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Saturday, February 28, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 14.0° F  Overcast
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Underground Kitchen's first post-fire pop-up pleases
More meals are in the works
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Polenta panzanella salad with tomato confit at the Underground Kitchen pop-up dinner July 24.
Credit:Erin Hanusa

Graze, usually dark on Sunday nights, was full of festivity last night as the staff of Underground Kitchen manned the kitchen for a pop-up dinner. The pop-up marked the first time that the Underground Kitchen staff have served dinner in a restaurant since being displaced on June 30 by a devastating fire that has closed their shop indefinitely.

The six-course prix fixe menu began with a small taste of corn soup, followed by an appetizer of braised oxtail over cavatelli, both garnished with edible flowers. The next three courses came family style: first, a basil-scented burst of summer in the form of a polenta panzanella salad with tomato confit. The two mains-a lightly smoked, tender salmon dotted with dill flowers and served with a fennel salad, and a juicy pile of roasted shaved veal and horseradish aioli-garnered the table's highest praise.

Evening brought the colors of sunset to the Capitol as well as dessert to the table: a waffle cup filled with vanilla pudding, a bit of cake, and a cornucopia of stone fruit and berries.

Dinner included the #11 cocktail from the Underground Kitchen's menu: Death's Door gin, ginger, candied fennel, and lemon. Fans of the restaurant were excited to see this favorite return, but bemoaned the fact that Underground's outstanding full cocktail menu wasn't in evidence. Fear not: Kitchen bartender Hastings Cameron can be found behind the bar at Genna's this Thursday night. If you ask nicely, perhaps he'll whip you up one of his specialties.

As a satisfied crowd began to move out into the night air, Underground partner Jonny Hunter confirmed plans for future pop-up dinners, including one on August 21 at Osteria Papavero and others possible with Furthermore Beer, at Natt Spil, and Tornado Steak House. However, Underground Food Collective, Kitchen's parent group, is moving full speed ahead with their booming catering and meat processing businesses, so you don't have to wait until the next pop-up to enjoy its creations.

If Sunday's sold-out house is any indication, Madison diners are already missing Underground Kitchen. Here's hoping that the Kitchen will open once again, and soon.

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