. John Castellano

    What’s the best experience you’ve ever had at a restaurant?

    Eating at Vynl in NYC. Why? The bathrooms. There’s a Cher, Elvis, Dolly Parton and Nelly bathroom. Enough said. The food is pretty good too. Everyone I take there has a memorable experience.

    And if you could eat ANYWHERE in the world, where would it be?

    I heard about this restaurant in Aruba where you sit at a table in the beach with your feet in the water. I’d like to experience that.

    Unforgettable experiences = great restaurants I guess.

    Just read your ebook and I’m a new fan of your content Ramit!

    • It’s called Barefoot. I ate there this summer. The food was really good, and the experience was definitely one of a kind. Nothing like eating dinner with your feet buried in the sand.

  26. The best service I ever had was at Hooters of all places. My wife and I took are three children who were seven, three, and one at the time. It was not our choice but we were meeting some friends and it happened to be half way between where our friend and their family lived.

    It was a Sunday night and they were showing the Sunday night game. Our oldest and our friends children were in the same age group and we sat them at a table by themselves. I had the two little ones in my lap due to them getting scared to death by the football fans. I managed to get them calmed down about the time our food arrived but we had our hands full. My oldest had ordered a hamburger and the waitress helped her out with putting ketchup on it and cutting it in half.

    I tipped her generously for helping my daughter. I never had a waitress go out of her way like that. She certainly didn’t have to do that but I have always appreciated it.

    • This is more of my normal dining experience than the 5 star restaurants. Fwiw that’s not part of my current or desired Rich Life.

      But I travel 20 days per month for work & I probably eat out 20 times per month combined home & away.

      The service industry is a roller coaster of service level.

      One thing that impresses me is servers who know how to deal with kids at the table. My number one pet peeve is the server who consistently places things on the table within reach of my baby in the high chair. After we slide the first few things away I would think common sense would occur but it’s rare.

  27. 1. Little sushi restaurant in my home town where the head sushi chef ran the sushi bar. He knew everyone by name, made extra of everything offered amazing little bites to everyone else, named rolls after his favorite customers, and provided the best personalized service I’ve ever had.

    2. I love kimchi and banchan so a trip to S. Korea to experience authentic Korean cuisine in a small little mom and pop restaurant that only the locals know about would be heavenly.

  28. I have 3 small kids, all under 6. My wife and I try very hard to not be “that” family and our kids are (if I do say so myself) generally quite well behaved, even the 2 year old boy. We do go out with them on a semi regular basis so they get the experience of behaving appropriately in public while eating.

    My best experience at a non-family specific restaurant was when the waitress took our drink order and came back with 3 kid sized drink cups, with lids and prepopulated straws (I was amazed they even had those), a STACK of napkins, saltine crackers for the kids, crayons, paper for drawing and never once judged us. It was an amazing experience throughout all because of her. She got a 50% tip.

    My dream experience is to hire a chef and waitstaff to come to my house, prepare an awesome meal and clean up before they leave. There’s no place like home.

  29. Hey Ramit,

    The Best Restaurant experiences I’ve had all share something in common: freebies. Whether its a free round of shots at the pub, a chef inspired amuse bouche, or an extra scoop of ice cream with dessert, these extras keep me coming back time and time again.

    The worst experience I had was the opposite of this– my family and I were at the restaurant and ordered an appetizer and the waiter multiplied the order by the number of people at our table so we ended up with 6 orders of stuffed mushrooms and the bill to go along with it. The food was good, but I never went back.

  30. Ramit
    Went for sushi in Tokyo at a restaurant which had an individual chef for every 3-4 people. Great time

  31. Thank yOu for covering abt the restaurant business! Would love to read ur next post.
    To me dining experience is the most important. Far more important than the food itself.
    My best dining experience was at “the alchemist” shanghai. Their drinks n food menus are innovative n never seen before. A lil bit pricey but still affordable. To me, the dining experience was unforgetable because of the creative presentation of the menus, it struck me n my friends and we had a real good time enjoying the dinner.

    My wishlist is to finedine on a hotair baloon. (Saw that on the internet but cant remember the restaurant name)

  32. Ramit,

    Had a great experience at an Italian restaurant. We eat out a lot and she was just very attentive and personable.

    I would eat some amazing place in nyc

  33. Inglath Cooper

    Hi Ramit,

    Best restaurant experience ever, anywhere. Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy. Bellini’s, Baked Pasta, Meringue cake. Worth the indulgence in every sense of the word.

  34. Angela F

    Man oh man, I would love to finally eat at some of the world’s highest rated restaurants- like the French Laundry, Noma, Alinea, El Bulli (with my time machine). But also it would just be so nice to be able to regularly afford to eat at my favorite local restaurants, like Craft LA and Animal. *sigh*

  35. Ramit,

    Best experience: Bouley Restaurant in TriBeCa, NYC. Intimate, innovative, and beautiful french food elegantly served. Been around forever, still a great experience and worth every penny.

    Would love to go to Per Se in NYC or The French Laundry in Yountville.

  36. Not just a restaurant, it was Rocky’s Boutique Hotel in Koh Samui, Thailand. Everything about this place was amazing, but what hooked me was their poolside treatment. As soon as I chose a beach chair, the bartender was there with a glass of ice water that never went beyond half empty. Usually mid-morning, someone would come around with a basket of fruit skewers! Cubed melons, dragon fruit, pineapple, all delicious, and served with a smile! I felt like a princess the entire time I was there, from check-in to dining to poolside to the ride to the airport. I travel a lot, and no other place has come close.

  37. I yearn for a huge plate of spicy biryani in a hot-air balloon over Bora Bora.

  38. I would LOVE to eat at Noma in Copenhagen – both because it’s the number 1 restaurant in the world but also because I’ve tried some of the restaurants of their alumni and they were fantastic.

    However, one of the best meals I’ve had was also the simplest: a raclette dish at a B&B in Chamonix, France, after a full day of skiing. Just melted cheese, sausage, potatoes, and fresh bread – very simple ingredients but it was honestly incredible and I still dream about having it again someday!

  39. 1. Best experience: Lunch at Les Creations de Narisawa in Tokyo. Hard to even describe. Like a walk through a Miyazaki-esque Princess Mononoke forest, drinking soil (!) and eating perfect bread fresh-baked in front of you at the table, mixed with delicate French pastries and luscious steaks and crazy, elegant presentation. One of those meals that’s a journey, not just food.

