Kali Dining: The Sleeper Underground Supper Club

Chilled English Pea Soup | Mint (2-ways), Chantilly, Buckwheat Streusel

What’s a chef to do – and where is he to go – once he quits his posh Patina Restaurant Group post as Executive Chef at Cafe Pinot?

The answer? It’s infallibly to do one’s own series of roving dinners in various homes. Chef Kevin Meehan’s intention? Hosting a group of appreciative guests with adventurous and social bents.

Yellowtail Confit | Beet, Brown Butter Powder, Balsalmic, Pink Peppercorns

What you get, then, is a start-up dinner series that brings together a myriad of moving parts – but the difference with this particular dinner party is that the least questionable variable is the quality of the food. In essence, there’s no better way to enjoy a multi-course opus by Chef Meehan than within the context and intimacy of an 8-person dinner party. The mystery of the night’s dinner menu is navigated by that day’s foraged finds and treasures unearthed at the fish and farmer’s market. (Those with dietary restrictions are encouraged to let Chef know when the reservation is made.)

The evening begins with a reception of sorts as you sip wine in the comforts of an outdoor, dimly but charmingly lit patio and begin to get acquainted with your fellow diners – after all, you’ll be sharing a table so you may as well get cozy. Sidenote: It’s probably best to get a pre-dinner wine, or at least something a little unexpected or white, to share for this; it seemed that everyone at my party had food on the mind (and why wouldn’t they) when they picked out their wines.

Beef Tenderloin Fillet | Potato, Garlic Ash, Onion Variation

And for five inventive and intriguing courses (plus amuse bouche) and an unexpectedly pleasant group of characters at the dinner my guest and I were privy to, it was an evening well spent. Or if you have that special occasion in mind, you can book your own dinner party for you and your friends. After all, no where else will you get top-notch courses in an ultimately casual, stress-free environment. But I really like the idea of matching your “omakase” style dinner to the chef’s choice co-mingling of guests. Dinner parties, after all, are for adventurers.

One thing I’ve noticed about many dinner parties, too, is that there’s a pacing left to be desired for the diners, or shall I say guests? But each course at Kali Dining was evenly and perfectly spaced and a fitting ascension unto the next. And I, for one, thought it was the perfect amount of food. Each plate was a piece of art yet evaded being too fussy.

So you best get to Kali Dining before Chef Kevin “goes out and gets a real job” (disclaimer: his words, not mine). This is one temporary pop-up installment on the westside you won’t want to miss out on.

Various evenings

7:30 PM

$65 min. cash donation + a bottle of wine to share

Kali Dining
Undisclosed location

Orgasmo de la Boca: The Underground Supper Club of the Senses

Duck Breast, Roasted Cauliflour, Basil Puree, Dried Fig and Brandy Gastrique, Crispy Fennel | Photo credit: Tricia Romano

When Chef Alessandra invited me to her transplanted-from-Oregon (and before that, Spain) underground supper club, I was intrigued. The theme of the night was of the lovers’ variety. And so I traveled to a quaint backyard somewhere in a lovely LA neighborhood to partake in her Aphrodisiac Dinner. I went solo, but was comforted when I found the dinner party also included fun company – no doubt a result of the kind of company the exuberance of the chef naturally attracted.

Oyster Two Ways: Sauteed Cornmeal Crusted Oyster on Red Wine Onion Confit & Fanny Bay on the Halfshell With Red Wine Shallot Mignonette | Photo by Tricia Romano

It was a beautiful setting – and one in which it was comfortable to enjoy a full-on eight courses (plus a bonus course) with wine pairings. Though I admit I was worried when I saw it was to take place outside, it was not too cold nor too warm underneath that cozy, red light-tinged tent. The setting is no detail to be glossed over when it comes to underground supper clubs, but in Orgasmo de la Boca’s case, it was perfect. The explanations behind what was going on through Chef Allesandra’s mind while constructing each dish were lovely to behold as my fellow diners and I pondered each bite.

