Starting this week, a limited number of customers at Reverie in Georgetown will have the option of sampling a tasting menu designed by a Netflix-famous chef and setting their own price for the meal. The restaurant led by Johnny Spero will begin accepting online reservations today at noon for a new pay-what-you-can program called “Friends of the House.”
The service, which begins Thursday, December 13, will be offered to just two customers per night with a mandatory 6 p.m. seating.
Spero and members of his staff will personally deliver and explain dishes to diners seated at a counter facing the restaurant’s open kitchen. The nightly set menu will consist of snacks and six courses for every reservation. At the end, customers will receive a blank receipt with a space for them to write in what they’d like to pay. Drinks are not included.
“Whatever you can put on a check, or whatever you feel the experience is worth, you can do that,” Spero says.
Spero’s vision is for “Friends of the House” to serve young chefs just out of culinary school, college students on a budget, or members of the non-profit sector who could use a night out. “I wanted to be able to give an experience to some people that don’t necessarily have the financial flexibility to do these experiences all the time,” he says.
About “85 percent” of the menu will be experimental dishes that don’t appear elsewhere on Reverie’s menu, Spero says. The limited number of customers allows Spero a chance to play with new ideas and use ingredients he can only acquire in small amounts. For example, he says, some days his seafood purveyor will offer him just three abalone.
Spero opened Reverie in October with the goal of approaching his new American cooking with fine-dining techniques while eliminating the exclusivity of it all. Netflix’s The Final Table, which features Spero as a contestant, was released less than two months later. The majority of main courses at Reverie are under $30.
The chef says the idea for the “Friends of the House” program was hatched at a partners’ retreat with the Drink Company team Derek Brown, Angie Fetherston, JP Fetherston, and Paul Taylor.
“When we talked about Reverie and what it was and why I was doing it, the word ‘approachability’ kept coming up,” Spero says.
Spero acknowledges that the program creates an opportunity for cynical customers to pay far less than they can afford, but he doesn’t think people will abuse the new service. With only two seats per night, he wouldn’t expect to take a financial hit.
“If somebody does decide to do that, it’s not going to destroy our evening,” he says, adding, “It might hurt emotionally.”