Both gastronauts and chefs alike have succumbed to the ephemeral thrills of the pop-up restaurant, which help push contemporary cuisine and the dining scene to new frontiers. Pop-ups are legal, and involve a guest chef preparing inventive dishes in a host restaurant with virtually no menu limits. Other for-pay dinner parties operate "underground" out of private homes, sometimes hosted by foodies or by chefs themselves. Social media like Facebook and Twitter have propelled the phenomenon.
Some young chefs cultivate a devoted following this way, while others use pop-ups to further their fame. Ludo Lefebvre cooked at L'Orangerie and Bastide before virtually abandoning the strictures of a formal restaurant to create his own popular pop-up called "LudoBites." He's also cooked cutting-edge meals at L.A.'s Animal and now-defunct Starry Kitchen.
Underground restaurants, often called supper clubs, have been wildly popular in Britain and Latin America for decades, but the trend has now caught fire in the U.S. Some social networks are solely devoted to this guerrilla gourmet experience, but mostly you have to get on a private email list for a surreptitious invite. Check out (if you dare) New Friends Table or Jim Haynes' Supper Club in Paris; Hush in Washington, DC; No Fixed Address in Vancouver; Mama Isa in Padova, Italy; or Once Upon a Table in Hong Kong.