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Best and Worst of No Reservations

Curious what people think are the two best and worst episodes of No Reservations.
My votes:
Best: Last season Vietnam and the Japan episode with the baseball theme.
Worst: American Southwest and Egypt
(I actually enjoyed the Romania episode)

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  1. Any time he does the James Bond thing it annoys me. I liked the show where he went to Cleveland. I cannot remember which show it was, but the ones where he ate some sort of muscrat from a roadside Asian place and another where he went to a pepper pot place - had me chuckling. I also thoroughly enjoyed his trip to Paris.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Sal Vanilla

      Cleveland ranks very high with me too.

      1. re: Sal Vanilla

        That was porcupine in Vietnam with his Vietnamese pal. Great episode.

        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          Was that the meat originally identified as squeazle? That still makes me laugh out loud!

          1. re: sagestrat

            Yes, "squeezle"! Now one of my favorite words.

            1. re: sagestrat

              Porcupine, as he was pleased to find out from a quill.

              1. re: Cinnamon

                that was a great episode but not as good as the beating rattlesnake heart from cooks tour

          2. re: Sal Vanilla

            The Cleveland episode was an absolute turd! seriously, worst episode I've ever seen. The southwest episode was way better as far as redneck diner cuisine goes. If you want to see a good episode within the US, watch the northwest episode.

          3. Best: Vietnam, Tuscany, Manhattan, Hong Kong, UK
            Worst: Sweden, Uzbekistan, American South West

            1 Reply
            1. re: Evilbanana11

              I love AB, quite a bit, read all his books, seen most the episodes.

              AB is best when he's passionate; and luckily enough, his best episodes are from places he really enjoys. Japan, Argentina, China, Hong Kong, Vietnam are some of his best shows I will re-watch in a heartbeat.
              He really REALLY seemed to dislike Sweden. His usual level of snark was really high for the whole episode, his heart just -wasen't- in it. Too bad, actually. (I mean, it's amusing to watch him extoll the virtures of Brennavin while getting lost in a snow-drift, but he just acted like during the whole episode, he's rather be getting a root canal with no novicane)..LOL.

              A bit of me enjoys watching him squirn, as in the Namibia episode. The most uninteresting episiode for me had to be the Southwest one. Just was "meh" for my tastes.

            2. Best: Hong Kong, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Cleveland
              Worst: Namibia, Romania

              1. I like the American Southwest show. Beer and automatic weapons with Ted? I'd do that in a second. I could have lived without the giant steak house in Amarillo though.

                I laughed all the way through the Romania episode.
                Korea was a lot of fun.
                US Mexico border was well done.
                The steamed buns in Shanghai made me want to jump on a plane
                Quebec was fun also, my cholestorol went up watching him eat at APDC

                I did not care for the India shows.

                3 Replies
                1. re: chileheadmike

                  For me hands down the worst was Namibia. Seemed like more of a place for Andrew Zimmer not Bourdain. I don't think there was anything that he ate there that I would even remotely think of eating, and the warthog anus was probably the most disgusting thing I've ever seen him put in his mouth.

                  Norway has to be one of the worst also. Better than Namibia but reminds me why there aren't any Scandinavian restaurants around anywhere (no offense to anyone from that area). The buffet with all the gellied meat product and the fermented shark jerky looked absolutely disgusting.

                  Best would have to be Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, Shanghai.

                  1. re: chileheadmike

                    Great heads think alilke Mike. I loved the Nuge and machine guns, plus my wife is from the Texas border and I've been to many of the locations shown, that is my favorite episode. Romania was hilarious, sometimes it's not about the food. My all-time favorite scene was in the New Jersey episode where Mario Batali, in a scene done from The Godfather, has Tony whacked in the marshes of NJ, then delivers the classic line, "Leave the gun, take the cannolis."

                  2. There was one episode where he got knocked around in a Turkish bath. I took perverse delight in that. it was only topped when he sent his stout little friend on a revenge spa where he got his body hair waxed. I laughed until I choked.

                    My husband enjoyed it when he went to Iceland and he had to eat their specialty and sit thru a strange festival. He swears I do that to him when we travel.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Sal Vanilla

                      that's a uzbeki bath
                      at a book signing i got him to sign of photo of himself in the bathhouse
                      he was so outraged anyone would bring this before him
                      i died laughing
                      and he told me to f* off

                    2. Egypt seemed a bit weak, as did the Emeril revenge scenes in New Oleans. Colombia was so so.

                      He's best in places like Korea, Vietnam, and, yes, Cleveland.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                        I was really disappointed in the New Orleans episode. I hope he does it again, because there is sooo much more to mine. I understand why it had the somber tone, but it doesn't have to. Especially if he did it again. And there is obviously no shortage of great food to feature.