And so was the pacing. Coupled with the quality and tastiness of the dishes, the dining experience was top-notch. Of course, there was at least one love- (or lust-?) inducing ingredient by any interpretation in each course. Oysters two ways; pork via “Bacon and Eggs” – that is, Poached Arauncana Egg in Iberico Nest with Sundried Tomato Butter poached Fingerlings and Ovan Roasted Grape Tomatoes; chili via Fried Mushroom Salad with Chipotle Chervil Aioli and strawberry via a Strawberry-Ginger Granite as a mid-dinner palate cleanser. The wine pairings were also stellar, bringing in another dimension to each course and even the wine itself as proper pairings should.

Dining the Orgasmo de la Boca Way | Photo by Tricia Romano

I always love oysters – especially on the halfshell – and the spicy Fried Mushroom Salad was absolutely lovely, especially when paired with the ’09 Marina Alta Blanco. My favorite was actually a main – the duck breast with the cauliflour and basil puree with dried fig and brandy gastrique as well as fennel. Apparently, women used to dust powdered basil on themselves as a scent and figs were Cleopatra’s favorite fruit. With fennel (which the Egyptians used as a libido enhancement) making the third aphrodisiac ingredient in this dish, perhaps I was really into the thematics and this is why my appetite ultimately “culminated” with this one!

Also delicious was the Coriander Crusted Salmon with Sunchoke Puree and Latke in Tomato and Asparagus Broth. With asparagus and especially coriander being the key ingredients here, I admit there is rarely an experience where I don’t enjoy salmon and this night would have been no exception. The coriander was a really nice touch, highlighting the richness of the fish.

Coriander Crusted Salmon, Sunchoke Puree and Latke, Tomato and Asparagus Broth | Photo by Tricia Romano

Of course, it’s not a proper “love” dinner without dessert, and the “Chocolate Covered Menage a Trois” with sea salt panna cotta, frozen bananas and almond brittle (or manage a quatre with the ’09 Monticelli Muscato d’Asti) did not disappoint. The saltiness, sweetness from both chocolate and fruit and multiple textures just bombarded the senses and was a conclusion to behold.

While Allesandra is known for her smoked olives (see: Artisanal LA), it is clear that she deserves an honest look at her underground dinners. They’re delicious, professional yet hospitable and are a multiple-course tour de force to be reckoned with. The themes change according to her whimsy and inspiration, so there’s a different experience awaiting each diner every time. One thing is constant, however: You can sense her passion in each bite.

For the next dinner on June 4, be sure to reserve here.

All food and wine were hosted.

Special thanks to Tricia Romano for the photos.

Orgasmo de la Boca

Undisclosed location

Dinners organized on case-by-case basis

Average cost: $125 per person

Wolvesmouth: The Supper Club Worthy of Being Kept Underground

Black Bass | tortilla puree, avocado, onion, cilantro flowers, lime

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 uncomfortable and superfluous dinner entertainment not…entertaining?

Celery Root | parsnip soup, crab, crouton

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.

Continue reading

First Monthly Food Rendezvous at SPARC in Venice Tomorrow

SPARC, Venice | Photo credit to yovenice on Flickr (YoVenice.com)

Looking to shop local this weekend? Check out The Food Redenzvous tomorrow in Venice at the SPARC building (which so happens to currently house art galleries and formerly the Venice division of the LAPD). Though it’s great that more and more farmer’s markets are springing up in each of our individual communities, you’ll be getting something a little different at The Food Rendezvous. They make it possible for small, emerging food artisans to reach their customers despite difficult wait times (sometimes as long as 2-3 years to get a stand) and permit costs the farmer’s markets may incur.

Laurie Dill is a Master Gardener and on the board of the Garden School Foundation and Dominique Leveuf has a juice and beverage line with her partner sourced from local and fairly traded produce. They, as the event’s founders, aim to make Food Rendezvous interactive and inspirational with author talks and cooking demonstrations, a cookbook swap (donate your old one, get one back, keep buying for $5 each), a jam making contest and a food-related movie screening.

As for the vendors at the first ever event, you can expect Bulgarini Gelato, Josie’s English Kitchen Jams, Joelle Olive Oil, Let’s Be Frank, Morning Glory Confections, Susan Feniger’s Street and more. With more of us conscionably shopping from local artisans, this looks like the start of something beautiful…

Saturday, August 28, 2010

4 – 10 PM

Advance: $10
At-the-door: $15

Admission includes a fresh tangerine juice spritzer, movie admission, cookbook swap and variety of activities

The Food Rendezvous at
SPARC
685 Venice Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291