Where Oprah Winfrey and Leonardo DiCaprio Power Dine in New York and L.A.: The Exact VIP Tables

6:15 AM 5/12/2018

by Laurie Brookins

Chefs including Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Eric Ripert and Edoardo Baldi dish on which tables are the most desired in New York and L.A., and reveal the special requests du jour: Fish-free sushi, anyone?

Le Bernardin
Le Bernardin
Courtesy of Subject
  • Avra Estiatorio Madison

    Power table 72 at Avra Estiatorio Madison
    Power table 72 at Avra Estiatorio Madison
    Courtesy of Warren Jagger

    Who: Industry moguls (David Geffen) and fashion folk (Donna Karan). Others: Jeffrey Katzenberg, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tony Bennett, Alexander Wang and Naomi Campbell.

    Power Table: Booth 72 in the room’s center. “It’s in the middle of everything, under a skylight, with a great view of the entire room,” says partner Nick Tsoulos. If it’s seclusion you’re seeking, try the three cabana tables with curtains.

    Insider Info: The grilled octopus, tenderized with a special washing machine, is the most popular dish — “everyone starts with it,” Tsoulos says. The Lavraki — a flaky white sea bass also known as loup de mer — is easily the best-seller for fish. A Beverly Hills location opened in April.

    14 E. 60 th St., New York
  • e. baldi

    Courtesy of e. baldi

    Who: Al Pacino, Ron Howard, Ringo Starr and Danny DeVito (who often turns up with Michael Douglas) are frequent guests, while Mark Wahlberg and Leonardo DiCaprio have hosted birthday parties there. Others: David and Victoria Beckham and Jack Nicholson. 

    Power Table: Table 1, by the entrance, is a fave of Brian Grazer's. Edoardo Baldi says Table 38, located at the back next to the kitchen, is requested by those who don’t wish to be disturbed.

    Insider Info: Sweet corn agnolotti, with marscapone and truffle butter, is the clear favorite. “People are addicted to it — Kim Kardashian has posted it on her Instagram, Rihanna loves it. Lewis Hamilton, the Formula One driver, comes to L.A. all the time, and I make him three orders on one plate," Baldi says. 

    Baldi himself makes up to 300 pasta orders a day: “People are very health-conscious in L.A., but that seems to go out the window when they come to the restaurant,” he says. “Sometimes I’m making so many pastas that I’m pleading with the wait staff: ‘Sell more fish!’”

    375 N. Canon Dr., Beverly Hills
  • The Grill on the Alley

    Courtesy Photo

    Who: David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Lorne Michaels, MediaLink CEO Michael Kassan and power attorneys Bruce Ramer and Nina Shaw. 

    Power Table: Two round corner booths toward the back, Nos. 31 and 32, face the whole room — ideal for those wishing to see and be seen. "If an agent is coming in and bringing a famous client and wants to make a bit of a show, these are perfect," says maître dame Pamela Gonyea. Post-renovation, the former Four Seasons restaurant boasts a new mezzanine at The Pool but offers eight fewer seats on the upper balcony.

    Insider Info: The popular brick chicken with grilled vegetables takes 25 minutes from start to finish, so "assistants call ahead to fire one up," Gonyea says. Also call in advance for the Sunday prime rib dinner — it's gone by 7 p.m.

    “This is where [executive producers] Howard West and George Shapiro made the deal for Seinfeld,” she adds. When the pair added commentary to the series’ DVD box set, they returned: “They sat in one of those coveted corner booths; it was the only place they wanted to do it,” Gonyea notes. Shapiro still frequents the restaurant two or three times a week.

    9560 Dayton Way, Beverly Hills
  • Hinoki & The Bird

    Courtesy of Jakob N. Layman

    Who: Stars (Ellen DeGeneres, Pharrell Williams, Gwen Stefani and Gwyneth Paltrow) and CAA agents from across the street.

    Power Table: Banquettes at the back of the patio, which afford a view.

    Insider Info: Executive chef Brandon Kida recommends the kale salad: “It’s a good source of nutrients and will keep you alert during major meetings."

