Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Dinner Lab is officially in Atlanta!

Imagine: Your friend plans an awesome dinner date for you, but keeps all the details a surprise until the very last minute. On the day of the dinner, she emails you the address of the secret location (say, an abandoned but renovated loft space in the cool part of town) and a few details about the meal, like whether it’s seafood or steak, but that’s it. How exciting! 

If you have a friend who will do this for you, you’re very lucky. If you don’t, there’s Dinner Lab: A new social dining experience that brings together under-discovered chefs and adventurous diners for a truly unique evening of food. And it’s finally here in Atlanta
Panta Rei Dinner Lab in Atlanta (c) Teodora Nicolae

Dinner Lab finds the best up-and-coming chefs in the city, gives them the freedom to cook with their favorite ingredients—perhaps ones they don’t have a chance to cook with in their restaurant or ones that reflect their heritage—and exposes diners to brand new food concepts.

I call this foodie heaven on earth. 
(c) Teodora Nicolae

I recently got to experience Dinner Lab for myself and was blown away by the experience. Once you walk into the secret location, you’re immediately greeted with an alcoholic beverage. You mingle around the former film studio, meeting your fellow diners, and eventually sit down to dinner. 

Each course is served on bamboo china and paired with a wine or beer of chef’s choice. Take a look at what I feasted on: 
Ajo blanco: White gazpacho, jonah crap, paired with Cava

Tuna crudo: Ginger jam, black sesame puree, basil seeds, avocado sphere, paired with Baumann Riesling
Fried Octopus: Spanish ragout, chorizo, tomato & saffron, paired with Rioja Reserva
Braised oxtail: Gigande beans, hard dough bread, smoked mushrooms
Cake & ice cream: Strawberry, basil, black pepper, coconut
Chef Brandon Chavannes of Lure (and previously Pura Vida) combined his two favorite cuisines for the Panta Rei dinner: West Indies and Spanish. He grew up eating authentic Jamaican food (his Jamaican dad makes to-doe-for braised oxtails and curry goat, he says). The Spanish inspiration comes from Chef Brandon’s travels to Spain, where he fell in love with the culture and food.
Chef Brandon Chavannes 

The chef’s passion for his food was clear throughout the entire evening. As you nosh on each course, you have the chance to leave your feedback for the chef, which Dinner Lab will use to help them improve each experience. They’re also working on a real-life “Top Chef”-style competition, where the winning chef gets his/her own restaurant in the city you, the diners, choose! 
All 5s for Chef Brandon

Dinner Lab is currently in 10 markets and expanding, and the membership for Atlanta is currently $125. Dinner prices vary from $60-80 (isn) per person and include alcohol, so you know you’re going to enjoy your evening. See you at the next Atlanta Dinner Lab? 

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