Clandestine dining on rise as Venezuelan chefs bypass frustrations
By Girish Gupta
CARACAS (Reuters) - Follow the main road, count three traffic lights, and take a left at the third. You'll find a security post there.
"It's a white-and-blue house, the entrance is through the car park," added the email instructions. "Don't tell the guards you are coming to 'Ciboulette Prive', but on a private visit."
As with living-room restaurants that flourished in Havana in the 1990s after the fall of its Soviet benefactor, Caracas is seeing a rise in clandestine dining as inventive restaurateurs seek ways to survive economic crisis, corruption and crime.
Chefs and owners complain that operating a normal restaurant profitably has become increasingly problematic as state controls limit price increases despite roaring inflation and bribery is the only way to get permits in a timely fashion.
Furthermore, crime has made diners seek ever-more private and secure settings, while shortages of ingredients make it difficult to maintain a steady menu.
So private dining gives the chefs far more flexibility - and, crucially, less scrutiny.
"No one knows where we are until we tell them. This is an illegal restaurant," acknowledged Ana, the 24-year-old head chef at Ciboulette Prive, or 'Private Chive' in English, set in her cousin's back garden in a wealthy Caracas neighborhood. She asked that her surname not be published for fear of reprisal.
The elegantly-decorated Ciboulette Prive, which opened in October, serves 16 people under a mango tree with retro artwork on the garden wall and vintage vinyl records as place mats. Continued...