Sunday, March 20, 2011

Some Secrets Should Be Kept A Secret

Saturday morning I was checking my email and in my in box I noticed a new email, the subject line read the letters: “BLT”. I’m not talking about Bacon Lettuce Tomato, but I am talking about the underground secret supper club called Black Label Table.

I have been trying to get a reservation with them for a couple months now and was so excited to be notified that there was a cancellation of 4 people for this Saturday night March 19th dinner! They could take me and my +3 and I could not wait to experience what I anticipated to be just about the coolest concept to hit San Diego. With a name like Black Label Table I was expecting a high ranked and a high end meal. I simply could not wait.

Black Label Table was created by Adrian Huth, Jim Lee and Evan Rumble. A group of friends who love food, wine, community, and creative expression decided to mix their culinary visions and talents together and offer an alternative dining experience that allows for culinary freedom and a chance to share a meal with other like minded people.

They launched in November of 2010. They announce the dates of the monthly

dinners on the BLT Facebook page. The first 20 guests who RSVP and make a $25.00 “donation” will get a seat at the dinner.

Pretty alluring right! Well it lured me right in and my fabulous +3!!

The concept unfolded as follows: I learned of the location via email, was told to call the hostess once we arrived and to wait for someone to come get us. I loved the whole mystery of not knowing where and with whom we were going to dine.

We showed up and were escorted in by one of the chefs Adrian. I must say the urban loft location downtown was pretty insane. We brought 2 bottles of wine to have with dinner and we gave them to Adrian. He admired our choices in wine and said they would be served with the main course. We were served Champagne and Mardi Gras beads were placed around our necks. I knew then that the cuisine was going to be Southern! Praise the lord! I love southern food. Could this night get any better? If only they took our coats from us? Oh well. We just found a spot on the vintage orange couch and piled them up. We listened to the beautiful voice of a

live instrumental guitarist and noticed a band setting up. We were told live jazz music for our listening pleasure while we dined. Good music and good food.

We were all on top of the world!

Then we noticed the cats. Yes cats. One of my friends is allergic to cats and the sneezing started in. We were all over stimulated with everything that was happening around us, a psychedelic light show on the ceiling, vintage art work and furniture, live music, photography, chefs, the bead girl in a tight dress, and random couples who seemed to know each other…there was no way we were going to let a couple of cats ruin our evening.

Before dinner, we were entertained with a few songs by the amazing voice of Krista Richards accompanied by Dave Kemp on the keyboard & drums. Her voice

blew me away! Loved her.

We sat down somewhere around 7:00 and 7:30. We started with Oysters 2 ways. One was broiled with hot sauce butter and the other was raw with Meyer lemon. They were good. The sauce that the cooked oyster was in was fabulous. I drank it right out of the shell. We were served some ginger Champagne cocktail which hit the spot.

Between courses we were served white wine, some gin drink with an orange peel in

it, and Abita beer. Yeah you can say we were having good time. How could we not

triple fisting it? Not sure where the beer, wine and drink pairings were falling into place with the meal. It was put in front of me without explanation and the waiter didn’t know what some of the mixed drinks were. It would have been nice for the chefs to explain the meals and the drinks they paired them with during each course. Yeah, that didn’t happen.

It also would have been nice to have some bread with maybe a Cajun butter & water between meals but that was not taken into consideration. About an hour later we were served Gumbo with shrimp, andouille sausage and craw fish. Now the soup was warm which was good but when I think of Gumbo I think of a rich, thick, flavorful soup. This soup was not made with any thickening agent and was more a thin broth. I would have been fine with a broth version of gumbo but there was no flavor. Luckily one of my friends had some kosher salt that came off her plate from where the oysters were served. She threw it in her bowl to add some flavor. I found myself really wanting to like the soup and trying to convince my friends and myself it was good but then eyeing below my

friend’s dish for more salt. The shrimp was flavorful though.

