Interview with a Private Restauranteur
When you live near or in a metropolitan center, and you are going out to dinner with friends, you have choices. You have lots and lots of choices; and now there is a whole new category of dining options.
At first, I thought it was just me: I was a little bored, a lot jaded, and a little tired of the NYC restaurant scene. Too much attention being paid to where you were going and whether the restaurant was hot or over, not enough attention being paid to the food quality, and crazy prices for mediocre fare.
Maybe it’s not just me. Cities as far flung as Hong Kong, London , Jerusalem, Vienna (be sure to check out this website, he even does music!), and Philadelphia are home to ‘private restaurants’ or ‘private dining clubs’. The first time I heard about these private restaurants was in Havana. As a way to circumvent the Cuban government’s interference, private homes set up small restaurants. It was an insider’s way to learn about Cuban cuisine.
Now, that makes sense; a sort of work around solution to a poor restaurant situation. But, in Hong Kong? One of the all time, fantastic restaurant destinations in the world? It seems that no matter the city, there is a desire for exclusivity, a desire for the personal touch, something private and beyond the ordinary.
In many cities, running a private dining club is a legal gray area, so you probably need to be invited to join the club. You may not be presented with a bill, but you could be asked to make a donation to the club.
Someone that I respect has been running just such an establishment and was kind enough to answer some questions about their private restaurant. You can check out their luscious website here: NY Bite Club.
1) What is your definition of a private dining club?
I do not really have a definition of a private dining club. All I can tell you is what I know from our own experience. We are offering a place for members to meet and experience an intimate and personalized dining adventure.
2) Every major city in the U.S. seems to be crammed with restaurants, what niche do private dining clubs fill?
I believe the whole idea of great restaurants is the connection the chef has with the food, the space and the diner. There is no space I am more connected with, or comfortable in, then my home. We have been able to make our home a really warm space that reflects our personalities. Also the personal connection we have with the diner is very unique. How many places do you eat where the chef contacts you before your reservation to create a menu based on your likes and interests?
3) What type of people are interested in private dining clubs? Are they looking for a more intimate setting? Or for a grand food adventure? Or some combination?
A little of both. The setting is really great for a private party. We often have friends who haven’t seen each other in years meeting in our home. To get a private room in New York is very rare and very expensive and we provide a more intimate and personalized alternative. We also get food adventurers. Many people come wanting to try creative and often over looked ingredients and we’re able to provide them with that.
4) Do you have a preset menu? Do you accept requests?
We prefer requests! We do multi course dinners but we don’t have a certain mold that we follow. Some people have asked us for a specific dish, such as the toffee bacon dish on our site and we have also had people tell us they love sweetbreads, lobster, and foie gras and want a menu with those foods prepared in any way we choose. About 2 weeks ago we had a gentleman request fettucini alfredo. We thought of adding Uni but, in the end, held back. The point is, we are here for our guests. Anything they want, we will try to make it happen.
5) Do you provide wine? Do you suggest pairings?
We work exclusively with the people at Moore Brother’s (with a couple of really knowledgeable wine people) who pair a different wine for each dish we create. We go over the menu with them in great length, being sure to describe all ingredients used to ensure that we are getting the most appropriate wine for each course. We also like to greet our guests with champagne and we often serve a maple whiskey or armagnanc with dessert. All alcohol we provide is free of charge.
6) How do I get invited to your dining club?
At first we were inviting only friends and family. Lately we’ve been getting a lot of referrals from friends. As long as people sign up and become a member of our club online, all they have to do is contact us for a reservation.
7) Do you accept monetary donations?
We would prefer not to talk about money.
8) What is your culinary background?
We are both self taught and still learning.
9) What makes your club special?
We make our club special. It’s an expression of who we are. Every part of the experience has our signature on it.
10) What do you look for in a dining club, that you can’t find in a restaurant, or at a private dinner party?
I look for the personal touches. Something I rarely see in food anymore. I look for the careful consideration of every tiny detail. This certainly exists at some places but at really extreme prices.
Thank you Daniel for taking the time to answer my questions! I think you hit the nail on the head when you said it was in the personal touches. It’s also about perceived value, and quality. Is it also a little bit about the private-snob aspect? Maybe a little bit, but as long as these guys around, I’m confident the emphasis will be all about the food. And I like it like that!
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