Every week, I document another dish that impressed and satiated me during my food adventures around New York City
I was invited to attend two very unqiue dinners this past month. Both were run by a company called Dinner Lab, which was started in New Orleans and now runs secret member-only pop-up dinners throughout New York (and other cities).
It’s a very cool concept and gives members an insider’s look at some of the city’s brightest up and coming chefs. These chefs are often sous chefs at a prestigious restaurant, but they’re employed to cook somebody else’s food. This is a way for these young creatives to speak for themselves – through food.
It also allows diners (like myself) to try something brand new, meet other adventurous eaters, and mingle with the chefs as their food is being put down on the table.
Each dinner is in a unique location around the city and sticks to a specific theme. The first dinner I attended was by Brad Willits (sous chef at Aldea) and showcased Rustic Northern Food in a very urban setting at the Brooklyn Night Bazaar. The meal unfolded in five courses, including two dishes paired with drinks. Not all the dishes were hits, but it was interesting trying flavors from this young chef’s repertoire, including his formative years in Florida.
The experience also allows for interaction, since Dinner Lab provides cards to rate the dishes and leave feedback for the chef. If anybody watches food shows and has always dreamed of being a judge, this is a near experience (I imagine).
In order to have a well-rounded Dinner Lab experience, I was invited to a second dinner. This one took place in a much more central and fancier setting – at the Union Square Ballroom. While the other was dark and gritty, this one was bright and polished. The chef for this dinner was Ben Osher, who is a Jewish born executive chef of Nobu. So his culinary influences are all over the place.
The theme was The Wandering Chew and featured six courses with Asian and Jewish ingredients that were very unique. Again, some dishes were home runs and others didn’t work quite as well. But I was especially taken by his Madarin Kosho Seabass. The soft white flesh was perfectly cooked (must be his training at the sushi behemoth) and held up to the subtle flavors he put around it. The fish had an orange glow (it almost looked like nachos), but it gave a very delicate flavor of citrus peel with a hit of chile peppers. The crispy garlic chips added a strong-flavored texture and the sauteed baby spinach brought earthiness.
This was just one of the inventive dishes that I discovered on these two meals. But the biggest discovery of all was Dinner Lab. It makes me curious about what all the other one-of-a-kind dinner experiences will be like.
Currently membership is closed in New York, but you can skip the waiting list with an exclusive link here. Once you purchase membership, you have access to their almost 40 yearly events. It’s a really unique way of dining out. And unlike most of the dishes I feature here as my Dish of the Week, these are ones you will most likely never encounter again. How cool (and exclusive) is that?