Ten courses at a private supper club in Paris — a unique dining experience

This article appears on page 60 of the August 2009 issue.
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Dana McMahan, Louisville, KY

Paris offers some of the world’s best opportunities for foodies. Michelin-starred restaurants and legendary food purveyors compete for the gourmand’s attention on practically every corner.

But, for me, an under-the-radar alternative beckoned. On a trip in March ’08, I dined on 10 sumptuous courses at an “underground” restaurant known as Hidden Kitchen.

Making reservations

Chef Braden Perkins (front) and his intern prepare the night’s meal at Hidden Kitchen.

Months before my trip I contacted Braden Perkins and Laura Adrian, the American couple who run Hidden Kitchen. The couple moved to Paris from Seattle — ostensibly for a year — after graduating from college. To meet friends in their new city, share their love of food and find reasons to explore the abundance of markets in Paris, they decided to host weekly dinners in their home.

When Clotilde Dusoulier of the popular food blog “Chocolate and Zucchini” (http://chocolateand zucchini.com) dined with them, the word was out. Foodies from around the world clamored for a seat at this secret dinner club — yours truly among them.

Braden and Laura patiently answered my questions and assured me they could accommodate someone who eats no meat (other than fish), so I nabbed reservations for myself and my friend Tracy and waited impatiently for the day of the dinner to arrive.

I had packed the cutest of my dresses, but springtime in Paris isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be so I stowed it in favor of trousers and closed-toe shoes.

It turned out Hidden Kitchen was but a 10-minute stroll from our Square du Temple Loft apartment (800/403-4304, www.vacationinparis.com/apts/id_57.htm), which we had rented for the week, so no Métro was necessary. Rates for seven nights or more during high season are $150 per night.

My night out

Assisted by an intern from Le Cordon Bleu and under the watchful eye of their dog, Tatie, the young couple served 12 guests a succession of elegantly presented plates from a room the size of an American closet.

Dana McMahan at Hidden Kitchen.

Peeking into the kitchen, I recognized the feeling in the air. My husband and I generate the same frantic energy when guests enter our kitchen at the height of the pressure of preparing a meal. It was a controlled energy, though, channeled into the multitude of details that go into making a spectacular dinner.

The candle-lit dining room grew increasingly boisterous as we progressed from the amuse of Zucchini Fritter on Crème Fraiche with Cucumber Dill Lemonade Shot to Strawberry Shortcake with Black Peppercorn Semi-Freddo. Perhaps the generous pour of wine that accompanied each dish contributed to our enthusiasm.

Unruffled despite the feverish pace in the kitchen, Chef Braden emerged from the kitchen to explain every dish. We had to put the wine down and strain to hear his quiet voice.

Each interesting course pleased, though it peaked for me with the third: Fava Beans Two Ways with Green Goddess Dressing and Arzak Egg. The egg, named for Spanish chef Juan Mari Arzak, was poached in plastic wrap, lending it a flower shape. An egg-hater, I was astonished to find it delicious and have since added it to my repertoire.

A few disappointments

Three consecutive fish courses disappointed a bit. Though I was happy they accommodated my request for no pork, poultry or beef, I had wished for something a little more imaginative than mullet, bass and mackerel, however smartly they were presented.

The table is set.

Also, I learned they alternate nights with English-speaking and French diners. Adding a mix of cultures to the night would have elevated the intrigue factor for me, but Laura explained that it made the locals more comfortable to not have to field questions from tourists.

Though I didn’t love the fish courses and would have preferred a table more mixed than ours of 10 other Americans, the night was brilliant. Dining in a Parisian apartment allowed me to indulge in the fantasy that this was my life — wining and dining in an intimate dining room in my favorite city in the world.

Sometime after midnight, happily full and wine-muddled, we nibbled our petits fours, sipped the last of our coffee, paid the “suggested contribution” of E70 ($98) per person, exchanged e-mail addresses with newfound friends and set off for a neighborhood bar recommended by Braden and Laura. It wasn’t quite time to call it quits on adventures in the Parisian food world.

I’d recommend making reservations well in advance for the Saturday or Sunday night dinner. I booked a couple months ahead. For more information and upcoming dinner dates, visit www.hkmenus.com.