    Living in Tokyo aka food heaven, I’ve got a million runners-up, but this one ultimately wins for me. Go for lunch, not dinner – same menu and like half the price (still $120 but yeah).

    2. French Laundry, baby.

  40. Evelyn Moats

    Artins Grill in Plano, TX. It was the doctor’s birthday (she runs the clinic where i work as an nurse. Best ever crusted pepper steak and coconut cream pie…all from scratch. The waitresses knew what we wanted before we even asked without being too intrusive. great place.

  41. Best experience: Number 16, Glasgow.

    It’s a lovely little cozy restaurant with two floors. The food is modern European and what made it special was the ambience, the really attentive service, the chef coming around and meeting the guests, the food which was beautifully presented (I am a stickler for presentation, if it doesn’t look beautiful I won’t return to the restaurant), it tasted great and I was with beautiful lady.

    I’d love to go to The Fat Duck because of the unique experience!

  42. Taste – Plymouth California (Amador County). It’s much easier to be farm to table when almost everything is grown across the street 🙂

  43. mininaji

    As usual your stuff is very solid and helpful. Thank you so much for your efforts to make our life better 🙂

  44. I still don’t have enough money (or the guts) to go and pay for a good dinner at a restaurant. The only experiences I’ve had has been when my parents take me out to a buffet restaurant near my city. It is awesome! But we have to go without having breakfast so the money is worth it haha. There’s really delicious food there though and it’s all you can eat.
    I don’t know good places that I would want to eat, I’m open to possibilities.

  45. Commanders palace. New Years day brunch . Food so luxurious and over the top it literally made me giggle.

  46. One of my best experiences eating out was at De Klos in Amsterdam. Best ribs I’ve ever had, and staff with typical Amsterdam humor.

    I’d love to go to De Librije in Zwolle some day, I’ve heard amazing stories about it.

  47. Best meal I’ve ever had was at Officina della Bistecca at Antica Macelleria Cecchini in Florence, Italy.
    Just google Officina Della Bistecca and you will see.

    I want to each at French Laundry some day. It’s in my dream fund.

  48. ANDREA KARTALIA

    THE BEST dining out experience I have had was at LAS TABLAS in Chicago– best Colombian food in the area! Next time you are in Chicago, check it out. You will not be disappointed.

    If I could eat ANYWHERE in the world, I would eat in NYC (never been!) with you, Ramit!! I would happily cook for you complete with wine or whatever your choice of drink is at your place just the two of us! ;-D

  49. Best experience at Molasses Grill, Halifax, Virginia.

    They chef sits down with you for a chat, gets to know your where you are from, your tastes and fixes the food if you arent satisfied.

    Example: Being an indian origin, my food spice levels are higher then sweet based southerns cuisines,
    I had a pasta which was bland.
    The chef got fixed me with a green chill chutney, when mixed with the pasta was the best pasta i ever had.

  50. I changed my mind, I want to eat at Alinea in Chicago.

  51. Well, not pandering to Ramit my Indian friend, but my best restaurant experience was at Bukhara in New Dehli India while on a work trip. I love that most Indian establishments, even outside India, have wait staff that treat you like royalty. The food was amazing too. My mouth waters just thinking about it.

    • Tushar Patel

      Second that. We were visiting India, and took a taxi to Bukhara with no reservations. It was early… we were the first customers of the evening. They asked us to wait 10 minutes while they arranged a table for us. Incredible food. I have not found such exquisite kebabs since. Most memorable.

  52. My hunkie hubby and I frequent a local cajun type bar and restaurant. We are known there now, we separately tip the bartenders and the servers ask to have us in their section because we love to play.
    If I could take my honey to any restaurant – I’d want to be at a filming of Gordon Ramsays Hells Kitchen, because we are fans and I’d love to know the behind the scenes of getting in there and how much action you can see and hear. Plus I want that Risotto !

  53. Pamela Miles

    I was surprised to realize that I didn’t need recommendations to find a good meal in Paris. All I had to do is walk down the street and pop into a bistro that caught my eye. I love Parisian bistros, with their combination of nonchalance and attention that makes dining so enjoyable and comfortable.

    When I’m not in Paris, which is entirely too much of the time, I enjoy eating in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and so, I’ve found, do many of my European friends. Not the uber-trendy waterfront, but eastern Williamsburg, which is still a bit gritty and affordable enough for young creatives who want to have a good life on their own terms. There are a number of good restaurants, but when I head east on the L train, I’m usually heading to the Grand Bar and Grill.

  54. Ash Ryan

    The best restaurant experience I’ve ever had was at the JW Marriott LA Live in October 2013. My partner and I had gone to Los Angeles for a concert at the Nokia Theatre, and the next morning we were having breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant as part of our stay’s package. I was dealing with some major medical issues at the time (still am, though I’ve made significant progress), and was on a restrictive diet and traveling with a whole bunch of medications and trying to deal with that, which ones I needed to take with breakfast, what I could even eat on the menu, etc.

    I explained the situation to the waiter, and he said he could have the chef whip me up an off-menu omelet a la carte with whatever I wanted. So he told me everything they could put in it, and I told him what I couldn’t have and to throw in everything else. And that’s exactly what they did.

    And if that service wasn’t excellent enough, it was the best damn omelet I’ve ever had.

    If I could eat at any restaurant, I would eat there again in a heartbeat. (Although I have to admit, it would be fun to go to the French Laundry, too. Mostly to meet their head sommelier!)

  55. Best dinners 8 nights in a row, at Osteria Ale do Marie, in Costello Venice, Italy.

  56. KD Dunbar

    Hmmm, tough to pick one, but I’ll go with Eric Ripert’s “Blue” at the Ritz Carlton in Grand Cayman.

    • KD Dunbar

      And, for your “best experience” question, it’s a tie: 1) Best service ever at Nikolai’s Roof (Russian) in Atlanta and 2) Best ambiance at the poolside dining at Ecole Hotelier de Martinique (have no idea if it’s still in business, but it was a hotel training school).

  57. 1- Hard to say

    2- Would love to go to Alinea in Chicago. 3-star Michelin rating. Planning on making a trip to Chicago this spring… will definitely make plans to go.

