Hidden Kitchen: Private Supper Club in Paris
Last week I got an email from HK with an address, a door-code, and a time to show up. I panicked thinking who the hell is HK and how drunk was I last time I went out. I quickly realized however that HK stands for Hidden Kitchen, a private supper club I offhandedly requested a reservation from back in July. Well come December there was an opening. Sunday night the Swede and I got dolled up and frantically grabbed a taxi over to the 1st arrondissement. We were running late, comme d’habitude. We found the proper door on a quiet street and ascended the three or four floors to our destination: a gorgeous, spacious Parisian apartment.
My first thought was, whoa this is a really nice flat. My second thought was, we’re crashing a dinner party. It seemed all the other guests had come as a group considering how naturally they were mingling. Our somewhat awkward entrance was quickly forgotten when we were each handed a champagne, zumbrowka, and pomegranite cocktail. It dawned on me that the other guests weren’t old friends at all, just slightly lubricated new ones. I suddenly felt totally at ease.
I looked around and realized the Swede and I were the only two guests under 40. Practically everyone was American, slightly overweight, and from California. Not bad, I thought, but curious. I guessed I wasn’t the only one who had read about HK in the New York Times. (N.B. according to the owners Braden and Laura, this was an unusually American crowd. Usually there is a handful of French and other Europeans thrown into the mix).
I took in the setting: a tastefully “contained” chandelier (none of that gaudy drippy nonsense) hanging over a long table covered in a white table cloth, white couches lining the walls presumably for catnaps between courses, ornate wall trim framing high ceilings, and tall windows robed in floor to ceiling white drapes. Soft candlelight made the white room glow warmly.
I didn’t think it appropriate to take photographs of the evening (I mean the place isn’t called Exposed Kitchen), though almost everyone at one point or another whipped out an iphone and snapped a pic. All I have are my memories, and of course the menu I brought home as a souvenir:
An Amuse of roasted celery root brushed in butter.
Scallop Cannoli with Pickled Oyster and Dill: a little heavy on the dill for my taste (the Swede patriotically disagreed), but the tiny oyster, which had been pickled in some kind of red wine vinegar, was out of this world. The dish was topped with a thin potato chip and made to represent a German potato salad. Sure, I’ll buy it.
2008 Domaine Labet, Cotes du Jura, Fleurs*
Baked Avocado with Peanut and Chili Soup: the plates were served with the baked avocado on a bed of homemade queso fresco then the servers came around and poured the delicately spicy peanut and chili soup on top.
2008 Chateau St Martin de La Garrigue, Coteaux du Languedoc*
Truffle Angliotti with Trumpet Mushrooms and Roasted Pear, topped with a perfectly poached egg which broke and infused the already creamy sauce with a bright yellow yolk. The dish was bursting with an earthy succulence. This was probably my favorite dish of the night. I had to sop up every last drop of yolk and sauce with some baguette! Table manners be damned!
2008 Jean Foillard, Morgon, “Cotes du Py”
Palate Cleanser: The palate cleanser was a “mint julep”, or mint sorbet served over a bourbon jelly. Best jello shot I’ve ever had! For the recipe, check out Hidden Kitchen’s recipe blog.
Crispy Pork Belly with Broccoli, Potatoes, and White Cheddar
Essentially a juicy hunk of bacon, crisped on the outside and doused in creamy broccoli and potato purée. Very southern American.
2007 Domaine Saint Andrieu Montpeyroux Coteaux du Languedoc, “Vallongue”
Beef Cheeks with Braised Cabbage, Barley and Roasted Vegetables
The cheeks had apparently been slow cooked for 24 hours so the meat and bones had softened into a dish that was tender, chewy, and flaky. The al dente barley added a nice contrast of textures.
2008 Domaine d’Aupilhac, Vin de Pays de l’Hérault, “Les Servières”
Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Fennel Salad with Brown Butter: Honestly not all that exciting considering the rest of the meal but it was a nice, light change of pace after the two preceding meat courses. A suitable segue into dessert.
Clementine Cake with Cactus Pear Sorbet: Really moist cake, sweet and tangy to taste. Ditto for the prickly pear sorbet. Tart, round and sweet all at once. If this meal was blended into a cocktail I’d drink it!
2009 Domaine Bollache Arcan, Cerdon* (sparkling rosé with a fruity taste and light foam. My favorite wine of the night. Something about pink bubbly makes me giddy!)
A little plate of mignardises or nibblies to accompany coffee or tea, including a dark chocolate peanut butter cup, some kind of funky marshmallow (forgive me I can’t remember! but it looked like green turkish delight), and a habanero chewy jellie which was probably the only thing throughout the whole meal I left on my plate.
Every bite was thoughtfully prepared, delicately rendered, and utterly sensational (that is except for the chewy thing at the end). The wines were paired to perfection. For some reason I preferred the whites, which I usually do not. It might have been because those were the first wines I tried in the evening and I was so totally floored by their quality, whereas by the end of the night I practically expected the wine to dance in my mouth.
On our way out the door we got to chatting with the young and lively owners of HK, Braden and Laura (originally from Seattle, the pair came to Paris in 2007 and created Hidden Kitchen as fun pastime and way to meet new people). As the other guests trickled out, the Swede and I thought we might be in for a “lock-in” with the talented couple. I started picturing a long night spent musing about food, wine, Paris…ahhh one can dream! We politely stepped out after an appropriate 5 or 10 minutes of conversation (surely they were exhausted and wanted to get rid of us by then!) but we were definitely sad to leave that magical apartment. Braden and Laura were truly the most gracious of hosts.
So what’s the verdict? Well it was the best meal I’ve had in Paris. I can’t wait another 6 months for a reservation so I’m going to cross my fingers and follow the HK twitter page for any last minute cancellations!
Practical Info: Hidden Kitchen is a private supper club held on weekends in the owners/chefs’ apartment. For available dates visit http://www.hkmenus.com/
Menu changes daily. There is a suggested donation of 90 euros per person.
FYI: The New York Times article that started it all: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/28/fashion/28hiddenparis.html