Is it a restaurant? Is it a speakeasy? Is it a dinner party? As the traditional ‘dress up, book up, turn up, pay up’ concept of dining becomes increasingly outdated, the idea of an experience where informality and convivial exchange with strangers override starched formality is an increasingly attractive one: enter the private supper club. The appeal is simple: professionally cooked food served away from the city’s restaurant circuit in the company of locals — a genuinely exclusive but intimate and shared experience. And, as many fine diners know, the best meals are those best shared. Throw in the chance to make firm friends — or a new business contact — and it is small wonder that supper clubs are helping to revive the idea of eating out as, above all, a convivial, rather than contrived, experience.
Serving a maximum of 10 diners per sitting, and with a waiting list of people prepared to pay 24,000 yen (just under £200) of three months, it’s no surprise that the 35-year-old chef Yoshiaki Takazawa has a reputation among food bloggers and connoisseurs of ‘secret’ dining establishments that borders on the messianic, despite never having worked outside of Japan. The concept is based on the traditional domestic Japanese tea ceremony where the experience is shared with the family. In this case it means that Yoshiaki’s wife will be serving you while the chef himself makes frequent appearances from the kitchen to add the finishing touches to dishes from his personal workbench right in front of you. The emphasis is on fresh seasonal ingredients and, if you can bag a reservation, you can expect an 11-course menu that includes dishes such as bear prosciutto, Okinawa pork pate, foie gras and pumpkin mont blanc cake, and Japanese deer tartare.
Sanyo Akasaka Bldg 2F, 3-5-2 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-0052
By day a ceramics workshop and gallery in bustling Sai Wan Ho; by night this space becomes a restaurant specialising in dishes from Shanghai. Don’t expect a quick bite — this is a banquet with eight appetisers and eight main courses. Come earlier and you can sign up for a ceramics class before you dine with Terence Lee, owner of the gallery and renowned Hong Kong artist who has been running Gitone with his wife Clara since 1995. Booking in advance is essential for a minimum of four people paying £242 each. In the ‘Grand Dinner’ you can expect dishes such as abalone in tangerine and wine sauces, followed by grouper with asparagus and crab roe served in egg cups.
Shop GB 27‒28, Lei King Wan, 45 Tai Hong St, tel: 00 852 2527 3448
Casa Saltshaker, Buenos Aires
Dan Perlman, a chef who arrived in the Argentinean capital in 2005 from New York and never left, opens up his modest one-bedroom apartment in the suburb of Recoleta from Friday to Sunday under the name of Casa Saltshaker with the dishes cooked being entirely dependent on his mood that day. You can expect a heavily Mediterranean-influenced menu where you get five courses, plus matching wines, for a mere £45. It’s upscale and impressive home cooking with standout dishes including cerviche served over a corn puree and topped with fava beans, red onion, cilantro, rocoto peppers, cherry tomatoes and crushed tortilla crumbs. There’s only room for a maximum of 14 people, all seated at the same table, and you’ll only get the exact address once you’ve confirmed your booking — Perlman likes to have a chat with you on the phone first to see if you’re the right kind of person for his very special house parties.
The austere Austrian capital’s restaurant scene still tends to be dominated by traditional hushed rooms where stoically calorific meals are served in reverence with a soundtrack of Wolfgang Amadeus. So the arrival of The Dining Room is a recondite antidote of note. It’s a domestic dining room located in the home of Angelika Apfelthaler, with room for just 12 people sitting at four tables. You can see her at work in the open kitchen when you arrive where she, along with one of her friends, will serve a constantly changing roster of international dishes, including hazelnut and chestnut soup followed by zucchini mint quiche with goats’ cheese, a pasta course with pumpkin gnocchi topped with truffle salt and a main of duck breast with risotto and saffron. It’s all highly informal, despite the high quality of the food. Even if you don’t fully bond with your fellow diners you can be assured that the house-dog Gino will be your best friend by the end of the night.
Maygasse 31, Vienna, 1130, tel: 01 804 8586