#204 Go to an Underground Supper Club

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I’m known as a foodie to some of my friends which surprises me a bit but makes sense. I’m not a food blogger. I don’t constantly take pictures of my food at restaurants. I don’t scour the web for the new and interesting places to eat. I do love and know food, however, and maybe that’s where that comes from.

I subscribe to /r/Cooking on reddit and saw this post about an underground supper club called Cloak and Dinner.

This was the first time I had heard anything about underground supper clubs but I was intrigued. I immediately put myself on the mailing list. The ten seats at the dinner were determined by a random drawing. But I wanted to do this thing now. So I sent an innocent email to Nicole, one of the organizers and chefs, not so subtly asking her to stack the deck in my favor since I would be writing about it on my blog. Soon after, I received a confirmation that I had snagged one of the ten seats. Almost immediately after that Nicole wrote me back saying that I had gotten a seat by the luck of the draw and she had nothing to do with it. 42 people put in their name for 10 seats. I should go to Vegas now.

Now the anxiety started to set in. Who were these people? What would they feed me? Would human meat be involved? What were the health code regulations for this sort of thing? I would be going to this thing alone and eating dinner with 9 strangers. What if they were all boring? What if I was?

I arrived right on time and as is typical in LA, that meant I was there first. I met Nicole, Sean, one of the other cooks and Isaac, the mixologist.

Pretty soon the other guests started to arrive. There were two couples, two sets of two guys and one girl who knew the organizers. In other words, I was the only person truly flying solo. The other two couples and the girl also knew the organizers so I think in reality, I think there were only 5 real random seats that night. Booking my ticket to Vegas now… [NOTE: One of the couples was a last minute sub for two random spots]

My social fears about eating dinner with a bunch of strangers quickly dissipated. Eating a meal, turns out, is a great thing to do with strangers. It’s not like at a party where you have to worry about where to stand, what to do with your hands, if you need a drink, who to talk to etc. With dinner, everyone is just sitting there the whole time. There’s always something to do because you’ve got a drink or have food in front of you. And people are just more relaxed in general when they are stuffing their faces. It also helped that the people there were really nice and fun.

The next fear was about the food. The theme for the meal was a time machine. We started at the 50’s and worked our way forward decade by decade. My overall impression of the meal was it was good. Not amazing and definitely not bad. The cooks are amateurs and foodies. They did a lot of research into the dishes which I appreciate. Did that research show through all the time in the food? Sometimes yes and sometimes no.

The opening course was sliced bread with brie, apples and a fig jam. While very tasty, it was not the most original dish.

Then we had a couple of oysters with some cocktail sauce. These were fine but again, fairly standard.

Next was a salad of haricot verts with a vinaigrette and beef consumé with homemade noodles. The salad was fine. The beef consume was actually quite good. Rich and fairly clear, it had good flavor. Far less successful were the homemade noodles sitting in an unfortunate clump at the bottom of the bowl. They were extremely hard and had to be broken apart with a spoon to even be eaten. Not exactly what a noodle should be.

After that were scallops served with dehydrated apple on a pureé of cauliflower and horseradish. Unfortunately, the scallops were not really seared and overcooked. I wonder if they were prepared ahead of time and reheated. Or they didn’t have a hot enough pan to sear the outside and not overcook the inside. Whatever happened, they did not turn out right although the flavor was good. The dehydrated apples seemed a little out of place. The pureé of cauliflower and horseradish was a good idea but none of the heat of the horseradish came through which is puzzling because cauliflower has such a mild flavor.

The main course was a skewer of pork rubbed with a five spice blend and grilled pineapple. This dish was good. The meat was cooked well and tender. There was caramelization on the outside that brought just the right amount of sweetness. The pineapple was not really thought out, however. It was just grilled and placed between the pork pieces. It didn’t really add anything to the dish.

Next up was a palate cleanser which was a tequila sorbet served on a fried tortilla. The sorbet was excellent. The fried tortilla was not my favorite. I would’ve been happy with the sorbet served in a bowl or glass with some fried tortilla strips served as garnish on top. Or even serve tortilla chips on the side as a playful interpretation of chips and salsa where you can dip the chips in the sorbet.

Lastly, was the dessert. There was a molten chocolate cake served with some sort of spicy milk shake concoction. The chocolate cake was divine. Perfectly cooked with intense chocolate flavor. I liked the idea of the milk shake. The cold milk flavor cut through the dense chocolatiness of the cake. And I like spice with chocolate. But the spice should’ve been in the cake. Because when you took a bit of the cake then sipped the milkshake, all you could taste was the spice.

Interspersed between courses were four amazing cocktails. To me, these were the highlight of the meal. For the full description of the cocktails, check out their site. The drinks were strong, had great flavor and were pretty to boot. If you go for anything, go for the cocktails. Well done.

Overall, it was a great experience. Good food, good company, excellent drinks. I really respect what Nicole, Sean and Isaac are doing. They are not professionals but their love for food and drink shows through from the thought behind the theme to the presentation to the execution. I think if they keep this up, their dishes will become more original and better tasting. If you have any underground supper clubs in your area you should check them out. It’s a great way to try new food and meet people.

One Comment to “#204 Go to an Underground Supper Club”

  1. Nicole 26 September 2011 at 4:43 pm #

    Greg ~

    So happy to have you come! Glad you had a good time & wanted to make a few addendums to your post… one of the couples who knew us were a last minute substitution when a pair that was randomly selected, cancelled. Don’t want people thinking that we just stock it with our friends :-).

    Also for the food, just a small note to make, we don’t have a working oven or stove-top, so everything you had came out of a toaster oven, a BBQ and one gas canister burner! (Don’t ask why we don’t have a working oven or stove-top, it’s a sacrifice we make for the location, but eventually we’ll be moving in-doors to a place with a functional kitchen.)

    Hope to see you at a future Cloak & Dinner event!! #268 Go to an Underground Supper Club: Part 2