Supper Liberation Front – Kurmaliance Dinner @ Tacos Punta Cabras
2311 Santa Monica Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90404
While Supper Liberation Front (SLF) has been around for a few years, I had just found out about the pop-up/underground dining club while dining at Tacos Punta Cabras (TPC) a couple of months ago. SLF is the brainchild of Chefs Josh and Daniel, who also run TPC, and have quite the impressive resumes before starting SLF and opening the restaurant. Usually, the dinners are $65 for 9 courses, cash only and BYOB, held once a month at an undisclosed location. However, the dinner I attended with The Offalo last Monday was an additional charity one at $75, $25 of which was donated to Kurmaliance, an organization that aims to save sea turtles and preserve their ecosystems (on Earth Day too – how appropriate). For this dinner, Josh and Daniel were joined by Chef Brad from Inn of the Seventh Ray restaurant in Topanga. And the dinner was indeed held at TPC, whose cozy beach shack-esque interior proved fitting for the cause and casual atmosphere.
There were 2 seatings for the April 20 dinner, the latter of which we chose to attend at 9:30pm. We were told that the dinners do tend to run longer than the quoted time, and that was indeed the case, as we were seated around 10:15pm, and didn’t leave until close to midnight. However, there was never a dull moment that night, and it was a fun way to introduce myself to the world of pop-up/underground dining. Peter and I took advantage of the BYOB policy, and ran through bottles of beer and ginger beer (we fancy huh) at the dinner. The chefs actually paced the dinner pretty well, bringing out each course themselves for the most part, while describing the course served. The progression of each course, while inconsistent with standard expectations, was interesting in that they tried to alternate the heavy and light courses. Where better to experiment and defy expectations than at an underground dinner, right? Below are photos of each course with brief descriptions, in order:
mcgrath’s sunflower (root, heart, petals) dobin mushi
The bonito-based dobin mushi (which I suspected was too developed in flavor to be completely vegetarian, which proved to be correct) was excellent in conveying an umami richness while being light in flavor. Along with the dashi, there was sunflower served 3 ways: the root, which was diced and served in the broth with English peas and some tempura bits; the heart, tempura-fried (the batter which was actually the one TPC uses for their tacos); and the petals, served with some pea sprouts as a simple salad over the fried hearts. I believe it was my first time eating sunflower, and the root and heart’s texture was similar to that of artichoke/heart of palm – quite interesting.
razor clam, carrot tapioca pearls, duck bacon, daikon, smoked leek milk
As you can see, no razor clams, sadly. Due to sourcing conflicts (along with the hotaru ika in a later dish), the chefs had to substitute clams (I think they were Manila) last-minute – which really disappointed Brad in particular with respect to this dish. But it definitely worked as a play on the clam chowder. The combination of the duck bacon and the smoked leek milk broth really gave it a nice smoky, creamy flavor, while the clams added a needed brininess. The carrot tapioca pearls, while cool-looking and added a nice coloring when dissolving into the broth, didn’t add too much in terms of flavor.
seared monkfish liver, salted pickled cucumber, maggie’s mustard & seeds, miso-vin jaume
I actually thought that by breading and searing the ankimo, the fattiness of the “foie of the sea” was cut down by the added texture. Great dish that went well with the accompanying sauces, and the sunomono of sorts helped cut down the fattiness/searing some more.
jellyfish tom yum ka, young coconut, galangal sorbet, basil seeds
Fun presentation of being served in a hollowed out coconut shell, the meat of which was incorporated into this dish. This was an ode to the the sea turtles we were helping out, as jellyfish is part of their diet (ha). Definitely succeeded in delivering on the Thai flavors, although the flavors and chilled nature reminded me more of a som tum (green papaya salad). Also, don’t think I got the galangal sorbet here.
lobster, masa, daikon, avocado, onion sprout, pineapple fluid gel
This dish was definitely influenced by the chefs’ current restaurant, which wouldn’t be out of place as a daily special someday. The heat from that pineapple fluid gel (basically the pineapple habanero salsa from TPC), however, was a bit overpowering for me. I handled it okay, but thought that it kind of overshadowed the rest of the dish. Solid though.
lamb belly fries, siracha ranch, saffron, lime gel, espelette, slaw
When I saw the dish description, I was imagining a poutine dish of sorts, perhaps with a lamb belly ragu/gravy (maybe I’ve eaten at Animal/Seoul Sausage too many times). But here, the “fries” were the lamb belly, fried in a batter from which I tasted some cornmeal. The sauce was “sirancha,” a combination of sriracha and ranch, which went well the the contrast of sweet and tart flavors from the slaw, and there were some aromatics in the form of mint which were nice.
beef & firefly squid, sendres 7 flavor vinaigrette, farmers market vegetables
The final savory course was supposed to be a surf and turf of sorts, with beef and hotaru ika. However, as mentioned previously, the firefly squid was not available last-minute, so the chefs substituted ika somen, or squid noodles. There was a strong cumin flavor in the squid, which was interesting, but I really wanted to see how the creaminess of the firefly squid would’ve worked with the leaner beef. The beef was cooked to a perfect rare and had a nice char, but the flavors (or lack of) didn’t deliver, and the meat proved to be a bit chewy. Not bad, but probably my least favorite dish of the night.
gloria’s strawberries, black tea biscuit, fried platano, eucalyptus frozen yogurt
The first of 2 desserts was a refreshing one, the effect provided by the cooling eucalyptus frozen yogurt. The fried platano was more of a brulee, and went well with the biscuit and strawberry.
flavors of scotch: butterscotch, smoked pete ice cream, vanilla meringue, scotch gelee, coffee cake
The latter of the two desserts was a nice contrast to the previous one. The flavors of scotch were butterscotch and…scotch, and they were playfully presented in various flavor and textural forms. Fun dessert.
My first pop-up/underground dinner proved to be a delicious and very fun experience. Each course was very playful, and provided plenty of experimentation with regards to flavor profiles and ethnic influences (the dinner was fairly Asian-influenced, for the most part). The chefs were warm hosts, eager to present the labors of their hard work, and serving without any pretentiousness. Thanks for inviting me, Peter, and I’m sure I’ll return to another one of SLF’s dinners. In the meantime, the food at TPC will do (a couple of the daily specials from this past weekend used ingredients from the dinner, and were actually influenced by it).