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Minibar reservations

Can anyone please post RECENT experiences making/getting reservations (or not) at Minibar? Details appreciated! Even if you were put on waiting list and got in, please elaborate on that too.

I know there are a zillion posts about this... and I've read them all. Depending on the year, they say different things about making reservations at Minibar. Some say called slightly after 9AM, some say start calling at 10AM exactly, someone was told 10:30. There's a slight difference between "a month" and "30 days" as well. I don't like to be so uptight about this, but I only have chance (one night only) to go (at least for a few years) and I want to anything I can to better my chances.

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  1. From their website:

    "Reservations for minibar are taken a month in advance. That is to say, if you want a seat for the 15th of March, you would need to start calling on February 15. Please be advised that the demand for minibar by josé andrés is very high and seats are often booked up the day they are opened for reservation.

    The reservation phone line for minibar opens at 10 am. For greatest chance of success, we recommend calling as close to 10 am as possible."

    1. I've spent the last two weeks listening to their busy signal. Best of luck to you!

      1. Literally walked in the day we wanted and they had two seats available. This was about three years ago.
        probably not the best way to do it I have heard of people calling acouple weeks out and having no problem getting a spot.

        1. I tried once and got put on the waitlist (never got off of it). But on my second try, I got a reservation. Here is how it works. They start answering the phone at 10:00 am on the dot for reservations a month out. So I would urge you to start calling then. If you get a busy signal, don't be discouraged -- keep trying! There are a total of 12 seats (six at each sitting). Once they answer the phone, it probably takes them at least 5 minutes to get all the info -- name, phone #, e-mail, go through cancelation process, ask about dietary restrictions, etc. Once that party is set, they answer the next call. So if the night ends up being six parties of two, then you probably have 30 minutes of calling and hanging up and calling again. After they fill up all of the seats, they will keep answering and put people on the waitlist. There is definitely some luck involved, but be persistant and patient. Best of luck! It's a great experience (the meal, not the reservation process).

          8 Replies
          1. re: WashDC33

            Yes, and try for the later seating if possible - We felt rushed at the earlier one....

            1. re: tommyskitchen

              I honestly believe that Table 21 at Volt is better. Because it has not yet been discovered (it is less than a year old and has received no publicity nor has Top Chef been aired) you can get in. I must also note here that Bryan Voltaggio's brother is Chef de Cuisine at Jose Andrees Bazaar in L. A. which serves much of the same food. No, few have heard of Table 21. But they will. Note the date on this post. A year from now there will be similar posts about the inability to get into Table 21 at Volt.

              1. re: Joe H

                I think that would really depend on how well Bryan does on Top Chef. If he loses and slinks home, then his restaurant stays off the map. If he gets in the finals and shows how talented he is (a la Richard Blais), then he'll get some notice. I think his restaurant will really take off when food magazines write it up as the next Citronelle or Inn at Little Washington. Our pissing into the wind isn't gonna make much difference.

                1. re: Joe H

                  I know Sietsema's not the be all and end all, but he has been giving Volt 'bumps' = publicity. I'll never make it out there and I've heard of it.

                  1. re: hill food

                    There are restaurants that people "have" to eat at. MiniBar, the French Laundry, El Bulli, the Fat Duck, etc. All of them, before they were in and known, were places that begged/hoped for recognition that they were far beyond anyone else's norm. When they received national/international publicity they became "in," they became the absolute destination that one had, must go to. The "last meal on earth" as it where.

                    Often when a restaurant finally receives this recognition it and/or it's chef has moved on. The actual experience isn't what it might have been several months or years before. But for a visitor who might have crossed a continent or an ocean it is a name that a neighbor and a friend might respect for the journey.

                    But that doesn't mean that it is as good as it once was.

                    Today, tonight, tomorrow evening Volt's Table 21 is AS advertised. Next year it could be like several of those I mentioned above. But right now it IS an experience that absolutely delivers.

                    It is worth the drive. Or a flight.

                    1. re: Joe H

                      we can always welcome such places, my non-attendance is entirely geographical and transportation.

                      everything I've heard sounds great, and should I find myself in that area...