    Thanks for the post
    -daniel

  58. John Scott Lucas

    I ate fresh fish for the first time on a dive boat off Grand Cayman. While we tourists were out snorkeling, the First Mate went out and speared groupers, black durgons, and triangular fish. (Yes, they are literally triangular, as in with corners). The captain cleaned and cut the fish up into steaks, smothered them with onions, ketchup, lime juice and Pick-a-Peppa sauce, and cooked them in a a tinfoil pan on a two-burner stove. It was 30 minutes from the time the fish were speared to the moment they wound up on my plate. Were I on land, I would have taken a pass, but we were an hour from shore and there was no alternative menu item — you ate fish or you went hungry. So, I ate the fish. And I have never tasted anything better before or since.

  59. Daniel in NYC, hands down. It’s been almost a year but I still think back on the dinner often (like the Maya Angelou quote about how people will forget what you said or you did, but will never forget how you made them feel.). It was my first truly high end/3 star Michelin dining experience. Initially I was skeptical of the price, just like how my Indian parents wonder why anyone would want to go to Starbucks when you can make coffee at home for pennies 😉 The food, of course, was superlative was expected (10 different things happening in your mouth in one bite!) but some of the other things that surprised me:
    – The amount of food that was comped. I expected ‘3 course meal’ to literally mean 3 courses but in reality, there was at least 3x more food than that, with the various amuse bouches, breads and butters, additional dishes that were presented as ‘chef’s compliments’ etc. The portions were small in that high end way, but we were completely stuffed at the end. It really felt like they were trying to provide the best experience possible and ‘treat’ their patrons, as opposed to merely providing the items we were paying for.
    – The care that was taken to ensure that the occasion my friends and I were celebrating was recognized. They called in advance of the night and asked for details about the occasion, names etc. On the night of, we got some beautiful desserts to specially commemorate the celebrations, and were wished warmly by various members of the restaurant staff.
    – Attention to detail combined with attentive but non-intrusive service. Plates and cutlery were smoothly replaced without us realizing or feeling conscious about it. Coats weren’t allowed in the main dining room; my friend and I were feeling cold in our sleeveless dresses. Without us saying a word, a waiter wafted by and asked if we were cold and would like pashmina shawls(!) We of course said yes and thanked him and he said “don’t even mention it, anything is possible at Daniel” (cheesy but made us feel kinda cool :p) The shawls were featherlight but very warm i.e. high quality pashmina.
    – It was a very luxurious and elegant dining room but at all times we just felt like we were the only ones there and had the whole place to ourselves. It felt soo comfortable and weirdly enough, kind of homely. We felt the waitstaff was genuinely warm and wanted us to have a great night without intruding or getting in our way.
    – There was an article in the NYT a couple of days ago about ‘tip creep’ (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/01/business/dollar3-tip-on-a-dollar4-cup-of-coffee-gratuities-grow-automatically.html) and we felt NONE of that vibe. It all felt like the restaurant didn’t really care about nickel and diming the customer or charging us extra for anything. In fact, it was actually comforting and a pleasant surprise that we knew how much we would be spending up front, but got so much more for it than we expected.

    It felt absolutely worth every penny at the end of it and I cannot WAIT to do it again someday!

  60. Hey Ramit!

    1) My best restaurant experience was at FareStart in Seattle, WA. They also operate as a nonprofit for job training and development for chefs. Although the taste of the food was decent, knowing the work that they do does made me feel good about eating there.

    Here’s the link for anyone else checking it out. Keep passing the recommendations! http://www.farestart.org/restaurant/about/index.html

    2) I want to eat somewhere with great sushi like Kikugawa in Taiwan. Went there for a grad party and never felt the same since.

  61. El Cellar de can Roca in Spain. No debate. The best

  62. Jennifer

    I have two dining experiences that really stand out. The first one was a tasting menu I had with two other chefs at Masa’s in San Francisco when Iron Chef Ron Siegel was there. It was a spectacular experience.
    The Chef sent out a few extra morsels for us to enjoy. We opened up two additional 95 point wines and offered glasses to our awesome server and Chef. The Chef even came out and talked to us for a few minutes. It was an unforgettable evening.
    The other amazing dining experience I had recently was Kokkari in San Francisco. The service was outstanding. Our server really took the time with us and made fantastic recommendations. It was my best friends bday and they were very sly about presenting her with a beautiful bday dessert. I also recognized our server as an actor in a local theater company.

    If I could eat anywhere in the world I have three-
    NOMA in Copenhagen.
    Restaurant David Toutain in Paris, France
    Saison in San Francisco

  63. I have a difficult time declaring something the “best I ever”. I can’t do it with books or albums, and I’m finding it even more difficult with restaurants. I think, truly, it depends on the company I’m with and where I happen to be at any given time. Food and sentimentality tend to go hand in hand with me…

    With that in mind, I’ll name the two that stand out the most:

    1. For my tenth birthday, I was taken to some “fancy” restaurant whose name I have now forgotten. White table cloths and everything! Certainly the nicest restaurant in our town that my family could afford. There were nice waiters and soft lighting, the works. I got to pick whatever I wanted from the menu, to include as many Shirley Temples as I wished to have. I felt like a very special somebody, indeed.

    2. Shortly after I turned 12, my aunt and uncle (who seemed very worldly to me) took me to the poshest restaurant in their town. We had a bit of a family emergency going on which was taking a toll on my family, and my aunt thought it would be a treat for me (and a break for my parents) to go out to dinner. The restaurant was in an old factory warehouse from the 1880’s: there was a doorman and to go up to the dining room you had to ride in a gilded, caged elevator. It was all stained glass and brass and leather… like something out of the movies. The menu seemed like it was an inch thick. My chair was pulled out for me, which made me feel very grown up. That might seem silly, but for some reason it was important to me as a kid…

    Anyway, I just HAD to try escargot for the first time (because, you know, that’s what grown ups eat and I was now nearly grown up), which my aunt and uncle happily ordered for me. I can still remember the experience of having the dish arrive to the table, the first bite and trying to figure out if I was going to let myself be “grossed out” or if I would ignore the knowledge I was eating snails and focus on the flavor.

    I’ve been so fortunate to have so many wonderful meals – upscale and low-rent – with people I love and who love me. I think these two experiences – while maybe not the finest of fine establishments in retrospect – helped mold my love of dining and my appreciation for a good meal… no matter where it’s eaten.

  64. The BEST is when you get free stuff. Even if it’s super simple. It’s more than money. It shows the chef or restaurant cares about you and wants to share something “cool” they’re working on. You’re part of the experiment.