At this point we were hungry and ready for the main dish which was Steak Diane with roasted kale, & maitake mushrooms. Waiting for our 1 of our 2 bottles of red wine to be served to us we noticed that the chefs and wait staff (if you want to call it a wait staff?) were enjoying some red wine. Interesting? The music was a jammin, guests were a laughin and a drinkin, and we were a starvin with a strong buzz that was a killin fast as we were watching Chef Evan break dance. What the hell was going on here?

Finally we got some red wine served to us (not what we brought though) and by

this time it must have been 9:30. Watching Chef Evan plate our food with his

hands after his crab crawl / head spin was an unsettling sight. Then the Steak Diane arrived. One of my friend said a loud “Seriously” after her plate was put in front of her. I looked and thought it was a joke. Is this an amuse-bouche or some kind surprise appetizer between meals? To my disappointment it was the main dish. It was the smallest portion ever served on planet earth. I am all about small bites but they need to have big flavors. I ate the whole cold meal in 2 bites and it was nothing to die for. I like the roasted kale. Two of my friends opted to pass on it and were ready to walk out at this point but I convinced them to stay and promised I would buy them all carne asada burritos right after dessert. Dessert came out pretty fast after the main course which is the strangest thing to me because usually you want to have some time to relax before dessert. Thankfully it came quick because we were all over it at this point and it was 10:00. We each got the same dessert but there was no consistency to how it was plated or the portions. In fact the Portions and consistency were way off all night. When the server put the dessert down in front of me he said, “I don’t know what this is”. My friend said to him “it's bananas foster”. I mean really? The servers should be educated on what is being served to the guests. It was supposed to be bananas foster, rum, vanilla bean gelato but isn’t gelato cold? The bananas were not ripe, sour, and grainy and the gelato was melted. We each took one bite, grabbed our coats and headed straight to El Zarape Taco Shop where we all got burritos and nachos. Best meal of the evening.

As I thought through it, this concept could be an amazing one if it was executed right. So many things were done wrong and honestly I could go on and on. It didn’t help that one of my friends is an event planner, one is in marketing and development, and the other is an amazing cook and foodie. We all know what customer service and good food is. Getting us wasted is not enough for me with a name like Black Label Table. This was supposed to be a “high ranked and high end” culinary experience but the food seemed to be the least important thing on the menu. I am keeping in mind this dinner was created out of a non-commercial kitchen and not too much space for washing dishes, prepping, cooking, and plating but that is really no excuse for a lack of tasty food.

In the end my friends and I had a great time together and laughed at the disappointments but it was not a culinary black label event for me and my lovely +3. We never did taste the red wine we brought. I supposed the staff drank it.

Oh, there was one authentic thing about the “Nawlins Theme Black Label Table

Dinner”. The Abita Beer from New Orleans, Louisiana….and it was amazing!

One of my friends said it right. “It was almost like they were celebrating success before they succeeded”. He hit it spot on.

Thank you to my fabulous +3. You inspire me everyday.


  1. Sorry it was a bust but I enjoyed reading your take on the experience. Funny!

  2. appreciate the feedback and i agree with some of your comments. we are definitely working on timing issues and logistics as we do have challenges with our kitchen space and not enough dishes still. agreed with the dessert. a couple things happened there. the ice cream melted by the time it needed to be plated. not sure why you didn't get any wine that you generously brought but i did see it being served after the initial petite syrah for the third course. i agree portion sizes could be bigger as well. we dont make money on this and has been challenging with the budget. in new york they charge 100 dollars a person and we are looking at ways to keep affordable but keep the portions honest. anyways thanks for the review and glad you liked the oysters :)

  3. appreciate the feed back and agree with some of your comments , we hope to keep growing and learn from out mistakes and hope you can experience our true success in the future.

  4. Also let us know if you want to collaborate. We are just foodies just like you and would love to have you guest chef!

  5. Sorry you didn't enjoy everything, but glad you enjoyed the music I was the "the beautiful voice of a live instrumental guitarist" But you can call me Ian :) I hope you'll give BLT another chance sometime! ;)