              2. re: WashDC33

                Went to MiniBar in February and had a great time - and too much wine. I'm not one to get worked up about getting a reservation, and since I'm terrible at remembering to call at specific times, I just call whenever. To make my reservation, I think I called closer to noon and just asked the nice lady on the phone if they had any openings at all. She offered me a couple of possibilities and I chose the date most convenient to me and the later seating.

                I tend to prefer later seatings because I don't mind staying up late and I also think that since the pressure to turn the seat is off, the kitchen is free to be more relaxed and has the greater opportunity to perform at their highest.

                While I enjoyed the meal at Minibar, it also stirred my thoughts on whether or not I really like these kinds of multi-course tasting menus with high technical execution. While many of them were technically and intellectually brilliant, I don't quite feel nourished in my soul. It's all great food with great ingredients but something is missing. Like we're being too intellectual.

                Not that this is bad, because there's room in cuisine for this kind of interpretation and discussion. I note this because I never feel totally satiated - whether at MiniBar, L'Arpege or Alinea.

                I also went to Volt last month and found the place to be gorgeous. The food was tasty and worth further investigation (especially this Table 21). And perhaps it's because they're in Frederick but I thought the service was a bit disjointed.

                There are literally TONS of staff hovering about, but things seems slightly off. The servers are dressed in suits, but they're ill-fitting and/or poorly tailored, or just made of cheap material. Perhaps not something you'd notice on the street but juxtaposed with the obviously fine dining interior they've designed, the cheap suits scream at you - especially when paired with brown Converse Chucks.

                Perhaps it's unfair to compare a Frederick fine dining establishment to per se (or similar) but it seems obvious to me that this is the level Volt desires to operate and, with that in mind, there are a number of refinements that are missing. Like the hostesses' ability to welcome guests and disguise whatever horror in attire that guest may be wearing - not that I was dressed terribly in pressed khaki shorts, short-sleeved button down and shoes, but I certainly was equivalently dressed to the white guy and his friends in the bar.

                Of course, I can't detach myself from the possibility that the look in the hostess' eyes was because I wasn't that white guy and that if I were white then perhaps I wouldn't have received such a look.

                1. re: WashDC33

                  Thanks to everyone who responded re: my post, and especially to you, WashDC33. I'm moving to Taiwan in about a year, I'm a big fan of Jose Andres, I love the concept behind Minibar, and it just so happens that my bf and I will be passing through DC on our way to a wedding in September-- all these things have compelled me into really wanting to experience Minibar and having only one night to try for. I appreciate your detailed response and good wishes. I'll find out in about 3 weeks if I am lucky or not. I'll stay prepared for disappointment but it can't stop me from trying anyhow.

                  Thanks again!

                2. I've been following a blogger at www.fromkomitomarvin.com (she is making her way through the washingtonian 100 best, not a great proofreader but v entertaining) and she has a great tip for this. if you don't mind eating by yourself . . . call and ask for all single seat openings -- they usually have 4 - 6 per month. doesn't work if you are trying to impress a date, but a good way to treat yourself. and since it is basically a communal table anyway, should be a great evening.

                  1. Today is the day... 9:54AM... my anxiety is skyrocketing... I'll report back on the experience.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: globalgourmand

                      Busy signal from the start-- I called at approximately 10:00:03am. Re-dialed for approximately 20 minutes before being asked to be put on hold. Waited another minute or two and put our names on the waiting list.

                      And that's the end of THAT story.

                      I guess its straight to Annapolis for us... :(

                      1. re: globalgourmand

                        Bummer! I think you should try Komi - it's not the Minibar but I personally think the food is better.

                        1. re: globalgourmand

                          Did they tell you where on the waiting list you are? Since you are only two ppl, maybe you'll be able to get a spot still if there is a cancellation. My fingers are crossed for you. I agree with Ericandblueboy that Komi would be a great second choice.

                      2. I called at 10.02-.10.05 am. You just have to call and keep calling, you will get a busy signal but hopefully you will get through. I only had to call twice and I got super lucky.

