Monday, August 31, 2015

The Dinner Lab Experience

Written and Photgraphy
Andrew Livelsberger

Vue Columbus
Our DinnerLab venue!


Background:
DinnerLab is a club of sorts that anyone can join.  You get a membership which opens up the location list for you of when an event will be held and the menu.  Select a location - for us it was Columbus - but you can attend any DinnerLab events anywhere.  Once you sign up for a specific event, a few days before, you are told the venue and time.
For the price you pay, you get a meal and drinks.  You just need show up and enjoy!




Our hostess and chef explain the courses for the evening


Impression:
It was a light, open atmosphere.  Upon first arrival, you check in and are directed to the dinning area.  Before dinner, everyone is visiting, some people know each other, while others like us are new to the whole experience.

My wife and I decided to try this as we consider ourselves "foodies" and we enjoy the experience of finding new and different cuisines.

Promptly at the starting time, we are seated and the hostess and chef come out to explain a little bit about the DinnerLab experience for the newbies as well as cover the menu.

After which, the dinner courses started arriving.
The pace at which the courses were served was perfect, as were the portion sizes.

Chef Russ Bodner prepared a meal inspired by his experience working in Michelin starred Greek restaurant in NYC.
Chef Bodner is originally from St. Louis, MO and moved to NYC to further his culinary career. He has worked in such restaurants as Aspen Mountains Club, Springhouse and Randolfi's


Lightly Seared Tuna
fennel pollen crust, thassos olives, dehydrated feta, orange vinaigrette
Course #1
I love lightly seared tuna, and up until this dinner, I've only every had tuna done like this with a salt/pepper/sesame seed crust.  This interpretation of it was outstanding.  What really made it wasthe orange.  You don't think much of it at first, but once you try it, you are hooked!  Excellent flavors as well as excellent textures.

Ricotta Dumplings
Lousiana crawfish, tobacco onions, spinach,leek, corn, beans
Course #2
The sauce is what made it for me hear.  Very light and flavorful.  Not overpowering.  The dumplings were el dente and so delicious!

Smoked Octopus
pickled shallots, mushroom, coriander yogurt, frisee
Course #3
I've had octopus before, and if you have ever had it, you know that if it is over cooked, it turns into a rubbery, chewy mess.  Chef Bodner prepared it so expertly - I can say that without a doubt, the best preparation of octopus I've ever had and my favorite dish of the night.  The smoked flavor of the octopus coupled with the texture reminded me of sausage in a way.

Slow Roasted Lamb Leg
bulgar trahana, green onion, grilled okra, harissa
Course #4
Excellent lamb dish, which stayed away from the traditional "sweet mint" sauce and instead gave us a completely different and more earthy flavor palette.
Okra is another tricky item and if not made properly can be come out slimey.  That is why a lot of places deep fry it.  So when I saw grilled, I had my reservations.  Russ knocked it out of the park again!

Tsoureki Shortcake
basil ice cream, mastic oil, strawberry, yogurt
Course #5
This dense shortcake was paired with a basil ice cream.  Again, another set of earthy flavors, but enough sweet to balance the whole thing.  The strawberries and yogurt tartness added another element to the dish, making for a well balanced and light dessert option.

Bottom line, if you you want to experience a unique menu and want to have a good time - definitely hit a DinnerLab some time.  It is so worth the money if you love food the way we do.