    My chef friend literally does this at his restaurant with the simplest appetizers and even though my friend literally tells me he does this, I still enjoy it when I go eat there.

  65. Colby Green

    I eat out about 2 times a week. 2 experiences come to mind. Both restaurants are in Atlanta.

    Capital Grille – Chain steakhouse, pretty upscale. Went in one night with my wife because we had a gift card. Not only was the server one of the best I’ve had in a long time, she talked with us about the wine we choose for a while, told us some cool facts and then took the bottle back to the kitchen, somehow removed the label off of it and put it on this cool postcard sized piece of paper and put a thin sheet of plastic over the top of it to preserve it. It still sits on the bar in my house.

    Bricktops – Smaller chain restaurant in the Southeast. I’m a regular here and many times I won’t go elsewhere because I know the bar staff and I can basically walk in and have a meal without ever having to order. The staff is great, they know the little nuances about what my wife and I like – something you just can’t get unless you go somewhere frequently enough. That level of service alone justifies the cost to me. We’re actually going to one of the staff members wedding in March.

  66. I like Straen restaurant in Stavanger, Norway. Best seafood I’ve ever had.

  67. Best experience depends on who I’m with, not necessarily (and never just about) the food.

    I would like to try this particular Japanese restaurant in Los Angeles. The owners are husband and wife, and the only way to get into the restaurant is through a connection (someone who has eaten there, or knows the owners). Payment comes in the form of a nice bottle of wine (> $200). Sounds like a fun and interesting experience both with food and people.

  68. the best restaurant experience i’ve had was at atelier crenn in san francisco. the service was impeccable and not an in-your-face kind of way. i barely noticed them throughout the night, but somehow everytime i looked at our table my water was always filled, the plates were always cleared, and the crumbs were always swept. their waitstaff is a well oiled machine.

    if i could eat anywhere in the world it would the french laundry in yountville and alinea in chicago. two ends of the culinary spectrum.

  69. Elizabeth

    Top restaurant experience: Eleven Madison Park. It was my birthday, I’d gotten engaged two days earlier, I was with my fiancée and two of my dearest friends.

    Service was perfection: friendly without being weird, on top of EVERYTHING, even noticing who was left-handed and adjusting service accordingly. Food was, of course, spectacular. We were treated to a special in-kitchen cocktail course. The take-away granola for breakfast the next day was the final straw. Just the best.

    Manresa, in Los Gatos, CA, is a very, very close second place.

    The place I most want to go: probably Fäviken, in Sweden. Close runner-up: Astrid y Gastón, in Lima. Depends on what season we’re talking about.

  70. Joel Robuchon in Vegas. There were no prices printed on my wife’s menu. Only on mine. Wow.

    I would have killed to eat at El Bulli in Spain before it closed. Alinea in Chicago is next. Or Noma would be amazing.

  71. Samantha

    The absolute best experience I ever had at a restaurant had to be at Toscano’s in Harvard Square Cambridge, MA (I’m from the area, and when you come to the Boston area, yeah Boston has great food, but I think Cambridge is just a slight bit less hectic and more my taste in low-key-but-still-classy). Our waiter whose name is escaping me now was AWESOME. Good food is pretty common in the area, and good service is fairly typical, but this guy…

    He pronounced all of the specials with a perfect Northern Itailian accent (he had NO accent speaking English), meticulously went through the 3 meals I was debating over and gave me his take on each dish, and when we were in between dinner and dessert as the night was winding down he came by just to chat about ballroom dancing (we had come from a tango class just before going there). Not to mention he was very good about keeping a very pretty pitcher of water that looked like it was in a wine bottle on our table full at all times, which he did not have to do because it didn’t cost him anything. My friends and I tend to be generous with our tips as it is (at the time, we could afford it; we were new engineers still living at home and our student loan grace periods hadn’t ended yet; also, I was a server at one point and hated the days being jipped by teenagers buying 99c pizzas, and I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone), but we mutually agreed that he was the only waiter that we could justify giving a 30% tip to.

    On top of all of that, there’s a ton of Italian food places in the area. I’ve NEVER had food like this place before. I’ve been begging my boyfriend to take me there for Valentine’s Day. If he doesn’t make the reservation by Wednesday, I will.

  72. We got married fairly young, just after I graduated, and being basically on a beginners salary, the most memorable restaurants has been when we had to scrape to be able to try and celebrate our first anniversaries in some sort of style:

    The most unforgettable was La Madeleine.

    http://www.lamadeleine.co.za

    Back then it was situated in the bustling bohemian suburb of Sunnyside in Pretoria (South Africa) and stepping from the student filled side walks, where we were quite at home, into the restaurant with the, to us, opulent interior was already an experience and surreal. Back then it was quite small and intimate and the chef would come around and personally tell you what was on the menu.

    The next on the list would be La Perle Noir in the Seychelles,. By then we were a bit better off 😉

    http://www.iloveseychelles.com/restaurants/la-perle-noire/

    What made the above so memorable was a combination of the quality of the food, the preparation, ambience, basically just the whole experience.

    Another great unforgettable experience would be Muisbosskerm on the West Coast of South Africa, here it is all about the simplicity, the view and the very fresh food.
    http://www.muisbosskerm.co.za/

  73. Hi Ramit and IWT Peeps,
    My best restaurant experience(s) are truly those about the experience of the experience AND 1) The company 2) Cozy environment, 3) Food that dances on your tongue 4) Conversation with just the right amount of ebb and flow and 5) an attentive waiter with stellar intuition.

    Drum roll please… Top Spot Delta Business Class from Newark to Amsterdam. The roasted vegetarian veggies were so delectable I shared them with my extremely cute Dutchie seat mate, whom the Universe decided to drop right next to me and thankfully so. #2. Fitnou Restaurant in Oud Loosdrecht, Netherlands. #3. On the beach in the Turks & Caicous Islands at sunset #4. Nassau the Bahamans on Paradise Island, One & Only Ocean Club and the old Club Med before The Atlantis took over!, #5 Amalfi Coast, Ravello, #6 Ischia, Italy hotel patio waterfront just before sunset – the natural light is golden. Okay, now I’m thinking it’s time for a get away from cold NY to…Hmmmm! Cheers and enjoy! Life is an adventure meant to be lived, Ann

  74. Had an incredible three-hour lunch overlooking the Napa Valley at Auberge de Soleil. It was delectable – every part of it. Even as a kid, it made an impact on my palette and my altered my outlook on the experience of eating and the creativity of cuisine. Today there really is no restaurant I would fall over hand over fist to eat at, but if Eric Tucker of Millennium were to create a five-course meal for me … then bring on the masterpiece!

