“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 theshychef.wordpress.com) and chipped in 50 euros each ($72.50 at $1.45 to the euro).

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