So there’s this restaurant in Brooklyn called Blanca. I awarded it four stars in my Bloomberg News column today. Naturally, there are some things I like about the joint. The reservations system is not one of them.
Here’s how it works: You call up on the first of the month at 9am. And instead of getting put on hold, you get a voicemail or a busy signal. There’s a very simple reason for this: There’s only one phone line. Yep.
So instead of booking up by 9:20am, Blanca usually books up by 2-3pm, Chef Carlo Mirarchi tells me. The upside is you get more chances to win the lottery. The downside is you have way too much time to win the lottery. I prefer the electronic systems of Momofuku Ko, Alinea, Next and elsewhere, where you know immediately whether you’re in or whether you’re out.
Is Blanca still a four star restaurant? Yes, it is. That’s not just because “no restaurant is perfect,” an aphorism we’re already familiar with. It’s that each of New York’s best restaurants has its own individual irritations.
I’ve often deemed the single meat dish at the end of Brooklyn Fare to be a bit of a letdown. The flavors at Le Bernardin, while pristine, can be maddeningly subtle. Per Se and Masa are just stratospherically expensive. Of course, Eleven Madison Park…well, we’ll talk about that later. And I’ve always found something passively oppressive about all the petits fours that magically appear at the end of long tasting menus (even though they’re meant to provide diners with an individual level of satiation).
I had similar issues with Blanca reservations as well, though I’ll discuss that further when I file my Bloomberg News review sometime before Christmas.
In the meantime, allow me to make a suggestion: Tiny spots like Blanca and Brooklyn Fare should switch to electronic-only reservations. It worked for Momofuku Ko, Alinea, Next, Seiobo, Shoto, The NoMad Rooftop, and other pricey restaurants with limited space. With online bookings, there’s never any busy signal, never any straight-to-voicemail. With online resies, you get an immediate answer. It takes three minutes out of your day, instead of three hundred redials over an hour.