Update: Sadly, Hidden Kitchen has closed. But the good news is the owners have opened a full-fledged restaurant/wine bar in Paris called Verjus.
Looking for something a little different in Paris? Something…well, underground? Can you keep a secret? Well, have I got the perfect thing for you! Next time you are planning a trip to Paris, consider something unconventional, consider the Hidden Kitchen in Paris.
Unbeknownst to me, there is quite a network of underground restaurants or supper clubs in some countries. But this is a first for me. These restaurants are not known to the general public, there is no sign over the door advertising its location. They are usually set up in private homes with a limited number of people in attendance. You have to be invited. You have to be in the know. And you have to be able to keep a secret.
Intrigued? Yeah, so was I.
When I first read about the Hidden Kitchen, I thought it was cool, exciting, hip. Dare I say, it felt exclusive? A young American chef and his girlfriend, move from Seattle to Paris, buy an apartment, renovate it and start an underground restaurant serving 10 courses of American cuisine, with seasonal ingredients from Paris, with a different beverage at each course, for 6o€ per person, including wine. I was totally sold!!
A few nay-sayers tried to quash my excitement.
“Well, if it is not an official restaurant, maybe the food will make you sick.“, “Why would you go to Paris and eat American food?” , “Oh, you might be taking a chance.” Bla, Bla, Bla.
But it fell on deaf ears. I was hooked and frantically typed my email to inquire about reservations for a Sunday in September, when we would be in Paris. I crossed my fingers, prayed to the foodie Gods and as luck would have it, they had room. We were in!
The dinners are given each weekend and the menu changes often, based on season and what the chef thinks is fresh at the local market. Twelve diners sit around a communal rectangular table in their lovely Paris apartment. Eight of those guests have reserved on-line in advance through their website and the other four seats are held and given out in person at the last minute. Makes for a fun food-lovin’ mix.
After you book your reservation, you wait for the email which comes the day before your dinner, which contains the address and directions to their apartment, which is conveniently located right in the heart of Paris and is easily accessible by Métro.
The apartment is just lovely. I spun around and around realizing that I was in a real Paris Apartment. Braden cooks and preps all ten dishes in their postage stamp-sized kitchen. This is a feat in and of itself. Laura, his girlfriend helps prep and serve. And she makes the final course of petits fours. Their adorable Boston Terrier cries from the kitchen, because he really, really wants to play. The dining room is graced with a spice jar chandelier and French doors which open to a little balcony and a great view of Paris.
Braden comes out before each course to give a little witty repartee about each dish. Kinda like an Iron Chef explanation in which the guests are the judges. Well, I guess in a way, we are.
I thought about giving you a play by play account of each dish and each drink, but I decided I would much rather add to the mystery and keep a few things to the imagination. Besides, you can see sample menus on their website.
I will say this about our experience. It was great fun! We met some fabulous people that night. I was not the only blogger in attendance, which isn’t surprising considering much of their popularity has come from bloggers that have dined there and later wrote about their experience. We met a couple from Ireland, a few natives of France and others visiting from Georgia, South Carolina and Seattle.
I am a very sociable person, so it worked very well for me. Other foodies may be put off if they don’t like the idea of dining elbow to elbow with strangers. But then again, I can’t think of a more perfect reason or occasion to jump in and get your feet wet….and get over it!
One note: they don’t make substitutions for dietary restrictions or vegetarians, unless of course you plan an agreed upon menu and fill the table with 12 of your own crew. But as reservations get harder and harder to come by, you might be hard pressed. On our night, Chris was unable to eat about four of the courses because of the meat in them (he was able to eat two others that had fish), but at one point they were very gracious and brought him a fabulous cheese plate, so that he had something to nosh on while the carnivores went to town.
Truth be told, I was torn. I hesitated about sharing this with you. After all, part of the charm is the unknown, the secrecy, the mystery (though they have gotten so much press lately, that they are hardly a secret anymore). But at the same time, word of mouth is truly what keeps these underground restaurants afloat. Braden and Laura are such lovely, talented people and I so admire what they are doing here, that I could hardly hold back knowing that I may be able to help them in some small way. So share I must!
So, if you will be traveling to Paris, alone or with friends, and you are looking for something a little different, enjoy meeting new people and want to experience contemporary, creative American cuisine with the freshest ingredients Paris has to offer, then hurry and make your reservations. Braden and Laura will welcome you with open arms and ensure you will have a night to remember.
Oh yeah, don’t forget. Shhhh….mums the word.