    10 W. Century Dr., Los Angeles

  • Jean-Georges Beverly Hills

    9850 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills 310.860.6566 jean-georges.com

    Courtesy of Jan Schuenke

    Who: NBC and USA Networks hosted their Golden Globes afterparty at the Waldorf-Astoria property. NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt, Justin Timberlake, Jessica Biel, Lorne Michaels, Sterling K. Brown and Will & Grace co-creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan were among the guests. In March, Kim Kardashian debuted her latest beauty collab, inviting Kris Jenner and Laverne Cox. 

    Power Table: Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten recommends No. 57 at the entrance: “You don’t miss anything.”

    Insider Info: The chef liked “casting” his waitstaff: “Maybe because there were many actors applying, but I found L.A. to be amazing in terms of personality.” In terms of dishes that play the part, an avocado pizza is exclusive to this location and features locally sourced ingredients: avocados, onions, diced jalapenos, coriander and lime on a whole-wheat pizza crust. “It’s like a very fancy avocado toast,” he adds with a laugh. 

    9850 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills

  • Le Bernardin

    Courtesy of Subject

    Who: Aretha Franklin, Martha Stewart, Yoko Ono and Helen Mirren. In July, Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates turned up for an event honoring photographer Brigitte Lacombe. 

    Power Table: “They all fight to be on the first row of tables, because that’s where you’re seen," Ripert says. Table 1 is in demand for that reason, but "you’re close to the entrance, and there’s a lot of traffic.”

    For privacy, Ripert suggests Table 36. “It’s very close to the kitchen, and in my view is the most comfortable and best table, because no one sees you, but you see the entire dining room,” he says.

    Insider Info: Popular lunch choices are the salmon and halibut, both poached in a light broth.

    155 W. 51st St., New York
  • Masa

    Courtesy Photo

    Who: The Time Warner Center restaurant is famously private, intimate (just 26 seats) and expensive ($595 per person omakase menu). But what it lacks in Page Six mentions, this Michelin three-star restaurant makes up for in experience: Chef Masa Takayama is there every night. Larry Gagosian was a regular at Masa before partnering with the chef to create Kappo Masa as part of his Upper East Side gallery; that location draws everyone from George and Amal Clooney to Robin Wright, Chloe Sevigny and Vera Wang. 

    Power Table: The center spot at the 11-seat sushi counter, directly in front of chef Masa Takayama. 

    Insider Info: Chef Masa’s signature dish is his Toro Caviar, typically the second of 15 to 20 courses in the omakase menu, the Japanese tradition of giving the chef the freedom to select your food (omakase roughly translates to “I trust you”). Vegetarians can be accommodated, or even all-meat sushi for guests with an aversion to seafood. Keeping with the hospitality traditions of omakase, an additional gratuity beyond the price of your meal, drinks and tax will be politely and respectfully declined. 

    10 Columbus Circle, 4th Floor, New York

  • Michael's

    Courtesy of Brian Tisza

    Who: Media stars (Michael Wolff, Ronan Farrow). A Pulitzer event in March drew Diane Sawyer, Nicholas Kristof, A.G. Sulzberger, and The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold, who won a 2017 Pulitzer Prize. Others: Elton John and David Furnish, Helen Mirren and even an occasional Bill Murray sighting. 

    Power Table: Table 6, in the middle of the room, "the prime spot where you can see everything and everyone can see you," says GM Steve Millington. Or a catbird seat at Table 24 against the wall.

    Insider Info: Those wishing to eat light opt for Kyung Up-Lim’s Dover sole with lemongrass sauce. When Joel Grey planned a birthday dinner at Michael’s, he asked for a special broth with a miso-type consistency: “It took about 10 tries and three or four visits from him before we got it right," Millington says.

    The all-time best entrance? “Bill Clinton,” Michael’s GM confirms. "Everything stopped, everyone put their fork down; it was like the air left the room."

    24 W. 55th St., New York

  • Paley

    Courtesy Photo

    Who: Execs from Viacom and Netflix. Sandra Bullock, Keanu Reeves, Bruce Willis and Jamie Foxx have been spotted, and when Mary J. Blige received her Hollywood Walk of Fame star, Paley hosted the afterparty. 

    Power Table: Table 11, a corner booth. “You’re nestled, but you can see the entire restaurant,” says managing director Christopher Roache. “Even when I’m in meetings, that’s where I like to sit.” 