                        A better plan is to have 5 friends call FOR YOU at the same time so maybe at least one will ge through. Also - call everyday, I called on a Wednesday, April 16th and ended up going May 16th which was a Saturday. I'm pretty sure spots are more open Tues-Thurs or at least better chance/luck.

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: xoxoamy

                          Yes, we did try having my boyfriend call and his mother but I worry for us its just a tough weekend we're trying for-- heading down through DC on a Friday for a wedding on Labor Day weekend-- the odds just were never in our favor. I was trying too hard for convenient synchronicity. Shucks.

                          We re-dailed at least 20 minutes straight. Next time we'll have to have start with reservations first, then travel plans. But my thanks to Ericandblueboy and WashDC33 for the Komi recs and the well-wishes on the waiting list! I'm going to call Komi right now! ACK! Nevermind.... "KOMI will be closed August 24-September 8, reopening September 9." Zounds!

                          1. re: globalgourmand

                            doh!!! That's not good since I was planning on having my birthday dinner at Komi!

                            1. re: globalgourmand

                              Any chance you'll be heading back through DC on the Sunday? If so, I'd highly recommend doing Cafe Atlantico's Latino Dim Sum. It's not the same experience as Mini Bar, but still really fun and very innovative dishes: http://www.cafeatlantico.com/latinoDi...

                              1. re: WashDC33

                                I'll add a vote for C.A.'s weekend dim sum brunch if you can do it. Wonderful collection of really great dishes. Bring a few extra people and order the entire menu!

                                1. re: WashDC33

                                  Oh that sounds SO delicious however Sunday is actually the day of the wedding for which we are travelling to Williamsburg. We're coming in to Baltimore Friday, staying with friends in Annapolis, then south to Williamsburg Saturday morning until Monday afternoon.

                                  I am TRULY appreciative of all these suggestions though!! I do hope we'll be able to have a spectacular meal while down in that neck of the woods (we're from Boston.) Its just that we have a bit of a love affair with Jose Andres and his passion for food and I had put "meal at Minibar" on my "pseudo-bucket list" before moving to Taiwan. It was a lofty goal. .

                                  1. re: globalgourmand

                                    Neither MiniBar nor Komi are the best dining experience in D. C. I believe that title is won by Enzo's Chef's Table at Teatro Goldoni. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/581849 is a post of mine about it. But I am ONLY TALKING ABOUT THE CHEF'S TABLE where Enzo prepares and serves you an 18 course dinner himself. It is about the same price as MiniBar and Komi, i.e. $125 prix fixe. This is a truly spectacular dining experience.

                                    1. re: Joe H

                                      Okay, I'm sold! After striking out at Minibar and Komi, I just made a reservation for the Chef's Table. The reservationist was so pleasant and the time was perfect at 7pm. He's not Jose Andres, but I'm already inspired by Chef Enzo Fargione's profile.

                                      Thanks Joe.

                                      Now I have to almost hope that Minibar doesn't call us for the waiting list-- what a terrible decision to have to make!!!!!!!!!!

                                      1. re: globalgourmand

                                        Excellent decision, it really is very good and as unique as the Minibar.

                                        1. re: globalgourmand

                                          globalgourmand, please report your thoughts on here after your dinner. Enjoy!

                              2. It might be worth it to call back one afternoon and throw yourself on the mercy of the reservationist. You never know--if you explain that this is your only change to eat at Minibar for the next few years, maybe you can get moved up to #1 on the waiting list. Nothing to lose except the time on the phone call

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: drjane

                                  I'm not sure how I feel about this suggestion but I do appreciate it! :) Part of me is, of course, still excited by and hopeful for a chance to make this tiny opportunity work and the other part is worried that I might offend the reservationist and disrespect other equally hopeful and deserving diners (though perhaps not so desperate.)

                                  With some delicate wording, I might give this a try. Thanks!

                                  1. re: globalgourmand

                                    FWIW if one can leave DC in August and esp. Labor Day weekend, one does, so a cancellation is indeed plausible.

                                    1. re: hill food

                                      Shoot, I should decide in advance, in case that call does come!

                                      I was thinking, perhaps, that some of the callers on the waiting list might be out-of-towners trying to visit DC that weekend. But I should presume its more likely to be locals.