                      2. Chasing the armadillo at the hacienda in Uruguay was a little bogus, wealthy folks from Montevideo don't do that.
                        I would like to know how he keeps his girlish figure through all that abuse.

                        1. Best: Korea, Paris. The Beirut episode certainly made an impression, but not necessarily in regard to food.
                          Worst: Las Vegas. The Fear and Loathing thing was just annoying.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: silvergirl

                            I also thought that the Beiruit episode was very compelling. AB handled himself well after ending up in chapter 37 of a long-running war.

                          2. The Phillipines episode was one of my favorites b/c it exposed me to a cuisine that I have very little knowledge of, and it all looked great. However, that it was centered primarily around that kid, Augusto or something, trying to find himself by going back home made the show very awkward, esp. the scene where AB was eating with Augusto and his family. It looked like no one was enjoying the meal.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: gloriousfood

                              I agree--that Phillipines show was pretty painful. Poor kid! The one in Saudi Arabia, by contrast, was fascinating. I love how it did both traditional foods and fast food restaurants, it was a real slice of life in a country few of us will ever get to--or be allowed into. Tony seems most at home in Asia so any of those shows rank highly, in my book. By contrast, he seems least at home in the U.S. outside of NYC. Can't say I blame him. Interestingly, the Bizarre Foods guy is at his best in the heartland--enjoyed his recent NC show, and I normally can barely tolerate him. Very cool segment on Cherokee traditions.

                              1. re: newhavener07

                                Tony was good in Cleveland and Chicago.

                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                  I liked Cleveland, but all his U.S. shows seem a bit forced as if he feels self-conscious in places where he's a recognized celebrity. But hey, even Bourdain on a bad day is well worth watching and a million times better than the Kwanzaa Cake kamikazis and Southern-fried schmaltzmeisters on other channels, in my book.

                                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                    I thought the Pacific Northwest was pretty good too. I really like that area though so I was predisposed to enjoying that episode.

                              2. I loved:

                                Singapore (chicken rice bit especially)

                                Hong Kong (all of it)

                                Tokyo (all of it, especially the Sukiyabashi Jiro sushi, soba, and Toriki yakitori coverage)

                                Osaka (takoyaki, kushi katsu, Dote-Yaki/grilled innards, the mom and pop sushi joint)

                                Korea (kim chi making, the bbq pork belly)

                                Spain (Extebarri? restaurant and the grilled seafood he had)

                                Tuscany (the pasta at the roadstop, their visit to Dario's butcher shop, the family feast he had)

                                Shanghai (the hairy crab, and the XLB munchfest, and the street food he had)

                                Vietnam (the return visit, banh xeo, lunch lady, banh mi)


                                Beijing/Sichuan (Peking Duck, the diarrhea jokes from the hotpot, knife shave noodles)

                                Disappearing Manhattan (the coverage of Russ and Daughter, Katz, Eisenberg, Schaller/Weber, the schweinhoxen is enough to make me eat sandwiches everyday for lunch and watch while eating)

                                1. I was really disappointed in Germany and Greece! I love each cuisine and it was so lame.
                                  Cleveland was GREAT....

                                  1. Best: Northern Spain, Manhattan, Mexico, and i actually enjoyed Greece (I'm Greek) as he touched heavily on Cretan food which i don't know much about.

                                    Worst: I forget about the worst...

                                    1. Best: Laos and Hong Kong. Quebec and Vietnam were pretty terrific too.

                                      Worst: Namibia. I swore off food. I seem to remember an Alaska one with a dead raw seal, but I have done my best to erase it from my memory. Nevertheless, I seem to remember some old lady lusting for the seal's brain.

                                      Just to add on edit. Laos was genuine journalism, better than I have ever seen on real news shows, and very touching and informative. Hong Kong for the noodle guy and that amazing food court.

                                      1. I guess it's tough filling up an hour every week, but I now mostly fast-forward through the non-food parts; they're often silly and usually don't entertain me. The humor can be labored, as in the Tuscany episode :"Italians hate Tony's Italian cooking!" and "the pretentious visionary filmmaker is so pretentious!. Ha.

                                        But as a rule, it's one of the few bits of food TV that I can stomach, as he gets so much right about food-centric travel: avoid the famous "best X around", hit the markets, get off the track, eat the street food, try to get a home-cooked meal. His shtick can wear a little thin at times, but he's a good writer and a real chef, and overall I think his message is a helpful one for Americans, who are mostly awful travelers in my experience.