    Insider Info: Though the lobster mac and cheese is the unequivocal favorite, special requests for a lettuce-wrapped burger have encouraged Roache to consider adding it to the menu. "Of course everyone here is always thinking about eating healthy, but there’s also that moment of, ‘I’m going to cheat on Saturday.’ Paley is a stop for that kind of comfort food."

    Exclusive Opportunity: the Paley Privilege Program. Roache and his team bestow members with a special keychain that pays tribute to the site’s history as CBS Studios (the restaurant is named for CBS founder William S. Paley). The keychain reproduces the “A” in Paley’s logo, itself a rendition of the CBS Studios radio tower. “It’s given to our extremely special guests, no matter whether you’re a power player or you’re a regular who isn’t in the industry,” Roache says. “You can walk in on any day, no matter how busy, and if you have that keychain, we’ll have a table for you.”

    6115 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles
  • The Palm

    Courtesy Photo

    Who: Optimally located near WME and The Gersh Agency, it attracts Sherry Lansing, Donna Langley and Bob Daly. This month, Barbara Davis is partying for her annual Carousel Ball at The Palm Beverly Hills, while Emmy Rossum and her husband, Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail, are also frequent guests. 

    Power Table: The booths on the left: 40, 41 and 42. “Everyone will know you’re there,” says The Palm executive vp marketing Bruce Bozzi. For privacy, go for Table 15 or 16 in the back — or the private room nicknamed the Regal Beagle.

    Insider Info: A few loyalists, including Rogers & Cowan chairman Paul Bloch, have personalized their favorite salads with recipes kept on file. 

    The Palm New York has famously included caricatures of its guests since it opened in 1926, but Bozzi keeps the interior clean in Beverly Hills. You’ll find framed caricatures — of Warren Beatty and Farrah Fawcett — brought over from a previous West Hollywood location. And the Charlie’s Angels-esque mural on one wall? That’s actually Amy Pascal, Sue Mengers and Sherry Lansing. 

    267 N. Canon Dr., Beverly Hills

  • Per Se

    10 Columbus Circle, 4th Floor, New York 212.823.9335 thomaskeller.com

    Courtesy of Subject

    Who: Thomas Keller’s prix-fixe dinner spot often hosts industry parties, such as an A Wrinkle in Time event with Ava DuVernay and Oprah Winfrey.

    Power Table: The four tables with Central Park views, especially Nos. 2 and 3, close to the fireplace. If you're a shyer VIP, Nos. 25 and 26, out of sightliness, says GM Sam Calderbank. For even more privacy, the East Room, adjacent to the main dining area, offers a glass door and curtains.

    Insider Info: Don’t be afraid to ask the kitchen for a lesson; Blake Lively famously learned how to make butterscotch at Per Se. If you want to leave it to the professionals, order Keller’s Oysters and Pearls, the savory pearl tapioca laden with Island Creek oysters and white sturgeon caviar from Regiis Ova (“royal egg” in Latin). 

    10 Columbus Circle, 4th Floor, New York

  • The Polo Lounge

    Courtesy Photo

    Who: Actors like Chris Rock and Nicole Kidman; musicians like Harry Styles, Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus. Warren Beatty wrote the location into Rules Don’t Apply and filmed scenes there.

    Power Table: Famed Booth 1, the preferred table of Charlie Chaplin, is the first booth on the left as you enter and the prime spot to be seen, says Edward Mady, general manager of The Beverly Hills Hotel.

    Insider Info: The McCarthy Salad is named for polo player Neil McCarthy and features chicken, avocado, beets, tomatoes, egg, cheddar cheese and bacon with balsamic vinaigrette. “We sell over 600 McCarthy Salads each week,” Mady says. “We have one guest who comes often, and everything on his plate must be white: white vegetables, white fish, white sauce."

    The wait staff, many of whom have worked there for decades, are well versed in the lore of the Polo Lounge. Ask about how women weren’t allowed to wear slacks until Marlene Dietrich, or about Richard Nixon’s two top aides, H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, who learned of the Watergate break-in while eating breakfast in the Polo Lounge in 1972.

    The Beverly Hills Hotel
    9641 Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills

    A version of this story first appeared in the May 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.