It’s not that LA doesn’t have tough tables. We know about the Mozzas, Cut and Comme Ca. Osteria La Buca has been booked of late; Hungry Cat can be difficult. And every executive assistant worth his or her hand-harvested sea salt knows how to make sure the boss gets in.
However, this doesn’t explain how or why pursuing the elusive empty seat has come to be viewed as an Olympic (or profit-making) event. Every afternoon, New York magazine’s Grub Street blog calls hot restaurants for available two-tops that night at 8 pm. Food & Wine publisher American Express has a promotion in which AMEX cardholders gain "special access to reservations at Best New Chefs’ restaurants nationwide. Prime Saturday night reservations will be available now through September 30." And someday, no doubt, your cell phone’s GPS system will offer a feature that employs sonar technology to identify a just-vacated table for four.
Unless the French Laundry relocates (though the upcoming Bouchon may serve as its proxy), I don’t expect these reservation fetishizations to gain much traction here. In a town not noted for its logic, Los Angeles nonetheless seems to have a firm grasp on the concept: If confronted with a full house, Go Somewhere Else.