A unique social dining experiment has arrived in Atlanta. Dinner Lab, the secret, pop-up supper club that began in New Orleans, is now accepting members.
It’s a mouthwatering concept: up-and-coming chefs get a chance to showcase their talents and creativity with a group of adventurous food fans. The chef and five-course menu are announced when tickets go up for sale, but the location is a secret until the day before. During the dinner guests are encouraged to write comments about each dish and offer constructive feedback for the chef.
The Amateur Gastronomer got a sneak peek (and taste) last week at the Panta Rei dinner featuring Chef Brandon Chavannes. The Atlanta born and raised chef brings his passion for cooking seafood to Lure in Midtown. For his Dinner Lab menu, Chef Chavannes mixed Spanish and West Indies culinary traditions, and highlighted foods he grew up on.
The location of the dinner was Studio 900, a nondescript space on Dekalb Avenue in Inman Park that would be easy to miss, had there not been a number of cars parked in front. After sipping a welcome cocktail and mingling with the other guests, we took our seats at communal tables.
The first course was Ajo Blanco with Jonah crab, which had a wonderful mix of flavors and textures. The Spanish chilled soup was paired with Kila Cava, and we were encouraged to add a splash of it into the dish.
The second course was the egg-shaped Tuna Crudo. One of the most popular dishes of the evening, the raw tuna was surrounded by avocado and served with ginger jam, black sesame puree and basil seeds. It was paired with a 2011 Baumann Riesling from Alsace, France.
The third course was Fried Octopus, served on top of a Spanish ragout with chorizo, tomato and saffron. The preparation made for tender and flavorful meat. It was paired with a 2005 Marques de Caceres Rioja Reserva from Spain.
The fourth course was Braised Oxtail. It was prepared with gigande beans and smoked mushrooms, and served with a rectangle of hard dough bread. Rich and savory, the dish was my favorite of the night, and was excellent with the Rioja from the prior course.
The fifth and final course was Cake & Ice Cream. The strawberry and coconut ice cream went really well with the subtle spicy notes in the cake. It wouldn’t have been a dessert I would have ordered at a restaurant (I’m more of a fruit or pie kind of person), so I appreciated the chance to enjoy something outside of my typical dining habits.
The service was fast and friendly, portions generous and the chef and company made for a memorable evening. It was a delicious experience that I can’t wait to try again.
Membership is $125 a year, and gets you access to the 50 plus dinners in Atlanta as well as events in all ten Dinner Lab cities. Tickets for individual events are purchased separately, and typically range from $50 to $95 per person, inclusive of alcohol, tax and gratuity. Members can buy tickets for themselves and a guest, plus an additional four tickets at a slightly higher cost. Membership is limited, and you’ll want to act fast when dinners are announced as they sell out, sometimes within minutes.
Get your membership now so you can check out the inaugural Dinner Lab Chef Tour. Over the course of the next three months, 12 chefs will serve their menu in all ten cities, tweaking it along the way with diner feedback. At the end of the tour the highest rated chefs will pitch their concept to a group of investors, for the chance to open their own restaurant.
For more information on Dinner Lab visit dinnerlab.com.