  75. Megha Aggarwal

    Lazy Bear in SF. it’s 1 price for everyone, communal tables, and you can’t make substitutions. BUT the service is IMPECCABLE. as is the food, obviously. it’s $125/person so of course you can say “that’s expected.” But I’ve paid more at several other places and gotten mediocre service (and food).

  76. The BEST dining experience I ever had was at a Cheesecake Factory. And sure, this may be a nationwide chain, but the SERVER I had is what made the difference to me. He was professional yet affable, knowledgeable about any detail of the menu I questioned, upsold me so well that I didn’t mind the extra price because he made it to be about a complement to my meal, and in general made me feel sublime, as if I was the only person in the restaurant he would serve that day.

    Never before nor since have I ever tipped 30%, but the dude totally earned it.

  77. As a Disneyland passholder, most of my nicest dining experiences have taken place within a Disney park. Probably the best meal I had was at Carthay Circle Restaurant. The environment is so beautiful and really transports you to the golden age of Hollywood. The service was excellent. I can’t say the food is the best I’ve had, but sometimes I just want to eat somewhere for the overall experience. The place just makes you feel fancy and important. That alone was worth it for me.

    I would love to eat at Yu’s Family Kitchen in China.

  78. I once tried to bribe my way into Joe’s Stone Crabs and awkwardly offered the host $20 bucks. Weirdness ensued, I left the restaurant embarrassed and searching for another place to eat.

    My best experience has been at the old Le Bec Fin in Philadelphia. One of the great french restaurants in America. Sadly it closed a couple of years ago.

  79. Hey Ramit,

    I think that the best eating experiences are a matter of circumstance, as much as the actual restaurant quality. I have been fortunate to have dined in several great restaurants like Dinner in London, Rickety Press in Oxford, Star Anise in Venice, and several other great places. But here are my picks for best restaurant experience:

    The Armenian Cafe in old city Jerusalem: Go on Friday afternoons–the whole family does a big family feast–with dish after dish of delicious food in an incredible environment. An accidental and incredible experience

    Eating Black squid Pasta at the Star Anise in Venice: an incredible feast of gross looking but delicious tasting pasta in Venice, Italy. Great and low key service– we did not feel like we were being pressured.

    The Iftar Dinner at Mais Al-Ghanim, Kuwait: Amazing way to break a fast (all restaurants are closed during Ramadan in Kuwait–until after sunset). Delicious multi-course meal focusing on traditional dishes from the region– delicious mezzes, starters, and mains. Some people even chose to smoke a shish pipe after the meal. Just an incredible atmosphere–for groups or families. Service is really good, but everything (including tips_ paid up front)

    Eating with our guides family in Jordan on the last day of our trip in the Middle East. Incredible dinner of Mansaf. Our guides wife cooked the dish, while we met his young children and ate at his home. He invited us on the final night of our trip.

    And maybe my best traditional dining experience was at the Le Poisson in Paris near the Eiffel tower off Rue Cler. Amazing seafood, with the best ratatouille I have ever tasted, followed by a really delicious desert of Profiterole. The service was excellent, I ate alone and was well served, neither ignored nor endlessly pressured to get more food. The staff probably knew I was a backpacker but I seemed to still get good treatment all around. Still my overall favourite traditional dining experience.

    If I could eat anywhere in the world I would chose Hiro’s Sushi in Tokyo, Japan or the Fat Duck in Bray, England. But I would love to eat anywhere in Tokyo or Singapore.

  80. The best dining experience of my life was several years ago (1995? 96?) at Harry Caray’s Holy Cow Restaurant in Chicago. Whether it was because Harry himself was there that evening and the entire staff was putting their best foot forward or just because it was spectacular in its own right, the entire experience was phenomenal. The Steak Vesuvio was cut with a fork, melt in your mouth delicious and the mussels were the best I’ve ever had. The wait staff was attentive though not distracting or disruptive, the ambiance was soothing and all in all, I’m still watering at the mouth just thinking about it 20 some years later.

  81. Farhad Irani

    Hi Ramit,

    My best restaurant experience was at Club 33. Club 33 is that secret club at Disneyland. It’s about 25k a year just to be a member and there is currently a 10 year waiting list.

    Thanks to both a generous firm’s donation and my luck in winning a raffle at work, I was rewarded a Club33 dinner which included $350 towards it.

    Fine dining is one of my favorite things to do, with the company of my girlfriend I set out stoked to do so at one of the most exclusive restaurants in the world. I was wondering who I’d might meet there.

    The food, of course, was expectedly spectacular. Appetizer cheese plats with caviar, entrees that looked as good as they tasted, legendary service, and I could go on.

    The best part for me really was just talking and hanging with some of the people we met there. Not sure if had to do with my girlfriends stunning looks or just the energy we were exuding from being so stoked but people came up to us paying compliments (style, liked our energy, etc). These are people who dine at a restaurant with a membership fee of $25,000 and they were coming up to us saying that we were cool.

    Luckily too, we were in there when the fireworks started so we watched them from the clubs balcony, we left 3 hours later drunk on the fine spirits and mood.

    I’m glad you asked because it was fun to relive it in writing. If could dine anywhere in the world right now it’d depend entirely on what food I’m in the mood for which right now would be Normandy (France) because the sea food is just spectacular there.

  82. Mike Alcazaren

    Experience: Brick Lane – London, UK
    [Indian/Bangladeshi]

    On an extended work trip to London, a friend recommended that I go to Brick Lane for Indian food. For those not familiar with Brick Lane, it’s a fairly touristy 3-4 blocks consisting of 20-30 restaurants in London where well-dressed Indian and Bangladeshi men will come up to you and attempt to convince you to eat at their place ‘for the best Indian food you’ve ever had’. I was told to spend no more than 8 pounds for a 4 course meal – anything more, just walk 10 feet to the next place. What better place to take Ramit’s advice to negotiate like an Indian, than with an entire block of Indians?

