Um Segredo: New York's Secret Dinner Party

Monday, November 19, 2012

Better late than never. 

Last Saturday, we were fortunate enough to join the last of chef David Santos' Um Segredo Supper Parties. Chef David, a Per Se and Bouley alum, has been spinning magic out of his home for some time, hosting secret dinner parties that have earned raves from beginning to end. I had been stalking his themed menus for months, salivating over the uni-focused night and wishing I had a seat at the Ferdinand Magellan-themed dinner (for which there was a suckling pig shout out to the Philippines, despite the great Portuguese explorer's meeting his demise on our shores at the hand of our local hero, Lapu Lapu). This was the last Um Segredo dinner to be held in David's home before he brings his vision to the larger public at last with his restaurant Louro (funded in part by this successful Kickstarter campaign), which opens on December 1st.

The journey to the secret location felt like a scavenger hunt, with a scenic tram ride and a bit of wandering through unfamiliar territory before we finally came upon that candlelit path to culinary heaven.
Our group was quickly christened "The Puppies" as we were the youngest and least experienced of the lot—and by the latter, I mean that we were the only Um Segredo virgins among a table of regulars. As one delightful plate after another was placed in front of us, not only did we understand why these folks kept coming back for more—we also wished fervently that we had gotten to partake in more of those wonderful dinners.

The meal began with freshly baked bread and what has to be one of the most addictive dipping sauces my taste buds have ever encountered. That little ramekin with olive oil, garlic, herbs, duck fat and copious amounts of pepper was so delicious, I could've bathed in it. Chef David explained that pepper used to be a very precious commodity to the Portuguese, so the amount of pepper one lavished on food was indicative of one's wealth. For his dinners, Chef David usually uses lardo in the dip—but this being game night, he thoughtfully gathered up duck fat to put into our dipping sauce. It was love at first bite, I tell you, and a mere indication of wonderful things to come. 
The six-course dinner menu consisted of the following:
  • Venison carpaccio with rosemary, juniper, mache and cranberries—my favorite plate of the night partly because it showcased the quality of game meat we were being served but mostly because fresh raw meat is one of my favorite things in life. The venison was very delicate and tender—not as gamey as I thought it would be. Absolutely lovely.
  • Striped bass with tempura scallion, leeks and beet foam—a plate that came with a lovely historic tidbit:  Did you know that tempura originated in Portugal? Now you do.
  • Partridge with wild mushrooms, onion puree and thyme pan perdu—the most unusual and prized of game birds, the meat was extremely flavorful. I was particularly enamored with what I dubbed "country fried partridge." I woke up with the smell of battered and deep fried partridge still in my hair and salivated immediately.
  • Mallard Duck on a forbidden rice risotto with kale, spiced honey and paprika foam—a close contender for my favorite dish of the night, with the perfectly cooked duck suffused with a smokey taste resting on that sublime spiced foam and a bed of nutty-flavored forbidden rice.
  • Hare "Shepherd's Pie" with baby vegetables and a garlic potato froth—our group's most anticipated dish did not disappoint though unfortunately, my stomach did, as I was too stuffed by then to give that bowl the cleaning out it deserved. Chef David explained how he had used his grandma's technique of boiling the hare in vinegar and water to draw out the gaminess. As a result, we had tender shredded hare underneath an airy garlic potato froth. So lovely on a chilly fall night with my glass of (BYOB) Malbec. 
  • Apple roasted cinnamon crumble and caramel ice cream—despite not being a sweet tooth, I was able to locate some back up stomach space for every last lick of this dessert. Chef David served hot tea and strong coffee to go with our final treat.
It was such a privilege to be part of one of Chef David's phenomenal dinners, and I am so excited to see what he'll bring to Louro's tables once the restaurant opens in a few weeks. He assured us that he plans on having more Um Segredo dinners in the future, but in the meantime his focus will be on Louro. I look forward to seeing what his new endeavor brings—but when Um Segredo returns, you can be sure I'll be at that table sooner rather than later.

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  1. wow... all of it looks so delicious :)

    1. It really was ... I could eat all of it again right now!

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Avy! Good god, that blog name made me do a double take but I'm glad I clicked. You're an amazing writer!