Anthony Bourdain’s recent No Reservations episodes in Romania and Hawaii have suffered from negative buzz. The criticism seems to come mostly from natives, and I don’t get it.
Granted, Tony’s first mistake in Romania was inviting Zamir, but I’d guess Zamir burned his bridge this time with his over-the-top drunken boorishness. Maybe he’s gained enough notoriety through No Res to score his own show, roaming the globe as the Ugly Russian.
Romania’s people were warm, generous, and friendly, in spite of Zamir and their ridiculous government, which demanded 10 euros per square meter where Bourdain thought he already had clearance to film.
He responded in classic style by telling the anonymous bureaucrats, “We’ll be happy to protect Romania from the scourge of tourism,” before walking away.
Yes, it was a weird episode. Tony wore some fake blood and a fake knife through his head to attend a nightmarish Halloween party at the gimmicky House of Dracula Hotel with fellow guests – from Nevada – while looking suitably annoyed. I had fun watching.
In Hawaii, he went all-out to make it the must-see state. His closing comments were even charitable toward the silly-looking American tourists he usually mocks. He showed us everything from wild surf to desolate lava fields. He sampled dishes that were some of his best food porn yet. He even dropped $3K on the local economy by buying a “vintage” Hawaiian shirt.
The streets and restaurants he visited seemed real, not glam or mobbed with cruise ship passengers. He even enthused over disgusting Spam in everything from chili to frittatas to sushi.
OK, so maybe he skipped the locals’ hot spots and favorite food, but he was a goodwill ambassador in both places, giving his viewers lots of possibilities to chew when we plan our vacations.
As far as I’m concerned, Anthony Bourdain could be instructive and entertaining if he stood in a phone booth for an hour.