                                      1. re: globalgourmand

                                        No call back from Minibar-- Chef's Table at Teatro Goldoni it will be!!! Tomorrow night, we're very excited! It seems as though we might be the only two guests as well!

                                        Now, I "pray" for NO DELAYED FLIGHTS!!!!!!!

                                        1. re: globalgourmand

                                          sorta off-topic, but germane to GG's plans

                                          careful, Metro is closing the station at National/Reagan airport tomorrow night at 9:30. but it's a cheap cab ride.

                                          weather is fine, so delays shouldn't be an issue on this end.

                                          1. re: globalgourmand

                                            The "cigar box" and the "eggshell" are two of the incredible dishes from Enzo at Teatro Goldoni. His influences may include an enormously popular restaurant near Turin, Italy called Combal Zero: http://www.combal.org/index.htm This is an article about it: http://goeurope.about.com/od/turintor... Generally speaking, for lack of a better description, this is the El Bulli of Italy. I do not specifically know the influences on Enzo but Combal Zero may have played a role (Roberto Donna, too). If more people knew the reputation of Combal Zero it would be just as difficult to dine at Enzo's Chef's Table as it is at MiniBar.

                                            As MiniBar has Dragon's Breath, Enzo has his cigar box and eggshell. They are GREAT dishes.

                                            1. re: Joe H

                                              My husband and I ate at the Chef's Table over the weekend, and I'd like to add another dish to the Pantheon: Corn and Parmesan custard with reduced red wine glaze. This dish doesn't demonstrate the showiness and technical tour de force of the branzino smoked in a cigar box. In fact, it's essentially comfort good. But what amazing comfort food! The corn that goes into the dish is organic corn and the Parmesan is well-aged. The combination of the sweet corn, savory Parmesan, and sweeter-still red wine is a revelation. (Even folks who will not be dining at the Chef's Table will have a chance to try this as the dish will start being offered as an amuse in the regular restaurant.)

                                              In a meal of deliciousness, the following additional dishes emerged as the favorites of our group...
                                              o Roasted artichoke puree with fried artichoke leaves topped with black olive froth (One minor negative. Between the artichoke puree underneath and the olive froth above, the artichoke leaves lost their crispiness during the time it took to eat the dish. The play of textures on the first bite was more pronounced than the contrast on later bites. This is a really picky point, but this is the standards by which one has to judge such a stellar meal. The typical standards simply don't apply.

                                              o Goose liver/Mostarda fruit torchon with a wedge of toasted brioche, and balsamic gelato

                                              o Braised veal cheeck in port wine, crunchy corn, pancetta, and marscapone sauce.

                                              I have one over-all criticism of the meal: The dinnerware for several of the dishes skewed more towards presentation than to convenience. As a result, cutting the food into bite-sized pieces was somewhat challenging. The worst offender of the night was the veal cheek dish. The veal was served in a glass dish that might as well have been bought in a florist supply house as I thought it was perfect for displaying clustered low flowers in a row down a dining room table. As dinnerware, it was problematic -- too tall and too narrow to comfortably cut the piece of veal. The veal was marvelously tender and oozing with meat juices, displaying none of the flaws that being cooked at too-high heat produced, and the combination of flavors was a delight. However, the struggle to cut the food lessened the total experience of eating the dish. If the glass dish had been considerably wider or if the dish had been only half the height, the problem would have evaporated.

                                              The food at Chef's Table is constantly changing. For example, we definitely did not get the eggshell dish. The Chef explained that even two nights in succession will show changes in a dish or two. Over a two-week period, people should expect about 30% of the dishes to change. From season to season, about 90% of the dishes will change. We didn't follow up to determine which dishes make the 10% group that never changes.

                                              Chef's Table offers diners a very special experience -- one that I'd rate over tasting menus we've enjoyed at CityZen, The Oval Room, and 2941 (to stay local).

                                              1. re: Indy 67

                                                We had the same response to the dishware for the veal dish! A very keen and pertinent observation, I feel.

