Sometimes, you need to meet people more extremely into something than yourself in order to learn and grow in your passion. I heard about Gastronauts, The Club for Adventurous Eaters by word of mouth over a year ago but didn’t wander over to their website until I was doing research for my post about supper clubs.
Gastronauts rove all over NYC (and now L.A.) seeking out the aspects of global cuisine that push our boundaries. As they say, “we’ll taste the weird items in small print at the bottom of the menu that other folks eat everyday in Manila, Lagos, Bangkok, or Lima—stuff you’d never order alone.”
One must request membership in this semi-exclusive supper club. Apparently sensing kismet in my membership request, cofounder Curtiss Calleo graciously welcomed me to the club in time for their Five-Year Anniversary Party. Unfortunately, I couldn’t join them for the literal blood fest, but made sure to jump on my ticket for their trip to Southern Spice.
To get there, I took the 7 train to the end of the line. Once I arrived in Flushing, Queens (an ethnic food lover’s paradise), I walked another 15 minutes to the resto, which is normally closed Tuesday nights but had opened just for our private feast.
India is up there with Asia in terms of number of diverse regional cuisines. I’ll go to great lengths to add spice and heat to nearly everything I eat, so a chance to explore southern Indian cuisine, known for being the spiciest the country has to offer, was something I couldn’t pass up. Plus, there were brains on the menu. I’ve eaten plenty of The Weird, but brains were a new challenge.
The brains were delicious, very savory and just a tad gamey. The texture was fine, but not something I’d seek out. The mouthfeel wasn’t as smooth as custard, but it wasn’t jiggly like an oyster, either.
We had actually eased into the menu with small plates of Poricha Vanjiram Meen, which were king fish filets marinated in tamarind and spices, wrapped in banana leaves and grilled. This was unremarkable, at least for me.
Following the brains (and the hot, fresh naan that came with each course), we tucked into plates of Muyall Varuval, which was rabbit slow cooked in madras coconut curry paste. This was divine. The rabbit was tender and the curry was spicy without overwhelming the true flavor of the meat.
The showstopper of the meal, though, was the whole baby goat that had been roasted in the largest pan I’ve ever seen (I snuck into the kitchen before dinner). The goat arrived like a celebrity in front of her fans, but on a platter of basmati rice cooked in ghee (clarified butter), with mint, cilantro, onions, ginger, garlic and other spices.
As you can see from the picture below, the Aattu Iraichi Biriyani was treated like the true superstar she is.
The night ended with complimentary shark meat which had been pulled and mixed with spices. It was tender and flavorful, but after the stellar goat, I was already sated. I’ve had goat, kingfish, rabbit and shark meat before and, out of all of them, I’ll take the goat every day.
My night with the Gastronauts ended like it does with every great supper club – with exciting and knowledgeable new friends who love food, a full belly and more notches on my culinary belt of conquests.
If you have an opportunity to join the Gastronauts, I would fully endorse them to anyone who loves ethnic food and adventure. Already a member? Let me know, as I’d love to go to another dinner soon with friends.
More great links on Gastronauts:
- Food Curated: An Eating Club for the Brave: The Gastronauts
- Grub Street: ‘Testicle Connoisseurs’ Meet at Secret Williamsburg Location to Eat Snake
I love sharing details about upcoming tasty trips and adventures, so you won’t want to miss a bite. As always, please feel free to chat with me on Twitter, join our group on Facebook and keep up with new posts here by subscribing.