With food culture taking New York City and the world by storm, it was only a matter of time before dining was taken out of restaurants and brought into a secretive underground. Supper clubs are popping up left and right. Some are founded on one chef’s ideals, others on showcasing some of the world’s most renowned ingredients and other in more deviant behavior.
DinnerLab, the newest kid on the New York City supper club block is a little bit of all three. The New Orleans based transplant is a members only affair that allows up-and-coming chefs a night of glory: a multi course dinner of their choosing and imagination. Dinners are held in top secret locations running the gamut from a helipad to church foyer. To keep diners on a mystery induced edge, dinner locations are only revealed 24 hours before the meal.
A couple of weeks ago I went to my first DinnerLab event. The theme of my dinner was From Chaos to Refinement, a seven course meal with drink pairings imagined by Chef Zack Dworsky. Dworsky now works with DinnerLab, guiding the chefs for the club’s New York City operations, but before that put time in the kitchen at renowned restaurants The London, Aquavit and two Michelin starred Claridges in London.
Located in the gym of a defunct Catholic school in Williamsburg the shroud covered meal did not disappoint. Clean, understated components defined the dinner with plates including poached bay scallops, crispy veal sweetbreads and house made cavatelli. The plates created highlighted interesting and playful combinations; the scallops, for example, were topped with scallop sauce, paddlefish caviar, tapioca pearls and chive- probably my favorite dish of the night. Smartly paired wines and a modern riff on a classic cocktail rounded out the fine meal.
The food was good, beyond good in fact. I got to eat an interesting seven course meal prepared by a top chef and coupled with plenty of wine to keep me in a good mood on even the worst of days. But perhaps what was most enjoyable about my first DinnerLab event was to dine with fellow minded eaters; people who are excited to try new ingredients, care about food and to whom a good meal is the ideal night out. Of course I can go to dinner with my friends, many of which exhibit each of these qualities, but to meet new people that you immediately connect with, bound by the loving bond of good food is a rarity in such quantities.
Couple good company with price- between $65-85 each meal, including all drinks, tax and gratuity- DinnerLab is quite the deal. The idea of eating in an offbeat non-restaurant location just adds to the appeal. For chefs, DinnerLab serves as the perfect canvas to showcase their food philosophy and test out flavor combinations or ingredient driven themes. For diners, DinnerLab is a great space for those who love food to try new plates, meet new people and venture to new locations in their city they may not have ever had the chance to visit before.
Turns out I’m not the only one who thought DinnerLab would be (and was) a good idea. Currently, memberships in New York City are sold out but there is promise they’ll soon open up some spots to those on the waiting list. Alternatively, if you’re not local to New York don’t fret; DinnerLab is already established in New Orleans, Austin, Nashville and Los Angeles and is set to open in five more cities by the end of the year.
That time I dined in a gym was a success. i look forward to more meals in botanical gardens, on city streets and wherever else DinnerLab may take me over the next year.