Left: a short rib bourguignon-style pot roast; right: chef Ben McPherson welcomes guests to the test kitchen dinner.

Image: Mai Pham

Kraftsmen Bakery in the Heights was transformed for one night only into a dinner party space last Thursday evening, where the team behind the upcoming Prohibition Supperclub and Bar—led by chefs Ben McPherson and Matt Wommack—held a 10-course dinner benefitting Recipe for Success.

Functioning as a preview for their soon-to-debut restaurant, the “Test Kitchen” dinner featured 10 dishes currently under development, most with a Gulf Coast theme. “I grew up along the Gulf Coast of Alabama, so I wanted to pay homage to that,” says McPherson, whose aim at the soon-to-open Prohibition will be to make the food both "decadent and nostalgic."

There was certainly an element of the nostalgic during the preview dinner. Timed to take place just as the sun was setting, the event had the feel of a southern backyard party as golden rays of light illuminated guests—seated community style at long wooden tables—through the gauzy white curtains hanging in the bakery's tall windows. 

Top: diners ate at communal tables; bottom: a tuna crudo dish

Image: Mai Pham

As for the decadent, there plenty of that too, beginning with a tuna crudo topped with freshly shaved black truffle and Parmigiana Reggiano. The lightest of the dishes served, it needed a bit more pow in terms of the seasoning, but that was the exact purpose of the “Test Kitchen” theme—to get feedback. Guests were asked to provide a score of one to five for each of the dishes, and the tuna crudo fell somewhere in the three range, because it still needed a bit of tweaking.

A wooden platter of baked oysters in three styles—Rockefeller, Bienville, and barbecue—was near perfect, however, scoring fours and fives among guests. Molten hot with a bit of baked bread crumbs on top, each of the oysters had a strong identity with equally memorable flavorings. Of these, the Bienville style with shrimp, mushroom, bacon and béchamel sauce was my personal favorite. 

Baked oysters in three styles

Image: Mai Pham

Standouts of the night included the tongue-twistingly named Kabocha Kambucha wherein a hollow ring of baked kabocha squash was filled with a crab-butter-mushroom liquid center. The soupy center was reminiscent of a seafood chowder, marrying well with the natural, sweet nuttiness of the baked squash, almost sweet potato-like in taste and texture.

A New Orleans barbecue shrimp dish was another a clear favorite, served with the shrimp heads still attached but the shells removed. Sucking on the juicy heads was just half the fun; the other half was lapping up every last bit of the buttery, umami-filled, shrimp bisque-like sauce with the crusty loaf of French bread that topped the dish. 

New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp

Image: Mai Pham

The remaining menu included a salad, a dish called Lobster Houston, a charred okra course, and a short rib bourguignon-style pot roast. Of these, the Lobster Houston—served on large, round, metal platters—aroused the strongest exclamations of excitement from the room. The lobster had been boiled in a Viet-Cajun crawfish seasoning and served with potatoes, corn, and drawn butter. Messy but fun at the same time, the lobster was firm and succulent and infinitely easier to eat than crawfish. The Lobster Houston earned high praise for its dramatic presentation, a brilliant dish which was the perfect end to an evening and a perfect preview of suppers still to come at Prohibition Supperlcub. 

Prohibition Supperclub and Bar is set to open in late September at 1008 Prairie Street. The Supperclub will feature a raw bar and Gulf Coast menu, craft cocktails, an event space, and weekend burlesque performances.

We're looking forward to Lobster Houston at Prohibition when it opens next month.

Image: Mai Pham

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