“The first course is actually above you.” And so it was: charcuterie and house pickles, affixed with wooden pins to a makeshift clothesline that zigzagged the roof.
Before we were directed by barman Jamie Martyniuk to look up and unhook the Seed to Sausage treats, I had thought the bit above us was an old-style ribbon bunting, decorating the low-slung ceiling of Union Local 613’s underground speakeasy. (It was dark down there, in that enchanted space that looks something like the re-imagined interior of granny Clampett’s backyard still. Only with better booze.)
It was a brilliant beginning because it also broke the ice. Two dozen or so of us 613 Supper Clubbers politely scrambled for speck and sipped on Cava while awaiting what came next. Twenty-three ‘nexts’ as it happened. Delivered in fairly rapid-fire succession by the guest chefs team of Briana Kim of Café My House and Marc Lepine of Atelier, with their respective brigades, ably assisted by Atelier sommelier Steve Robinson, and 613’s Martyniuk and Jesse Beamish. (The service was delightful – perfectly polished-casual.)
It was a tough invitation to pass over: a vegan chef and a modernist chef teaming up in the speakeasy of a restaurant known best for its fried chicken to serve 25 courses for 75 bucks. In two hours. The invite said 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. How to refuse such fun?
Highlights of the feast? The crispy kale and pickled radish on ‘olive soil’ (a nubbly, fragrant paste based on toasted walnuts with garlic and warm Indian spices) served in flower pots; the molecular spheres of watermelon and vodka zinged with pop rocks; the P.E.I. oysters presented on pebbles (“please don’t eat the stones”) topped with a frozen ‘snow’ (a technique of molecular gastronomy that turns high fat liquids into powder) flavoured with pineapple and cilantro; the mojito jello shot presented in the curve of a frozen, hollowed lime wedge; the mini vegan pogo served with dobs of beet ketchup; the section of smoked grapefruit.
Twenty bits and bites, mostly finger food, before two small plates of a main-ish nature arrived: a red cabbage steak with Kim’s fig-based A1 Sauce, thinned with a cabbage vinaigrette and topped with tempura-fried leek rings; and Lepine’s surf ‘n turf style (sous vide and seared) rare striploin, with a crisp that was fashioned with nori and dobs of a nori mayo.
Three desserts (by my count, that’s 25 courses!): a caramelized onion and chocolate cake; a clementine olive oil cake (incredibly moist); and a perfect yellow molecular sphere that wore a toupé of banana dust, which came anchored to the plate with a soft meringue, flavoured with tonka bean, which, once cracked, revealed a passion fruit sorbet. It ate much better than I imagine it reads.
This was the second installment of the monthly 613 Supper Club. You might want to stay tuned for the next one.