Menus & Entertaining

7 ways to get a last-minute dinner reservation

By: Nancy Fornasiero

YEW restaurant + bar <br> Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver Author: Canadian Living Credits: YEW restaurant + bar <br> Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver

Menus & Entertaining

7 ways to get a last-minute dinner reservation

By: Nancy Fornasiero
Have a hot date coming up and you don’t have a dinner reservation yet! Don't worry -- we asked Canadian chefs for advice on getting last-minute dinner reservations. While virtually every chef recommended dinner reservations at least one month in advance, don’t despair. They also shared some clever insiders’ tips on scoring a last-minute dinner reservation for the procrastinators among us.

1. Don't forget the bar!
Chef Rafael Gonzales, who worked at Yew restaurant and bar at the Four Seasons Vancouver says, “If the restaurant is booked, the bar is such an incredible experience. We don't take reservations there, so you can just walk in, sit up at the bar and order from the bar menu. It offers incredible cocktails, a "wine by the glass" program (150 wines available) and, of course, order from the raw bar! Once you’re there, perhaps a table might be available later.”

2. Restaurants love their regulars.
If you happen to be a regular at a favourite restaurant, David Lee suggests that you and your date “just show up…usually they will make it happen for you.” As for the perfect wine to accompany your special meal, Chef Lee enthuses without hesitation, “Champagne, Champagne, Champagne!” (And virtually every chef from coast to coast concurs!)

For a more cost-effective option, or if you're waiting at the restaurant bar for your table, Veronica Laudes, owner of Toronto’s unpretentious but superb tapas restaurant, Torito, suggests a Spanish Cava (which she seductively refers to as “the queen of romance” and promises will “bring the warmth of Spain to your lips.”)

3. Drop your name onto more than one waiting list
Stephen Beckta of Ottawa’s acclaimed Beckta Dining & Wine advises that you get your name on the wait list of several of your favourite places. “We always have a few cancellations,” he asserts reassuringly. Besides bubbly with your meal, Stephen also recommends “very silky Pinot Noirs and rich Ports to warm you up before leaving into the cold.”

4. Consider an intimate evening in
Dale MacKay says if all else fails, consider eating in. “I’d recommend picking up some smoked salmon, artisan breads, a selection of cheeses, and perhaps a dessert from her favourite bakery. Round out the dinner by inquiring with a leading restaurant or caterer about preparing the main course in advance. Finish the dish off at your leisure in your own kitchen and look like a rock star.”

Alain Chabot, who worked in Calgary’s top Italian restaurant, Il Sogno, advises a similar strategy and adds that this option will allow for a splurge on a “great bottle of Champagne or wine to accompany the meal.” For dessert, he suggests “a special sauterne or ice wine.”

Page 1 of 2 -- Find more insider's last-minute dinner reservation tips on page 2 5. Go early -- or really late
Several restaurateurs surveyed remind us that timing is everything. Mark McEwan advises to “call the restaurants you would like to go to and ask if they have room in their early or later seatings; you might get lucky.” When choosing the spot for your special night out, remember that ambiance is as important as the food. Chef McEwan described Sanafir’s “four sexy Moroccan beds (image at left) separated by silk curtains. You lounge on the beds and sip champagne, eat good food and enjoy each other’s company. I think they were made for Valentine’s Day.”

6. Don't be in a rush
For last-minute plans, Costas Spiliadis and family -- owners of Milos, Montreal’s sexiest Greek restaurant - also recommend being first and foremost “flexible about timing.” Daughter/manager Evridiki wisely points out that early or late seatings allow for “a more intimate dining experience” and that, regardless of the hour, “if you’re with the right partner, you will have a memorable time!”

7. Remember - romance can continue past the 14th
At Toqué!, another popular Montreal spot, co-owners chef Normand Laprise and manager Christine Lamarche ingeniously recommend taking the flexibility factor one step further. “First of all, we have a wait list so you might be lucky! But remember that you can also come the following Friday or Saturday since we will still feature the Valentine’s Day menu. Or, celebrate before everyone else by coming the night before.” Think about it… you might very well be lingering over dessert at midnight (technically February 14th) and, as they are quick to note, “you will be sure to have a very romantic evening because the restaurant is quieter!”

Read more:
14 sparkling wines and Champagnes for every taste and budget
Aphrodisiac menu for Valentine's Day

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Menus & Entertaining

7 ways to get a last-minute dinner reservation