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

Dana McMahan, Louisville, KY

Paris offers some of the world’s best opportunities for foodies. Michelin-starred restaurants and legendary food purveyors compete for the gourmand’s attention on practically every corner.

But, for me, an under-the-radar alternative beckoned. On a trip in March ’08, I dined on 10 sumptuous courses at an “underground” restaurant known as Hidden Kitchen.

Making reservations

Chef Braden Perkins (front) and his intern prepare the night’s meal at Hidden Kitchen.

Months before my trip I contacted Braden Perkins and Laura Adrian, the American couple who run Hidden Kitchen. The couple moved to Paris from Seattle — ostensibly for a year — after graduating from college. To meet friends in their new city, share their love of food and find reasons to explore the abundance of markets in Paris, they decided to host weekly dinners in their home.

When Clotilde Dusoulier of the popular food blog “Chocolate and Zucchini” (http://chocolateand zucchini.com) dined with them, the word was out. Foodies from around the world clamored for a seat at this secret dinner club — yours truly among them.

Braden and Laura patiently answered my questions and assured me they could accommodate someone who eats no meat (other than fish), so I nabbed reservations for myself and my friend Tracy and waited impatiently for the day of the dinner to arrive.

I had packed the cutest of my dresses, but springtime in Paris isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be so I stowed it in favor of trousers and closed-toe shoes.

It turned out Hidden Kitchen was but a 10-minute stroll from our Square du Temple Loft apartment (800/403-4304, www.vacationinparis.com/apts/id_57.htm), which we had rented for the week, so no Métro was necessary. Rates for seven nights or more during high season are $150 per night.

My night out

Assisted by an intern from Le Cordon Bleu and under the watchful eye of their dog, Tatie, the young couple served 12 guests a succession of elegantly presented plates from a room the size of an American closet.

Dana McMahan at Hidden Kitchen.

Peeking into the kitchen, I recognized the feeling in the air. My husband and I generate the same frantic energy when guests enter our kitchen at the height of the pressure of preparing a meal. It was a controlled energy, though, channeled into the multitude of details that go into making a spectacular dinner.

The candle-lit dining room grew increasingly boisterous as we progressed from the amuse of Zucchini Fritter on Crème Fraiche with Cucumber Dill Lemonade Shot to Strawberry Shortcake with Black Peppercorn Semi-Freddo. Perhaps the generous pour of wine that accompanied each dish contributed to our enthusiasm.

Unruffled despite the feverish pace in the kitchen, Chef Braden emerged from the kitchen to explain every dish. We had to put the wine down and strain to hear his quiet voice.

Each interesting course pleased, though it peaked for me with the third: Fava Beans Two Ways with Green Goddess Dressing and Arzak Egg. The egg, named for Spanish chef Juan Mari Arzak, was poached in plastic wrap, lending it a flower shape. An egg-hater, I was astonished to find it delicious and have since added it to my repertoire.

A few disappointments

Three consecutive fish courses disappointed a bit. Though I was happy they accommodated my request for no pork, poultry or beef, I had wished for something a little more imaginative than mullet, bass and mackerel, however smartly they were presented.

The table is set.

Also, I learned they alternate nights with English-speaking and French diners. Adding a mix of cultures to the night would have elevated the intrigue factor for me, but Laura explained that it made the locals more comfortable to not have to field questions from tourists.

Though I didn’t love the fish courses and would have preferred a table more mixed than ours of 10 other Americans, the night was brilliant. Dining in a Parisian apartment allowed me to indulge in the fantasy that this was my life — wining and dining in an intimate dining room in my favorite city in the world.

Sometime after midnight, happily full and wine-muddled, we nibbled our petits fours, sipped the last of our coffee, paid the “suggested contribution” of E70 ($98) per person, exchanged e-mail addresses with newfound friends and set off for a neighborhood bar recommended by Braden and Laura. It wasn’t quite time to call it quits on adventures in the Parisian food world.

I’d recommend making reservations well in advance for the Saturday or Sunday night dinner. I booked a couple months ahead. For more information and upcoming dinner dates, visit www.hkmenus.com.