    It was a rush negotiating with all of these folks, and moving from store front to store front. I wasn’t having much luck with my 8 pound price point, but I eventually struck a deal with one restaurant that I would get a 4 course meal and a beer for 9 pounds. The only stipulation was that my buddy and I had to sit in the front of the restaurant next to the open windows and become part of the sales pitch, as the restaurant was completely empty. For the next 2-3 hours, we worked with the doorman to fill the entire place, and would give folks a thumbs up if they asked us if the food was good – which it was. We were this guy’s hook, and he used us to close. At the end of our stay, the doorman brought us some Brandy and thanked us for being such good sports.

    No other eating experience that I’ve ever had was that interactive and different. If you’re ever in London, I highly recommend going there for a unique, negotiated experience.

  83. Best experience: a seven course dinner at a tiny restaurant overlooking the Atlantic in Saint John, years ago. Better than the poached pears in red wine was the feeling of an intimate adventure and staff who seemed delighted to be creating the magic.

    Now, where to go… I’m into Thai food lately. Send me with someone who knows the equivalent of a great roadside stand with home cooking, another table by the ocean, and I’m yours.

  84. 1. Dinner at the Pondoro game lodge in South Africa.

    2. Chef Jiro Ono’s 20-course omakase menu, which costs around $300, or 30,000 Japanese yen.

  85. Best experience was probably in Paris last year at Grazie with my good friend. Great appetizers, and the food was delicious. We ate at the bar and were chatting up fellow patrons and the bartender. We even had a few off the menu drinks he made specifically for us, it was a cool experience.

    I’d love to eat at Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain. I’ve heard good things about that place.

  86. Cultural Affair

    I have lots of awesome experiences dining out and yes I also have crappy ones but I never care to remember those guys.

    My most recent experience that was amazing and was special was my birthday in December. My husband and friends reserved Chef’s Table at the Sawridge Inn and Conference Center in Fort McMurray, Albert, Cabada.

    I am a wine lover and I love gourmet food but being Celiac can really be challenging dining out. This table was amazing because the chef caters to what your specifications are and then creates something from his abilities and expertise. Not to mention every dish is paired with a wine. So we had a 5 course meal with a different glass of wine and everything was gluten free so I had it all (including desert).

    Every dish was made special. The chef made each course a different ethnic dish from all of us sitting at the table. So he made something east coast Canadian, Mexican, German, Filipino, and Croatian and did a lovely job making traditional dishes from each region. It truly was special and even though it was planned as a special occasion it was a spectacular evening full of awesome food, wine and just lovely companionship. I highly recommend Chef’s Tables.

    As for where would I like to eat???? I would love to do a culinary tour in Peru. They have so many versatile ingredients unique to their region and so much fusion from neighboring regions as well as the different ethnicities that immigrated into the area. Lots of seafood from their coast and a nice twist of local spices and knowledge from sushi chefs since many Japanese emigrated there.

  87. Christian McQueen

    Ironically, the nicest restaurants I’ve eaten at cannot hold a candle to the service I received at a tiny Italian restaurant in Los Angeles (specifically the Valley of all places).

    The owners are from Italy and provide incredible attention to detail with their genuine excitement when you walk in the door to when you leave. First class treatment goes a long way for me and their food is quite good as well.

    Restaurant name is Spumoni’s on Ventura Blvd.

  88. Madame Ostrich

    Nothing fancy, but surely the chilaquiles famosas from Mi Tierra in San Antonio, TX. I think about them all the time!

  89. The best memory I have from a restaurant is in firenZe Italy ,”zaza” the dishes were all
    Delicious and the place was very cosy-I also got the Italian recipe book.
    I would like to eat at the Eiffel Tower restaurant as I have heard of the pricey mela and wonderful view !

  90. Best restaurant memory: The Kitchen Restaurant in Sacramento, CA. A prix-fixe dinner, only one seating per night, and we totally shut down the restaurant and stayed until 1AM in the morning. Chefs made us special dishes (because we asked!) on the fly, we got second helpings of the most delicious courses, and I was with an awesome husband and the best of friends. Experience of a lifetime.

    The restaurant I want to go to: French Landry in Yountville CA – because it’s the only restaurant with 3 Michelin stars on the West coast, it’s a culinary landmark in the United States (and the world), and because (thanks to IWTYTBR and Ramit!) I am in a place where, if I got reservations for tomorrow, I could afford it and GO – without thinking twice. A rich life to me! 🙂

  91. Ian Cervantez

    Any restaurant you ask? Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo Japan. This restaurant has consistently recieved top scores on all ratings guides, and even inspired a documentary (available on Netflix) called “Jiro Dreams Of Sushi”. I generally don’t like sushi – so I want to eat at what is believed to be the greatest sushi restaurant in the world to see if it will change my mind.

  92. My best restaurant experience was not a fancy shi-shi place where everyone has a cool accent and the bill and bar tab are expressed as a percentage of the US GDP. In fact, it was a tiny Lebanese family restaurant called Aristo Cafe in Torrance, California. The food is exquisite to both the eyes and the palate but what made it the best was how my wife and I were treated. We complimented the owner/chef on his food, asked him how he prepared certain things, etc. From that day forward, every time we are there, he brought us special items for free, things not even on the menu, but that he had made for himself and his family! Other times it was a free baklava or other item. Just by showing our appreciation for his skills, we landed on the A-list. We always repaid the favor by bringing friends and other new customers.

    Anywhere in the world? Morocco! I love ANYTHING with cinnamon and similar spices but I’d also love to enjoy it while relaxing on a cushy pillow, preparing for a night of smoking shisha and dancing girls. Not that any good place in Morocco is like that, but that’s what I picture in my head.

  93. My best dining experience would be in Malacca where my partner and i queued for an hour to eat at a small restaurant. Plain old chairs and tables chosen for you according to how many you are in your party. Nancy’s Kitchen it’s called. The best laksa, fried rice and chendol I’ve ever tasted in my life. Every first bite of each dish made my eyes widen. It sure was worth the wait. The staff was friendly and quick to attend to your requests. The owner made the rounds too! We saw that she was quite popular with the other patrons. Loyal customers, I presumed.

  94. The Precinct in Cincinnati. No we didn’t have a reservation on a Friday night, my wife and I sat at a cramped 2 top in a not-so-prime spot. The food was incredible, and we had at least four or five people making sure that we had the best first experience at any restaurant ever. I’m not a baller like Ramit, the place isn’t cheap, but was definitely worth it.

