Food and Drink

Joe Shirley’s Überdine: Underground and Über Good

There’s something very seductive about an underground dinner like Joe Shirley’s Überdine.

An exclusive, secret-knock invitation where a handful of diners get to share plate after plate of inventive food, made even more intriguing by the variety of venues where they’re held: a warehouse, art studio or event space permeated with the aroma of roasting coffee.

Shirley, an executive chef of a large bank in Kansas City—and formerly with Grand Street Café, where he met wife Carolina—uses Überdine as his creative outlet until the couple can open their own restaurant. His first pop-up dinner was a collaboration with Yummy’s Choice (makers of hummus and other food products), with a menu that included a gorgeous striped bass with lentils and paddlefish caviar, and a dish incorporating the culinary world’s current stars, pork belly and kale.

For a two-day affair at The Roasterie, Shirley presented exquisite, composed dishes on large white plates, skewered on forks or balanced on spoons. Again, he incorporated several of the coffee maker’s ingredients; for instance, the pork shoulder’s savory red eye gravy was laced with a coffee-flavored barbecue sauce.

The chef described his food as “creative, fun and non-pretentious” to the bloggers at Feed Me KC, and with Shirley’s engaging personality, the entire experience fits the promise of fun. “Our dinners have been described as raves for affluent adults,” he explains. “The location is always revealed at the last possible moment.”

So far, the chef’s wife enjoys the multi-course dinners as a guest, not a server. As for me, an invitation to the third installation of Überdine (translated as an over-the-top dining experience), spanning three days in December, proved impossible to resist. Shirley’s promise that the 13-course repast would be a “multimedia sensory overload” with an electro set produced by local DJ/producer Justin Lake Whedon sealed the deal.

“We also feature different artists at each event,” Shirley says. “December’s will include an indoor snowscape and five winter characters played by body-painted models.”

But back to the food. At this writing, the menu—which Shirley explained is a modern take on the holiday food he enjoyed growing up—includes a deconstructed ambrosia salad that’s more inventive that your Aunt Irene’s annual contribution to the holiday buffet, with orange crème, coconut aioli, cherry marshmallows and pineapple caviar.

The planned menu also includes smoked venison with pomegranate, watercress and caraway; a caramelized-onion bread pudding with duck confit and hollandaise sauce; and a 72-hour turkey breast with house-made bacon, Brussels spouts and sweet potatoes. Just the Crispy Potato Gratin, with honey ham purée, cheddar fondue and chive breadcrumbs had me emailing my RSVP.

Joe Shirley prepares a September Uberdine dinner at The Roasterie’s Bean Hangar Event Space.

The event space—as in the past—only adds to the evening’s exclusive, romantic vibe; in this case it’s a third-floor art gallery in the Crossroads. I’ll bring my imagination, my appetite and a warm wrap.

Watch for upcoming Überdine dinners in 2014. To land on the invitation list, contact the chef at chefjoeshirley@gmail.com.