Choosing a restaurant at your destination

For a long time now we have been able to search “Place name, dinner, delicious” and easily find information about highly regarded restaurant. You are swamped by reviews, social media tags, and location information.

Sometimes you might come across some harsh words about a place which is always interesting, and then discover a new restaurant to enjoy that way too.

However while on your travels it is a waste to leave your search for a restaurant that will stimulate your five sense to the recommenda-tions of other people. What I can rely on is my foodie sense, intuition, and a bit of luck. From the start of the search to finding what I am looking can take about an hour, but this is all part of the enjoyment.

If on the first day of a trip I book in at a popular restaurant and try the local cuisine, I want my taste buds and stomach to communicate, so that by the end of the trip I still have the impres-sions of what I ate. If I can achieve that, my ability to choose good restaurants is height-ened, and becomes a motivation for me to continue travelling.

I think that if you are the kind of person that has a usual hangout, inside you there is some kind of guideline that helps you choose what you like in a restaurant. For someone like me who likes to cook at home, my guidelines for choosing a restaurant tend to be the ingredients. What kind of local ingredients are being used? How are they purchasing it? Are they meticulous about the seasonings? What kind of drinks are on the wine or sake lists? I am trying to decipher questions like these as I pore over the menu while enjoying my pre-meal drink. Sometimes I’ll ask questions of the wait staff, or talk to the chef if I am seated at the counter. If you are somebody who loves food, it is probably at the moment that you see the menu that you will know if you have picked a winner. If you like restaurants you might also be interested in the chef’s resume. A while back, completely by chance, I ended up going to a restaurant of a chef who had just left a famous restaurant to set up on his own, and it felt a little like taking a risk. Before the meal there is that feeling of exhilara-tion, especially if it turns out to be a good restaurant.

Having said that, because you are deciding on a restaurant before you eat, first you need to fine tune your senses by going for a walk. Does the restaurant have a sense of beauty? Do most of the cars in the car park have local number plates? If this is a place that locals like to use when they go out then it is so much the better. It is a universal truth that a restaurant loved by locals is never a bad choice. If you have had a walk around the restaurant before your arrival you’ll find your first drink all the more tasty too.

However, one problem is that more often than not, if you don’t have a reservation at these restaurants you can’t get in. As much as possible you want to come across these in the first part of your trip, but often you are out of luck. If that is the case you make the promise to definitely eat there next time you are in the area, and then count the days until your next trip. Actually this has happened several times, and I can recall these episodes. And this is the reason why I can’t stop picking restaurants when I am at the destination.

Travel writer | Chizuru Asahina