Underground supper clubs are all the rage these days, but there’s something to be said about the stress placed on their novelty. Does the fact that you are in-the-know and dining in secret digs wear out by the 3rd course? Are the setting, the ambiance and the company used to justify the food? Does defying health codes fail to elicit giggles at the table by the 5th course? Is that pillow you’re sitting on uncomfortableÂ and superfluous dinner entertainment not…entertaining?
A night at Wolvesmouth doesn’t warrant a Yes to any of the above. To the contrary, this is innovative and thought-provoking food by Chef Craig. When you book a night at the Wolves’ Den, come prepared to embark on a 10-14 course culinary expedition. It’s not for the faint of heart but for the adventurous and ravenous. Each course is like an art piece, with ingredients being a sight for the senses as well (mmm, flowers). The dishes were each worthy of their own accord. If forced to guess which dish was inserted for “fluff” to fill the 10 course quota, I would have an extremely hard time choosing. The pacing of this underground meal would surprise you; dishes came out expediently and would shame places in which I’ve done half as many courses as at Wolvesmouth. I knew even before entering The Den that this meal was belated; rave reviews came in from friends on a consistent basis. Now, it was finally my turn.
The parsnip soup with crab got our evening (organized by Catty) off to a great start. Though the soup could have been hotter, I enjoyed the texture and taste as well as both cold and hot preparations of the crab. Buttery croutons appropriately seasoned the crab. Next up was a perfectly-seared scallop arranged with charred cauliflower, meyer lemon and of course, bacon. While this was probably the most “traditional” course in the meal, that’s not discounting that it was still delicious.
My favorite fish dish of the night was also the most beautiful. A small filet of black bass sat atop pureedÂ avocado, a long swipe of tortilla puree and garnished with pickled onion, lime and cilantro flowers. The crispy skin of the bass had great flavor against the mildness of the avocado, yet was perfectly complemented when coupled with the pickled onion and lime.
The pappardalle beneath the braised rabbit was actually being hand-rolled when the diners and I walked in, and I could taste that freshness when it came time for the course. The pasta had the perfect bite, matched only by the forest mushrooms – all tossed in an extremely flavorful, rich sauce. This is one of those dishes that I really wish I had the capacity to have consumed more. I’m learning that I love rabbit (or hare); perhaps I’m just lucky that my most recent applications have been here and in Tijuana.
The pork cheek pelmoni (read: dumplings) was surprisingly the most vibrant, as well as up there with “most aesthetically pleasing,” course of the night. I loved the tender skin on these babies and the pork cheeks had good flavor inside of them – but there were tons of things going on here with the sweet apples, the velvety creme fraiche, the dill, the subtle horseradish. Still, it wasn’t too much, and I’m not sure why. I probably had my think face on during this one, and just when I thought I was tapping out, I was able to empty most that was on this plate.
My experience at Wolvesmouth hinted that Chef Craig might love the lesser-used meats. No cow on the menu, and barely any pork. That would be too obvious. Instead, it was two fish, rabbit and lamb – the lattest of which was so tender, encrusted in Moroccan Baharat and my favorite. The tang of the lemon yogurt and sweetness of the apricot jam really worked the flavors of the meat.
Dessert could be where you learn that Wolvesmouth is also interactive. Try a orange blossom-filled white chocolate capsule. I watched my fellow diners stain their clothes in an enthusiastic smashing of the balls before gently tapping mine. And this is where the art was truly transformed into sweet surrender. Green tea shortbread and yuzu shortbread added a crumbly texture to the raspberry and orange blossom flavors on top of the creme fraiche panna cotta.
Behold: The Elvis Sandwich. If you knew scallops and bacon went well together, now you know that peanut butter ice cream, bacon, honey french toast and banana go together even better. This is the dessert that you didn’t know existed but wish you did for all the years you’ve been in existence. True comfort dessert made over-the-top with bacon yet justified with banana (potassium is good for you). Flavors, textures, this dessert’s really got it all.
Go home and make it now.
Or, simply join a Wolvesmouth dinner, or book your own group of 8-10 people. Be prepared for a mind-blowing experience. It’s clear that Chef Craig is really allowed to do everything he wants in his kitchen – his creative space – and we are indeed lucky to be the dining room guests enjoying the works getting pumped out of it. The loft is open, just as he chooses, and the decorations are minimal yet full of character. The seats are comfy and the focus really is on the food and company. It’s pay-as-you-wish (with the concensus reaping ~$100 per person), which is really an honorable business model and meant to pay it forward. Seeing as they prepare for a day or more in advance for every dinner, however, I hope that they are reaping some unexpected rewards. This dinner party has already blown up; I’m just glad I got to be a part.
I also hear via Twitter that Craig is considering vegetarian and brunch options, so expansion may very well be just on the horizon. Thank god.