The e-mailed instructions were slightly mysterious. "Please arrive during the reception hour, as we will sit for supper promptly at 5 p.m. Please find your way to the single door, also located on the north side of the building. There will be a member of our team dressed in black waiting to escort you to the Hidden Kitchen."
Although chef Michael Jacobs had been putting on his Hidden Kitchen dinners for a few months, we still couldn't figure out where they could be. After all, Imperial House was a condo on Millionaire's Row -- not an area known for its restaurants.
Living up to its name, Jacobs has transformed a hidden industrial kitchen inside the residential building into a dining space complete with modern bar. Wine crates mingle with Miami Heat memorabilia, a reminder that the chef cooks for the Miami Heat in season.
When he's not catering to the needs of the basketball champions, Jacobs holds Hidden Kitchen workshops, inviting guest chefs to cook with him for a small group of diners. This time, he enlisted Florida Cookery's Kris Wessel for a Sunday Suppa, with cocktails provided by Grey Goose vodka at $110 per person.
Before anyone even sat down to dinner, trays upon trays of food were passed to compliment the Le Fizz cocktail, a refreshing light alternative to Prosecco made with Grey Goose, fresh citrus, St. Germaine, and a splash of soda.
Guests were seated at a long, communal high-top and the food started arriving. Florida avocado and ice-bib fish wraps, smoked mackeral on crackers, and spicy shrimp grilled cheese sandwiches. Was this the entire meal? Nope -- just the "snack" portion.
As a tray of spoon bread topped with white guava braised pork was passed, some diners were already getting a glazed look in their eyes..until they tasted the perfect morsel offered to them. The spoon bread was slightly spicy and the pork simply melted in your mouth. One diner asked Kris Wessel the secret to making meat that tender. "I heat it at 300 degrees, then turn off the oven and let it sit there for six hours," he replied, adding that most people serve pork with a delicious marinade, but the meat is dried out under all that sauce. Time and patience is the key to his dish.
After all this, we were reminded by chef Jacobs that the first course was about to be served, a chilled squash salad with sun sprouts, pepitas, and blue crab meat.
The second course was a play on a complete Thanksgiving dinner, as envisioned by Jacobs and his team. Mango-braised pulled turkey was served over a corn and leek fondue. For crunch, turkey skin cracklings were sprinkled liberally on top of the dish, which won hearty praises from the group who asked for "seconds". Hearing this, the chef arrived with several Pyrex casserole dishes filled with the delightful mixture. They were promptly passed around and dispatched.
A third course of sour orange and green garlic roasted snapper and pot roast was served -- a sort of "working man's" version of surf and turf.
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SHOW ME HOW
Although most of us protested that dessert would just take us over the top, we gave up fighting when it was presented to us. After all, how could you say no to a mango pie and pineapple rum cake duo?