  95. The best experience at a restaurant was with my wife for our 10 year anniversary. We went to Butter in NYC for the tasting menu. We showed up early for the dinner service like we were 70 year olds coming in for the early bird special. The service and attention to detail was fantastic. The meal on its own was exceptional along with the extras that were sent to the table from the kitchen for our special occasion, but it was also nice to meet Chef Guarnaschelli. She came out to table to congratulate us and talked with us for quite a while. This was October of 2009 and Chopped was just on for its first season at this point. It was kind of exciting to get to chat with her.

    If I could eat anywhere in the world – I think I would be most excited about going to a different part of the world. I’m not too concerned with thinking of a specific chef/restaurant, but rather some place that would be an experience to remember. Then I would worry about finding a spot to eat.

  96. Shari’s. We happened to stop in on a evening they were having a wine event. 9 courses. Glass of wine with each. Speaker/farmer from the vineyard explained everything about wine he knew in an entertaining way. Food was phenomenal. Best I’ve ever had. (15 years ago) still holds true. Had dessert wine for the first time with the most amazing chocolate mouse/brûlée. Later we found out that everyone else that night had paid a high price ticket way in advance. They just had an extra table. :)http://www.shariatthewillardhillton.com

  97. 1 – It’s hard to pick the best one and as I write this I remember other pivotal restaurant memories but the first one that came to mind after one year of being a regular customer at a thai restaurant in Victoria BC, I was invited to their private New Years meal and water fight. Everyone there was either from the restaurant or a relative of the chef. My partner and I were the only customers invited. Needless to stay I felt incredibly privileged to share the meal with everyone. Best duck dish I have ever had in my entire life.

    2 – If I could eat anywhere I would eat at Sushi Bar Yasuda in Minato, Tokyo

  98. I hate to say it, but I’ve never been totally blown away by a restaurant. Ever. I think the closest I ever got to an amazing experience was when my water got topped up instantly as soon as I got down to 1/3rd full (or empty, if you’re a pessimist).

    As for eating anywhere in the world, there’s a restaurant in Japan called Sukiyabashi Jiro – the only Michelin 3 star sushi restaurant in the world – that I would love to try. I watched a documentary on it and was amazing by this man’s dedication to his craft.

  99. First, anniversary dinner with my wife in Hawaii. Private, ocean-front, luxury.

    Second, dinner with a big crowd at The Four Seasons in NY, NY. When a friend and I went to order wine, our host just said “anything you want. Just keep it to less than $1,200 a bottle.” It was no big deal to him – and we had MANY bottles. I can’t wait to do the same.

  100. Hello, Ramit!

    Coming to you all the way from Cape Town, South Africa, my two picks would be French Laundry in Napa…I went while visiting the wine lands of California and it was absolutely incredible. Everything was completely spot on! My second pick for where I can’t wait to go is a new place here in Cape Town called spasie. They bring in a different executive chef every week so the menu and food is always changing, the vibe and energy is always unique and you get to chat to the chef directly. It’s like the best of both worlds from what I’ve seen because you can pop by the kitchen and see what’s happening but then go back to the table and relax and enjoy. Sounds perfect to me. 🙂

  101. The UK hasn’t really been well-know for it’s fantastic food, but two of my favorite dining experiences have been there. One of the best restaurant experiences I’ve had was at Eeusk restaurant in Oban, Scotland. It’s right on the water, and you can watch the boats come in through the wall of windows. The seafood is amazingly fresh and clean tasting. A lovely place to spend an afternoon!

    My other favorite experience was at The Leaping Hare in Bury St Edmunds, UK. I actually had a British-style American Thanksgiving dinner there one year, and it was incredible. The food and atmosphere were so comforting and well done. It was a perfect meal.

    I’d love to one day eat at Noma in Copenhagen or The Fat Duck in the UK. They have amazing chefs that truly care about the preparation of the food, the way it’s presented, and the overall dining experience.

  102. My best restaurant expirience was at a german restaurant called “Zur Krone”. We had an eleven course menu there and an with every course i thought it could´nt be topped, but was until the grand finale number 11. Amazing! They don´t cook food, they create tasting experiences to the customer.

    I would love to experience a dinner in the sky with molecular kitchen menue 🙂

  103. 1. Best restaurant experience:
    Special treatment and the extra mile taken by a server go a long way. Freebies are terrific as long as you appreciate what’s offered. I’d vote for a meal where I went bigger, but the best I’ve had recently was at Man Mo’s Cafe in Hong Kong – the place was quiet but lovely, owner was there, and the server made all the difference. Other places just didn’t offer the same warm experience.
    Service-wise, first class international flights are hard to beat, even if food quality isn’t on par with sharp restaurants.

    2. If I could eat anywhere in the world:
    UltraViolet. Because:

    2.5: Opportunity missed:
    I was recently in Shanghai over the holidays. I very much wanted to visit Mr. and Mrs. Bund. I called in advance to reserve. They accepted, but called me back moments later to let me know they were only doing set meals for two between Christmas and New Year’s – I had missed this opportunity by a day! Hindsight bites on this one; I wished I had found someone to take out for dinner with me – as far as I know, I won’t be in Shanghai again for a while. I did more research after the trip and UltraViolet seems like a really strange, thrilling, and immersive, with attention paid at each level of the experience.

  104. O YA! in Boston … http://www.oyarestaurantboston.com/

  105. Christer

    Hi there, My most amazing experience:
    Fish market Restaurant, Akasaka, Minato-ku, +81 3 3405 0411, uoshins.com, full meals from around £30, including two hours of all you can drink.

    Very clear concept, excellent food, very nice experience and amazing people. Very light about their work, very informed and open in their communication and a nice automated beer machine. Loved it.

    CG

  106. Sarmad Irfan

    I think its the service and the amount of respect / comfort you get out of the place..

  107. Veronica Grant

    Honestly, I can’t even think of a good enough restaurant experience that is worthy of posting here. I’ve been to many great ones, but nothing stands at.

    How pathetic is that?

    But, here is the restaurant I would travel to Japan for: http://www.sushi-jiro.jp/english/

    Jiro stole my heart in Jiro Dreams of Sushi, and now I want him to steal my tastebuds!