                                        1. worst was greece, he had such a bad attitude

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: duckdown

                                            I actually like that he doesn't like every place he goes. He generally makes some passing effort. But for me it's a bit of empathy for that trip from heck that any one of us may have been stuck on, and a reminder how choice of places to go, things to see and people to do that with matter so much. (Another case in point - the 'I hate burlesque' or something like that from the Berlin show.) He expresses how I've felt when stuck proverbially on the tour (never a formal one, but going with the flow of traveling companions who wanted to do the routine tourist thing) instead of really just going exploring.

                                          2. Some of my favorites were Indonesia, Laos (any of the Southeast Asia shows really), Disappearing Manhattan, the China and India shows, and Sri Lanka. These episodes really captured the spirit of the respective places and I think these were the episodes where Bourdain was most successful in translating his love of food to a deeper, almost more spiritual level. And the food looked great of course. Beirut and "Into the Fire" were very interesting too, for different reasons. People keep mentioning Cleveland and I enjoyed that as well, mainly because of Harvey Pekar and the whole American Splendor motif. I'm from Chicago and I enjoyed that episode, given Bourdain's unabashed love for the city (and yes, Chicago pizza sucks although the Chicago hot dog blows NYC's off the planet). The Texas episode was surprisingly good too.

                                            Namibia was just gross. Moscow, Sweden, and Egypt were on the dull side (great countries but not for food) and I still have yet to get all the way through Romania.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: joeyz

                                              And Peru - I forgot how good that episode is.

                                              1. re: joeyz

                                                I saw a rerun of Sao Paulo a couple of days ago, that was an excellent one too.

                                                1. re: tofuburrito

                                                  Ah, yes - straight from the airport to the market for a three-inch-thick mortadella sandwich! Or was that Buenos Aires? They do start to blur together.

                                              2. re: joeyz

                                                I like Egypt, not so much for the food, but in the sense that they managed to portray how there's trouble just beneath the surface there that the Egyptian government doesn't want the rest of the world to look too closely into. Seems like we did a rewatching of Long Way Down (great Ewan MacGregor road trip documentary series) about the same time AB's Egypt episode aired, and both shows gave off the same vibe about how the country can go from relatively safe to insanely dangerous almost instantly.

                                              3. I love any show where Tony is not entirely food focused. Obviously I love food (I'm on chowhound!) but I think the best shows have a balance. Honestly I feel he's become self indulgent in the last few seasons- i.e. going to a lot of high end restaurants and spending a LOT of time doing it. Nothing wrong if visiting a big city to go to A high end restaurant, but after a while I just do not feel like watching; how does that tell me about the culture of a place?

                                                1. Romania was by far the worst episode. The whole time he was being led astray by his buddy who was trying to get him to buy a castle. They only ate one authentic meal (involving a 10 year old, a flamethrower, and a pig) which was the highlight of the show, but really the worst episode ever.

                                                  I was also really disappointed with the episode on the Philippines. Filipinos are gregarious, loud and love to eat, and somehow Bordain found the one sheepish kid who knew nothing of their cusine. Granted when AB took matters into his own hands things improved tremendously, but I thought that he missed out on a ton of the culture and food that he usually dives into in other regions.

                                                  I loved Hong Kong - that noodle guy was the highlight of the entire show. Having been to Hong Kong several times, I really think he nailed the struggle between the old/ new that is pervasive on the island.

                                                  I also loved the tuscany episode, but I was also reading "heat" at the time it aired, and really appreciated how the two coincided.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Spends Rent on Food

                                                    Actually, the mici (little skinless sausages) they had at some sidewalk cafe is quite authentic Romanian. But, I agree about it being a terrible episode. Perhaps it was lack of planning - who knows. But, having a Russian guide you through Romania (a not very knowledgable one at that) could be somewhat akin to having an unknowledgeable Japanese person try to lead you around China. You just aren't going to get the locals to open up that way.

                                                  2. The scene in his hotel room in Paris after drinking absinthe made me laugh riotously. On the other hand, I saw a partial episode on his trip to Key West. Maybe he redeemed himself later, but I thought it was not at all Keysey, but more a love story to the guy he ate dinner with. A guy from Jersey or NY no less! That is like coming to the PNW and spending the whole trip with someone from CA.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                      I saw some of the Key West replay recently and I liked when AB said something like - I can make beurre blanc with one hand tied behind my back and a bong in my mouth, I've done it.
                                                      On the Top Chef Masters discussion there were some posts about whether AB could hold his own in that competition. I was in the minority that felt with some time to sharpen his skills he could hang with just about anyone. He likes to make fun of himself but he knows how to cook.

                                                      1. re: tofuburrito

                                                        I think I heard the gurgle of a bong in the background of that segment! That was a fine line he dished out. Thank you for reminding me. There is always a little gem in all of his shows, no matter what.

