The Lost Kitchen

I had an extraordinary meal a few nights ago at a secret restaurant called appropriately enough The Lost Kitchen, hidden away on a side street in Belfast, Maine. There’s no sign outside so you have to know where to go, up a discreet flight of stairs and there, as if at the entrance to a speak-easy, stands a young woman dressed in classic wait staff black and white, with a list of who is to be allowed in for the evening.

And if your name is not on the list, sorry (with a smile), no entry.

The Lost Kitchen has a Facebook page but very little else in the way of information. It’s what’s called an underground supper club, except that this one is very much above ground, in an austerely handsome space, the tables lit by low candles and set with pale linens. The cook is a woman who is passionate about food but as far as I know has no professional training. In a sense, we’re all guests in her own private dining room, though we each pay $40 to be members of the club for the evening. Oh, and we bring our own booze.

The menu is in the photo, but just allow me a little space and I’ll be profligate about the meal we were served:

a starter of fritto misto, lightly battered, deep-fried Maine shrimps and strips of fennel (anyone who knows anything about sweet, little Maine shrimp knows how delicate they are, how difficult to cook just right—and these were cooked just right);

a sensational granita of grapefruit juice and Campari, pale peach in color and served on a section of grapefruit rind that had been dipped in the same bitter-sweet mixture, then frozen;

a bagna cauda, the northern Italian “salad” of raw vegetables with a warm olive-oil-garlic-anchovy dip (and these vegetables were from Four Season Farm, where the almost legendary Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch grow spectacular produce);

a main course (I almost said Maine course) of braised Caldwell Farms short rib, served with a dollop of creamy potatoes, crisp kale, and a section of cauliflower, sliced right down through the head and quickly seared;

finally a lovely semifreddo, an Italian partially frozen dessert—only with a brittle of salted almonds to offset the sweetness. Not quite final, though, because that was followed by a plate of cheeses with some crisply delicious hazelnut cookies—again, not sweet at all and perfect with the cheeses.

It was an all-Italian night but it used almost 100% Maine ingredients—demonstrating my favorite mantra: We have terrific materia prima, as the Italians call it, good stuff right here in Maine even in the wintertime—we just need talented hands to prepare it. And at The Lost Kitchen, the hands are talented indeed.

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12 Comments

  • Reply Micki January 21, 2011 at 11:55 pm

    This is the second time I’ve read raves about this place. Time for a field trip!

  • Reply Sharon Lovejoy February 22, 2011 at 5:06 am

    Talk about a tempting write up. I’ve heard the news about this drifting in the wind. Can’t wait to try it-the experience seems to be as important as the food.

    What a treat to have something done with great local foods and a wonderful talent.

    Sharon

  • Reply Michael Donham June 8, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    What’s the membership fee all about? Is this like a cover charge that goes on top of the food? Or is part of the food the membership? And is it for all guests or just one in a party?

    And if we are not on facebook, how do we register for dinner?

  • Reply Susan Roeder July 7, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    I would love to be a part of a Lost Kitchen dinner – how do I sign up??

  • nancyharmonjenkins
    Reply nancyharmonjenkins July 8, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Lots of people asking how do I find out more about this extraordinary “restaurant.” To which I can only reply–Facebook is the best way. If you don’t have a Facebook account, find someone who does and ask them to post on the page for The Lost Kitchen, giving Erin your email address. Then, when she is ready for another dinner party, she’ll let you know and you can sign up. The $40, Michael, is for each person–and it is an incredible bargain.

  • Reply nettie moore January 6, 2012 at 4:51 am

    Just finished drinks, apps and desserts, absolutely wonderful, what a treat after seeing A Week with Marilyn!

  • Reply Paul Sheridan February 28, 2012 at 1:23 am

    Seems to serve mostly dead animals.

    No vegetarian choices?

  • nancyharmonjenkins
    Reply nancyharmonjenkins February 28, 2012 at 3:29 am

    Paul, it is a very small restaurant with a very minimalist–but delicious–menu. There are occasionally, I could even say frequently, dishes for vegetarians but the restaurant makes no claim to serve vegetarian food. Nor, IMHO, should they. They don’t have vegan food either, nor do they keep a kosher kithen. They are doing what they claim to do, providing excellent, mostly local, food, honestly and openly. If you want vegetarian food, you have a splendid choice in Chase’s Daily, which is almost next door, a few doors down on Main Street.

  • Reply nancy August 22, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    Lost Kitchen is now a restaurant– and suffering serious growing pains based on my experience. Overcooked grilled cheese appetizer…hard and stringy. “Irish Organic Trout” which was described as rainbow trout–but turned out to be farmed Steelhead Trout–nearly identical to salmon. A semifreddo dessert trying way too hard–almond toffee, maple syrup, cherries..Slow service–but the worst was a view from the table of a man sitting at the bar with a proverbial “plumber’s crack”. (We asked the server to address and nothing was done). And when I posted this comment on the FB page for Lost Kitchen–it was deleted and I was blocked… I wouldn’t bother dining there.

  • nancyharmonjenkins
    Reply nancyharmonjenkins August 22, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    I’m really sorry to hear this. I’m going there tonight (August 22nd 2012) to celebrate my birthday. Will let you know if your bad experience was just a fluke or an unhappy change of affairs. I hope the former since I really like this chef and what she’s doing.

  • Nancy Harmon Jenkins
    Reply Nancy Harmon Jenkins August 22, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    Checking into this complaint about Lost Kitchen, I discovered that Steelhead Trout is simply the name for sea-run rainbow trout. They are exactly the same except that one comes from salt water, one from fresh. And both are very closely related to Atlantic salmon. If the server described the dish in question as rainbow trout, he or she was being entirely truthful. On the question of plumber’s crack (a new term in my book), another restaurateur, a friend in Portland, told me he wouldn’t risk creating a disturbance in his restaurant unless the offense was so egregious as to be disturbing to everyone in the place–and not just to one table. We are very democratic here on the coast of Maine and it may be that to some of our visitors from away, folks we welcome to our doors may not seem entirely to be “the right sort.” But we don’t make those kinds of distinctions.

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