The last time we checked in with Hidden Dinner, the underground dining
pop-up created by Anahita Naderi, Betty Lang and Justin Veiga, it was in
a warehouse where diners were led blindfolded into the room and fed
thirteen small plates meant to evoke the tastes and smells of the past.
Last time, just before Christmas, it was in an apartment building's
shared kitchen where forty or so diners sat at three large tables and
was entitled, “How the Grinch Stole Hidden Dinner”.
Six courses this time, most with the sweet-savory interplay that's a hallmark of the cooking of Naderi's Persian roots–though I seriously doubt that gingerbread with a tart sorbet and candied bacon would ever be found on a Persian menu.
On the idea that the holidays mean you should eat your desserts first, Mexican hot chocolate with cinnamon marshmallows from nearby Blackmarket Bakery started the meal, while an adaptation of the classic book was read out loud. It was followed by a small dish of berries in homemade gelatin with whipped cream on top–what my Danish grandmother would have called rødgrød med fløde–and a shot of whiskey-spiked eggnog.
Garlic and banana bread pudding (yes, really) was floated in a bowl of very good, creamy soup as a nod to the song “You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” (“You're a bad banana, with a greasy black peel…”). Had I seen that on a menu, I would have ordered it in order to prove that the chef was insane, but here it worked fairly well, perhaps because the banana wasn't overwhelming.
Roast quail with squash and wild-rice hash and cranberry sauce followed; the quail was great, juicy and meaty; while the hash could have been warmer, the flavors were outstanding–I'd never thought to combine wild rice and roasted squash before. (The dish did pose a problem of etiquette for some people, which just goes to show that we need more events where people can pick up a bird and gnaw on it without being cast out from society.)
The aforementioned spice cake, sorbet and candied bacon concluded the meal; little gift boxes containing truffles served as goodie bags for the diners.
The communal tables were fantastic; with a small group, we introduced ourselves and shared our BYOB drinks; beer, wine, and a “Who-punch” made of spicy tequila and grapefruit soda.
The next Hidden Dinner is January 14, with a theme of the Chinese New Year, and others are planned; to get information, join the e-mail list at hiddendinner.com. If you make a reservation, you won't find out where you're going until a day or two before the dinner itself; plan accordingly.
Not sure about eating in an underground restaurant? Hold tight. Naderi and Lang successfully raised funds through Kickstarter for a bricks-and-mortar restaurant called the Eatery, for which they're currently negotiating a location. While the Eatery is a different concept than Hidden Dinner, the skill in the kitchen won't change.