  108. Nathan Strange

    Mom and I went to Italy a couple of years ago and every time we went out to eat, we would stop folks on the street (usually police officers) and ask what their favorite places were. It was a terrific experience on so many levels…we got to experience local cuisine and atmospheres and met wonderful people who were as excited to show us to their local favorites as we were to try them. They were almost always little holes-in-the-wall full to the brim with locals. A couple were very unsure about us but quickly warmed up when they realized that we truly wanted to experience their establishment.

    If I could eat anywhere? Point to a map, lets go.

  109. My partner and I want to visit as many breweries around the world as we can. He is a professional brewer and I am a Certified Cicerone (although I make my living as a government worker… which, yes, I do not like). We have visited 297 different breweries together (we hit 100 in a single year last year!) and would love to take the whole month of October (after the Great American Beer Festival in September, of course) and travel through Belgium (where my parents used to live and where I fell in love with beer), Germany, and the Czech Republic. We would dip our toes into the Netherlands, France, and Austria to hopefully hit all of the Trappist Breweries in Europe (there is also a Trappist Brewery in New York, which we also hope to hit soon).

    The driving force behind all of this, besides our love for all things beer, is that I am studying to take my Master Cicerone exam in 2016 and want to learn everything I can in-person and hands on as I can.

    Cheers.

  110. Oh c’mon, a hook like that and you don’t even link to the waiter’s blog?!?

  111. Loren P.

    Best meal was Charlie Trotters in Chicago. Bucket list is French Laundry but I can never get past that call system.

  112. Steve Kobrin

    I don’t have a favorite restaurant because I have a enjoyed myself at many. Here are the elements that to me make for the superlative experience you describe:

    * Quiet, cozy ambiance
    * Service that on the one hand is extremely attentive, but by the same token knows when to let you be
    * Food that is prepared by a chef who demands nothing but the best in everything
    * Management – especially the owner – who will personally check in and make sure everything – and I mean everything – is to your satisfaction.

  113. Actually, some of the best experiences I’ve ever had at restaurants were only partially about the food. The company I’m with can make even okay food a great restaurant experience.

    If I could go anywhere to eat, I think I’d go to the Redhouse in Newcastle, UK for the pies. Either there or Hiroshima for the Okonmiyaki. Both were great food/company times that I have very fond memories of.

  114. Dear Ramit,

    I went to Toronto to visit my cousins. They took us to a beautiful Punjabi restaurant. There were colorful portraits and murals of Punjabi rural landscape and people that worked there. It brought me back home just by looking at them. We haven’t even ordered yet.
    There were TV screens in 2 corners. So we watched a Punjabi TV drama.
    Then we ordered spicy food (duh!). I didn’t even realize how long the food took to prepare because we were having such a great time enjoying the show and talking about our childhood (which wasn’t too long ago, I still go to school). The wait staff was really relaxed, I can tell they enjoyed working there.
    The food could always be spicier but it was so tasty, I want some now. My dream restaurant experience would be to take my family (those living in US and Canada) and take them to a restaurant in Punjab.

    Peace, Love, and Asian food!
    Danish Farooqui

  115. Frank Ciampa

    I live in Abu Dhabi, and the best restaurant experience for me was at 55&5th Steakhouse. It was an anniversary dinner with my wife, and was everything I’d hoped for and more. I made the reservation and told them that we were celebrating and they went above and beyond with service. Upon arrival, they gave my wife some flowers, we got complimentary champagne (not the cheap stuff), and were offered a special dessert sampler that wasn’t on the menu. On top of all that, the food was incredible!

    This spot might be a “destination” for some, but I highly recommend it if you’re passing through. I’ll definitely want to go back again because for me, I’m usually a local eater and don’t know that many high-profile restaurants around the world.

  116. Ben Center

    I just wanted to comment that I worked as a waiter at a high-end restaurant in Georgetown, Washington DC for just a few months. I learned an unbelievable amount about not only what goes in behind the scenes in terms of the food, but also how a restaurant is operated and managed. The most valuable takeaway was my newfound ability to empathize with servers wherever I go. Treating them with respect (like asking for their name if they don’t tell you and using it) goes a long way in making their day/night better, and their service better.

    2 – I’d also like to try Noma in Copenhagen, since I studied abroad there but didn’t get a chance to go. I think it’s something like 17 courses for $1,000!

  117. Stacy McKenna

    My best experiences are all about the service. One night after going clubbing a mob of us went to Denny’s (Yes! On of my best was DENNYS) where the waitress memorized our order on the spot, including exceptions/alterations, broke us into separate checks, and even combined two orders so one of them wound up cheaper for us. We tipped her enormously – after 20 years it’s still one of the most impressive displays of restaurant service I’ve ever seen.

    Generally I rate a restaurant on one of the things people ignore – how full does my water glass stay? This started when a friend and I used to go out after gymnastics, and we’d order TALL waters with our meal. If we had to pester the staff to refill them (usually 3 or 4 times at least) our estimation of the restaurant plummeted. If the staff is trained to keep your water glass full? (Recent example: Panda Inn in Pasadena) the respect for the establishment goes way up. (They also serve excellent food.)

    The best overall experience I can remember is The Dresden in Los Angeles. The chauteaubriand was so good I lunged over my plate in defense when the staff noticed we were slowing down and asked if we’d like our plates removed. They also sort their wine list by increasing robustness of the wine, making it easier for me to select a rich, full-bodied red without having to know the vintages personally.

    I currently work as a menu archivist so I’m developing a list of local “wish list” restaurants, but the fanciest international “I wanna” lately was Belmond Le Manoir les Quat’ Saisons in Oxfordshire, England. http://www.belmond.com/le-manoir-aux-quat-saisons-oxfordshire/

  118. I always have good experiences watching my food cooked right in front of me. Any restaurant that does that I like.
    I’d love to visit more gooood restaurants from all over.

  119. Shannon Lagasse

    Best restaurant experience: So many. But I really love Plant – a vegan/gluten-free/high-end restaurant here in Asheville. The decor is great. The service is incredible. The food never less than spectacular. I actually love sitting at the bar instead of the tables so I can watch the chefs work (and ask their opinion on what to get for dessert). ;]

    If I could dine anywhere in the world: Well, I’m not super fancy. I’ve always wanted to go to California and visit Cafe Gratitude. :]

  120. Eduardo Velez

    Hi Ramit, I find your articles entertaining. A real secret about restaurant businesses is that it’s a bad business to get into. Low profit high risk. Doesn’t suit my fancy.