                                  2. My daughter needed a topic for her science fair paper and I suggested Molecular gastronomy. Our adventure had begun. After her research was done and paper written, I decided to hunt out a molecular gastronomy restaurant. Lucky me I found one in our own backyard. The Minibar by Jose Andres. I called one morning in Feb at 9am and was too late. Then I asked exactly what time they currently had, and noticed their clock was exactly one minute faster than the clock on my computer. So on the next day, I called at 8:59 and got a busy signal. Hung up and hit redial a few times and got through. Was put on hold and when the lady returned I got 3 seats at the Minibar's 6pm seating. Yippee. the next month we showed up and found out 2 of the others with 6pm reservations had called over 200 times. Their mouths fell open when I said, only called twice. Well we went on to have an amazing dining experience. From the munchies starters, my favorites were the popcorn empanada and the golden dragon. From the flavors and textures portion, my favorites were salmon with black garlic and the parmesan egg with migas. My husband's favorites were the bloody mary, sea urchin, hearts of palm ravioli and the mango box. And daughters favorites were blue cheese and almond tart, chicken and eggs, salmon with black garlic, philly cheese steak. We all loved the yogurt and honey surprise. We had a wonderful, surprising time with the food. As you can tell our favorites varied from all over the menu. The young chefs behind the minimart were kind and gracious explaining everything. When they found out my daughter was doing a sferification as a science experiment at school they even brought out a calcic bath and showed her how it was done. We had a wonderful time.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: Rileyobo


                                      That sounds great. If I may ask, what's the "golden dragon"?

                                      1. re: Garlic Guy

                                        It was a crispy duck skin wonton with gold leaf around a duck sauce spherification.

                                        1. re: Rileyobo

                                          Wow...that does sound good. Thanks!

                                    2. I've been thinking about how they could do this better. Why not set up a website where people could register for a seat for a given night? The system could allow them to register say for maybe 6 different nights. Then they draw the names out of a hat for night one and those who win are taken out of the system so they aren't drawn for another night as well. If at the end of this process, they still have seats open (unlikely) they could post that on the website - we have 2 seats on the 10th, 1 seat on the 13th, and on on. First person to register gets it.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: Just Visiting

                                        Something like that would take time, energy, and money to set up. It's probably much easier for them to just keep doing what they're doing; they talk to a few people around 9:00 AM and then can take the phone off the hook the rest of the day. I wish I could do that at my job.

                                        Besides, they probably feel that it's helpful to their business to be a legendarily tough restaurant to get a reservation at. After all, they manage to sell out every night to people who feel very lucky to be there.

                                        1. re: Garlic Guy

                                          Doodle calendar. Free, easy. I dunno. I would think a restauranteur would want to treat customers with a degree of caring (except for Carole Greenwood, but that's a different story).

                                          1. re: Just Visiting

                                            except as Garlic type Guy points out there is that air of mystique that can not be bought, in some cities the minute a place is accessible nobody wants to go anymore. hence rule of thumb in NYC, LA, SF etc. if they advertise or have anything more than a phone number in the book (does anybody really use that anymore?) avoid it like the plague.

                                      2. I should update to say that this past fall (2010) we did succeed in getting a Minibar reservation and it was a glorious experience. I was in heaven the whole time. Having called hundreds of times since 2009, I was elated when I scored a reservation from the waiting list. I amassed a team of callers with a calendar of an entire week of possible dates to try for and one morning a friend managed to get very near the top of the waiting list. Minibar called back a few days later and offered us the seats.

                                        I am deeply fortunate to say I have now eaten at Komi, Minibar, Enzo's Chefs Table @ Teatro Goldoni among MANY other delicious things to be had in DC and they are all different in mood, flavor profiles, and delivery. Given that I make less than $25K, I feel very priviledged. When food is your life, life is so good.

                                        My advice now to others trying to get into Minibar is have a series of possible dates, have a team of sypathetic callers, definitely get on the waiting list, the day of the week that you're calling and the day of the week you're trying for both make a difference, and be kind to reservationist. Start calling a minute or two before 10 and be persistent.

                                        1509 17th St NW Ste 1, Washington, DC 20036

                                        Teatro Goldoni
                                        1909 K St., NW, Washington, DC 20006