- Anna Latino/Special to The S.F. Examiner
- At Supper Club – where diners are served in beds – meals have themes, such as last month’s “Food Worship.”
Months ago, my sister called me from the back of a cab, distraught, in frantic flight from a wildly uncomfortable date at Supper Club. As my introduction to the place, it wasn’t promising. Nor was the website, a slideshow with the clubby and surreal look you might get if David Lynch were let loose to direct an ad for Virgin America.
Scared and curious, I reserved a bed (yes, a bed) at “Food Worship,” last month’s dinner party that guaranteed, if nothing else, lots of blasphemy and sequins.
The theme of Supper Club changes monthly, but the idea remains the same: art, chaos, food and sex. “Food Worship” was a glossy, sexualized mimicry of churchgoing — a Nilla wafer Eucharist, pantsless nuns, a dinner ripe with biblical puns.
It’s the kind of party that feeds you in bed, makes you blush and asks you not to take it too seriously. Turns out, it’s best when you don’t.
Signaled by giant, gilded doors on Harrison Street, the place is hardly discreet. Inside, past the darkened vestibule, is a low-lit bar serving usuals and specialties. The kitschy drinks — like the Nocturnal Emission or Roll in the Hay — are mostly booze and ice, drowning accents like basil and pomegranate in alcohol.
But here, between the pink padded walls, beneath a constellation of disco balls, subtlety is not really the point.
Further in, diners lounge along a single mattress that lines three walls. Throughout dinner, the floor spotlights acts by a roster of very strong and sparkly people without discernible joints.
Dinner is a four-course affair. Parting of the Red Soup, a benign puree of roasted red pepper laced with creme fraiche, felt like a bit of home.
The salad, a nutty and modest pile of butternut squash and farro brightened by lemon, came “crowned” with a circle of okra subdued by a rather chewy cornmeal crust. As the contortionist untangled herself upon a table, dinner was feeling rather safe.
Having been promised a “religious experience” by a server in a glittering cape when I arrived, I was starting to feel cheated. But then a grand crescendo began that would leave me slack-jawed in a puddle of glee.
First, the lamb arrived, meltingly tender. Gently seared and oven-baked, it rested on a bed of buttery chard and crispy baby potatoes under a whisper of merlot. Inventive, no. But it was sublimely simple and beautifully cooked, redolent of Christmas — if our aunts had been better cooks, and if there hadn’t been a man in goggles and a tiny leather number lathering himself in maple syrup, center stage.
“He’s Dutch,” our mattress neighbors whispered, hoping to clarify the situation.
That’s the primary joy of Supper Club. It flirts, nay elopes, with the absurd. This scene was the climax of a one-man food fight in the center of the floor, a whirling storm of flour and noodles and skin. Watching him smear peanut butter — confirmed later to be smooth, not crunchy — down the length of his torso, I felt a little bit giddy.
After this, a pallid afterthought of devil’s food cake plated on a mirror came and went, but it didn’t matter. The food was hit or miss. The important thing about Supper Club is that it reminds us that humans ought to play. And in the arena of fine dining, that’s a refreshing thing.