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“THE secret restaurant is on the 3rd floor,” warned the e-mail confirmation. “Just follow the smell of food — and we will be waiting for you there with a drink!”

Situated on a quiet residential street in Berlin’s bohemian neighborhood of Kreuzberg, the restaurant was actually in someone’s living room, decorated with fresh flowers and colorful artwork.

The eight guests — including a couple from Finland, two young women from Ireland and two radio journalists from Berlin — had never met before. Nor had they met the host, Maria, who calls herself the Shy Chef. (Like other underground restaurateurs who operate without a license, she did not give her full name for fear of being shut down.)

Maria has been inviting strangers into her home for dinner since March, as a kind of guerrilla-style restaurant. Patrons that night enjoyed a six-course meal that included a vodka-marinated salmon, a fine selection of wines and the warm company of fellow guests.

It felt like a dinner party given by an eclectic and extroverted new friend, except that those present scored invitations online (at and chipped in 50 euros each ($72.50 at $1.45 to the euro).

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Hello to everyone!

We are pleased to announce that we have created new slots for our secret suppers. We are open to booking requests.

If you want to dine with the Shy Chef, please contact us early to avoid disappointment.

If we’re not willing to settle for junk living, we certainly shouldn’t settle for junk food.  ~Sally Edwards

Venison in Port Wine Sauce (

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May 2010
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