Clandestine dining on rise as Venezuelan chefs bypass frustrations

Fri Jun 12, 2015 1:22pm EDT
 
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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 She asked that her surname not be published for fear of reprisal.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...

 
A dining area of "La Isabela" is seen at restaurateur Eduardo Moreno's home which doubles as a restaurant, in Caracas June 6, 2015. As with living-room restaurants that flourished in nineties Havana 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. REUTERS/Girish Gupta