                                                        1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                                          I forgot to mention this earlier but yesterday I saw a rerun of the episode where Tony works the line at Les Halles. I enjoyed that episode quite a bit. Despite the fact that he couldn't read the tickets, had trouble bending over and constantly put himself down, I thought he did a good job. If you watched his movements I think he showed a lot of skill and maybe he can't work as fast as he used to but I don't think he has lost his technique or his understanding of how to prepare quality food for large numbers of people.
                                                          I think he could surprise a lot of people if he went on Iron Chef.

                                                    2. Best: any episode where he travels with his friend Zamir.
                                                      Worst: Chicago. What a waste. He spent 15 minutes with a stupid radio shock jock who took him to eat some disgusting looking food. He phoned that episode in, for sure.

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: slz203

                                                        I think Zamir should have his own show.

                                                        1. re: James Cristinian

                                                          There was something rather compelling for me about the Puerto Rico episode, though I've not been there and know very little about it. I think I may like the shows before he settled down/quit smoking more generally, though I can't comment on any of this season's apart from the SF Bay Area ep which I caught on youtube thanks to a fellow CH (I'm in Canada, have to wait for broadcasts here, grr argh).

                                                          Of course I like it best when he focuses on food but hey it's a travel show. I don't love episode sequences where he partakes in anything too "Hollywood' (being cast in a martial arts movie or a video game for example) because they tend to be a bit cheesy and I don't really see what they have to do with travel.

                                                      2. I just(finally) saw At The Table I thought it was one of the worst episodes ever. If it hadn't been for Bill Buford and, to a lesser extent, Ted Allen, the show would have been a complete write-off.

                                                        My favourite episodes are always the ones in Southeast Asia. I was pleasantly surprised by the Saudi Arabia show. The Spain show made me so hungry.

                                                        The Southwest episode was so bad. Where was the food? Tuscany was a train wreck. Romania was bad, but maybe not as bad as I had expected.

                                                        Unlike a lot of people I actually liked Egypt. the food was right up my alley.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: SnackHappy

                                                          Quebec was fantastic - in particular the seal hunt segment

                                                        2. Best: any episodes with roasted whole pigs and durian.
                                                          Worst: some American episodes are kinda sad.

                                                          1. I have 3 levels for Bourdain episodes:

                                                            Best: Any & all of the Asian, European, & Eastern European episodes.

                                                            Middling: Any & all of the U.S. episodes (some of these are between "middling & worst"; some between "middling & best").

                                                            Worst: Any & all of the African & Middle East episodes. For whatever reason, have never been able to warm up to any of them.

                                                            1. Best - Singapore

                                                              Worst - Egypt and Ireland. Though I have to say, both of my votes for worst are places that I've traveled to (Egypt) or lived in (Ireland). And I've always wondered if this is a trend - where the more you know a place personally, the worse the episode comes off.

                                                              1. Love this show.

                                                                Worst: Azores! American southwest, Sweden, Iceland. Montana

                                                                Best: Laos, Kurdistan, Indonesia, Cambodia, any of the Vietnam episodes

                                                                And because I've lived in both, I think Prague and Thailand were fun to watch, but maybe could have been done a little better. Easy for me to say as I sit here and tap on my computer, ha!

                                                                1. Best show.... Has to be the Palm Springs episode With Josh Homme. Great soundtrack and content. I could watch that show over and over. Also the Boston episode that was done in the old 70's mob style. Eddie Coyle style. Looking forward to the new season.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: KMoodie

                                                                    I thought the Boston show was kind of dumb, is that cuz I live here?
                                                                    I'm just reading this thread now and it seems like some people's idea of worst is the actual food and others' is the format and the way he acts etc. I'd think you'd be judging on the latter, not on what actually gets eaten.

                                                                  2. Best - Croaia. He was obviously stunned and amazed and could not believe he had not been there before! I don't blame him. It is an incredible country.

                                                                    1. All the episodes with an Asian influence as a whole were highly enjoyable and I've watched each one multiple times.

                                                                      My two favorites were when he went to Spain (those little baby eels!) and when he was at Ted Nugent's ranch - both amazing episodes.

                                                                      Seems like there was one episode that he did in all black and white? Or it was SO saturated with only black and white filming that I never could finish watching the entire thing to see if there were ever color shots of the food and locale. Couldn't have been anymore unappetizing than that one in Namibia. I felt his pain there.... **gag**

                                                                      1. I have no idea how anyone could dislike the Romania episode- I seriously went there and tried to track down the soup I saw him eating! I went to EVERY stall in that freaking market and this was as close as I could come: