Subculture Dining, SF

See previous post. I find the concept of roving meals cooked in an unknown kitchen, served in a secret location on an invitation-only basis very intriguing. I read about this on Muffintop, checked out the SCD website, and decided I liked their Pirates motto. There seemed to be enough chatter about the Dissident Chef (or DC) on the internet that I felt confident it was the real deal and signed up. The invitation-only thing really means you have to be willing to pay up front and at $135 a person, it’s a commitment.

Our original meal had been postponed from March, and now I was nursing a head cold and popping sudafed because I’ll be damned if my tastebuds were out of commission for the long-anticipated 11-course feast. I was especially interested in this meal because it was in partnership with Boriana Foods and featuring some of the foods she imports from Montepulciano, a region of Tuscany, Italy.

I received the following email at 8:52 am the day of the event:

Begins: 07:00 PM


Please go to the intersection of X and Y street. When you arrive. Park on the X street side (for those of you driving). Before exiting your vechile. Please call 415.555-1234 to get final instructions and be escorted into the location. It is important for the host security that you speak to no one, answer no questions to inquiring outsiders… We look forward to seeing you.


We arrived at the appointed location, called the number and exited our vechile, experiencing a momentary panic that perhaps we were victims of a social experiment and were secretly being filmed as we waited, or maybe just chumps waiting to be whisked off to become organ donors, or… thankfully a male voice answered and advised me to wait for someone to come for us. We were soon led into an airy loft with a lovely view of the freeway, which was warm and filled with the smells and sounds of cooking. The best thing about the loft is the open floorplan, so we were able to watch the activity in the kitchen over the course of the evening. The DC was busy in the kitchen, but it was a very focused and calm busy. Everything happened with an economy of effort and he with a team of 3 well trained assistants kept the food and wine flowing.

The main course, roasted suckling pig, was resting on the counter

Upon entering, meeting the other diners and settling in, we soon heard the festive sound of champagne bottles popping and were served full glasses (which continued on throughout the evening with the wine pairings). There were mostly first time diners, with a few loyalists and everyone was very curious to hear how we all found out about the Dissident Chef.

With the champagne, the servers came around with thin slices of bread spread with a savory, rich duck liver pate, or thinly sliced Guanciale pork jowl topped with marinated onions. The cured pork jowl was dense and chewy with a complex flavor that paired well with the bright marinated onions. There were a couple of rounds of these before we sat down for the Food.

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Next came a plate of thinly sliced cured meats with marinated artichoke hearts, roasted artichokes and beets (these made a convert of Mr. K who proclaimed that he no longer hated all beets), and a short thick slice of a pork terrine which was garlicky and chunky and a nice contrast to the other textures on the plate.

The last plate of the meat appetizers was thinly sliced buffalo carpaccio, which was ethereally light and buttery and practically melted in your mouth. This was topped with frisee lightly dressed with a lemony vinaigrette and fresh herbs.

One of my favorite dishes of the evening was a magnificent Bread Salad or Panzanella with mache or lamb’s lettuce, luscious chunks of tuna, crisp split radishes with a sassy bite, capers, fresh crunchy peas and lots of bread that soaked up the dressing while maintaining its fabulous chewy texture and crunchy crust.

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The Pea Soup caused quite a sensation with one woman pounding the table and yelling about When Harry met Sally… It was creamy and rich, bursting with the full bright flavors of fresh peas and topped with a few drops of white truffle oil. Everyone marveled at this dish and a few wondered whether there was any left over they could take to-go.

The last of this trio was a Chestnut Wheat Pasta topped with fresh Ricotta Cheese. This was served over spring leeks cooked with green garlic and the flavors were fresh and restrained against the rich buttery ricotta. The pasta was dense and chewy and perfect with the soft vegetables and creamy cheese. Here I found myself wishing for freshly ground black pepper but the feeling passed…

The meat courses started with Pan Seared Big Eye Tuna served over Gigante Beans, topped with a rich savory broth and flecks of fresh herbs. The fish was the perfect combination of crisp exterior, a thin layer of chewy cooked flesh against soft luscious rareness. I loved the creamy texture of the beans which soaked up the broth and filled my mouth with bright shiny happy flavors. It was at moments like this that I really resented how blunted my traitorous tastebuds seemed from the evil headcold…

We were served a palate cleanser of Chickpeas with Fresh Herbs drizzled with fresh lemon juice and olive oil.

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Next was the Rabbit Misto with Artichoke, which Theresa said looked like Chicken Karaage and I agreed. It was big and juicy encased by a thick crunchy batter that was well seasoned and served with a small fried artichoke that was split and a good chewy accompaniment, although it had parts that were dry and strawlike, but really girl, do you need to eat everything on the plate?

The final dish was the Roast Suckling Pig, with a savory sausagey stuffing served over chestnuts, roasted turnips and three dollops of salsa verde, which had the bright clean flavors of basil and garlic. The pork was very tender and succulent, but I’m afraid that by this point I had either become too full or my tastebuds overwhelmed, and I just couldn’t appreciate it. The chestnuts were dry and stale tasting, the turnips were bland and flavorless.

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We enjoyed a Cheese Course with Pecorino with black pepper, Drunken Sheep cheese with Grape Must (which forms the base upon which Balsamic Vinegar is made), and a Nut and Honey torrone. These were dry, restrained cheeses although each had their own charms. The pecorino was salty with a slightly crunchy coarse texture made exciting by bits of hot black peppercorns, and the Sheep milk cheese was sharp and tangy with a delicious crunchy crust.

Yet another dish arrived and we enjoyed a Pomegranate Sorbet with Moroccan Spices that was tart and refreshing

The final final was a 25 year aged Balsamic vinegar splashed on a scoop of ice cream, where it surrendered all tangy tartness and merged with the icy cool richness of the ice cream and was transformed into a gorgeously muted perfection that was so good with the soft almond biscuit.

During the meal, we were served Italian wine pairings with each course and I’m afraid I couldn’t possibly keep track of what we drank… Needless to say, our table manners progressed from polite to loud and very jolly by the end of the evening.

Mr. K and I agreed that it was an amazing meal and that we had a wonderful time – although we felt we had stuffed ourselves to the point where we could barely breathe. We waddled out to our car around midnight, which means we ate a 5 hour dinner. It truly was an epic feast on a grand scale.

We were very impressed by the Dissident Chef, consider ourselves to be now loyalists of SCD and look forward to future gastronomic events.


  1. dragonlife said,

    April 23, 2007 at 2:25 am

    You, lucky man! Now, that isan experience!
    Moroccan spices: did that include aragan oil?

  2. dragonlife said,

    April 23, 2007 at 2:26 am

    Sorry, I meant “argan oil”!

  3. rowena said,

    April 23, 2007 at 10:27 am

    I’ve never even heard of the Dissedent Chef…I’ve been living under a rock! Oops…well, living under a rock on the Boot! heh heh

    What blows me away is the number of courses….good god! I would never have been able to get through all of it — thank heavens for committed gourmets like you to “suffer” through all of this for our own food porn benefit!

  4. Rhonda said,

    April 24, 2007 at 9:43 pm

    This was one of the most interesting evenings I’ve spent. I enjoyed the food and wine immensely and am looking forward to the next event. Yummmm!

  5. Deborah Johnson said,

    April 24, 2007 at 10:20 pm

    Oh my gosh! This was truly an evening to remember, though how I did with all that wine is beyond me! Every course was a taste bud explosion. The wine was paired brilliantly. But when we got to the pea soup, I thought I had gone to Heaven. It was that good (and yes, I am the “When Harry Met Sally” woman at that table). I could barely stand afterwards, so I remained contently seated through the next few courses.

    I think I finally came to my senses when the cheese course arrived, although I know I enjoyed the prior dishes. This was a special request I had made of the Chef as propitiation for having to cancel the original dinner date. I was not disappointed. The saltiness and texture of each cheese paired beautifully with the nut and honey torrone, and my palate gave thanks.

    The Chef and his helpers worked their magic like a well honed blade. They were attentive, but not in your face like some wait staff can be. I watched them form a huddle at the beginning of the meal, as if they were practicing some well rehearsed ritual or maybe they were simply placing a spell on the food and guests.

    Whatever it was,they worked their magic on me! I went home blissfully content and slept like a baby, reliving each course in my dreams. It must have been that pea soup…

  6. foodhoe said,

    April 25, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    R-G, I have no idea what were in the Moroccan spices… I heard someone saying they thought it tasted like chai, but that doesn’t really do it justice.

    Rowena, we sucked it up and threw down. I have been in training for this and was on top of my game (except for the headcold)…

    Rhonda, we’ll see you out there

    Deborah, it seemed that we went over the allotted 11 courses! We greatly enjoyed your company and enthusiasm

  7. April 26, 2007 at 2:45 am

    […] Foodhoe’s recent eating experience with The Dissident Chef. […]

  8. April 26, 2007 at 4:08 am

    Wow, that sounds and looks like an amazing smorgasbord of food! Some items seem like hits, and others might be misses. However, it really sounds like an incredible experience overall, and one worth the investment! I just went back to your old post and checked out the video. Seems a little like a conspiratorial secretive underground society, but really gnarly at the same time! Thanks for sharing!

  9. Deborah Johnson said,

    April 26, 2007 at 8:28 pm

    Foodhoe, we certainly did our best to keep the courses coming! I would have gladly taken the soup home had any been left. After all, an aphrodisiac is an aphrodisiac. We very much enjoyed your company too. What a great group of people to meet on a blind date.

  10. Mystery Lady??? said,

    May 15, 2007 at 11:20 pm

    DID YOU KNOW?- Chef Russel Jackson doesn’t pay his very hardworking employees who at times may work a 14 hour day in order to put together fantastic events for which Russel is the only one to rceive the credit for. I realize also that if they do this it is their choice to get screwed by this guy, but I know he has bills to pay… how does he pay for them. One could only imagine. I’m guessing its with his only means of income, SCD. It must be really nice to have zero labor cost, yet still have enough money to spend on your own tattoos and nightly fine dining all around the city. Tattoos that he doesn’t mind flaunting to his crew as they work. I wonder if he payed the tattoo artist or if he expected that person to work for free as well. He counts on the customer to tip well as a means of getting the crew payed, which in some cases doesn’t always pan out. This is mearly some information about the Dissident Chef that I thought some people may care to know about and take into consideration when choosing to to dine with SCD. I’m sure some won’t care at all but I’m sure there are some that will. F*** him.

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