Yesterday, we covered the first half of the most essential “No Reservations” episodes, along with some honorable mentions that just missed the cut. If you missed part 1 of the list, you can find it here. Without further ado, then, here are the top 5.
5 —”U.S. Southwest”
In one of the most comical episodes (both because of Bourdain’s comments and because of the size of the food proportions), Bourdain tours the U.S. southwest, an often neglected travel destination. He dines with rock legend Alice Cooper on the sinisterly-named “Randy Johnson’s Big Unit,” an enormous hot dog at Cooper’s restaurant. Later, he needles one of his crew as they try to complete a food challenge that involves eating an enormous steak. The episode ends with a tour of Ted Nugent’s house (which is something like a wildlife preserve) complete with, of course, a lot of gunfire.
4 — “Indonesia”
In the “Indonesia” episode, Bourdain ponders a question that every true traveler has likely considered: What’s keeping me from just staying here? His answer in the end is that there is still too much of the world left to experience for this to be the end of the road. In addition, there is the slapstick of cameraman Todd Liebler destroying a restaurant’s entire supply of food and Bourdain’s giddiness over the arrival of “the pancake man” (go to the one minute mark in this video to see the pancake man for yourself).
3 — “Vietnam: There’s No Place Like Home”
If you’re already a fan of Bourdain’s work, then you probably could have guessed that a Vietnam episode would be high on this list. One of his absolute favorite destinations (he has considered moving there), Bourdain filmed three separate “No Reservations” episodes in the country. This episode is the most memorable of the three because of the presence of Philippe Lajaunie, Bourdain’s former boss, a man with more energy than the energizer bunny.
2 — “France: Why the French Don’t Suck”
Simply, a classic. This is the first episode of the series and the title says it all. Bourdain is on a mission to prove to you why you should adopt a bit of the French perspective into your life. Between drinking too much absinthe, making fun of the Eiffel Tower, and searching out what he calls “the good stuff,” Bourdain teaches you a lesson in the art of travel.
1 — “Romania”
OK, so this probably isn’t the episode you expected to be in this spot, but hear me out. The “Romania” episode is the perfect marriage of form and content. Shot around Halloween, the episode is often styled like a classic horror film, only the horror aspect comes not from ghouls or creatures, but rather from the boredom that Bourdain is experiencing.
The host is accompanied to Romania in this episode by his partner in crime, Zamir Gotta. In their first scene, they want to get some shots of Bourdain with a statue of Vlad the Impaler, but are told it will cost 10 euros per square foot. Bourdain storms off and comments on how, although he doesn’t believe in such things, this is an incredibly bad omen. This sets off a hilarious string of misadventures: Bourdain and Zamir go to visit the alleged castle of Vlad the Impaler, get caught in a cheesy Halloween party at a themed hotel with a bunch of tourists from Nevada, and rent a car that immediately breaks down. After hurting his back pushing the car to try to start it, Zamir slowly spins out of control as he tries to dull the pain with Tuica, a traditional Romanian spirit, but only succeeds in becoming incoherent.
Bourdain is clearly miserable throughout the majority of the episode and because of this, his wit turns razor-sharp, which makes for the funniest episode of “No Reservations” there is. Even with all that goes wrong, Bourdain is still able to make you want to visit a country you probably had no desire to in the first place.
Add all of this up and you get the most essential episode of “No Reservations.”
Previously from Charlie Crespo:
♦ State Island Woman Discovers Key to Longevity: Booze Hard
♦ Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations”: The Essential List Part 1
♦ Everything Old is New Again: The Music of Dead Combo
♦ Welcome Back, Landon Donovan
♦ Lionel Messi Battles the Robot Keeper