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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Experimentally Delectable: Dinner Lab's First Event in the Capital City

The Dinner Lab set up at the Olde Town Emporium in Baton Rouge, LA
The Dinner Lab set up at the Olde Town Emporium in Baton Rouge, LA

by Blair "B-Rex" Loup

Team Bite and Booze couldn’t be more excited to have something like Dinner Lab come to Baton Rouge. Dinner Lab strives to highlight up and coming chefs from all over the country with pop-up dinners featuring experimental menus in off-the-wall venues.

Dinner Lab is a simple, brilliant idea. Once you sign up for membership, you gain access to buy tickets to dinners in Baton Rouge or in any of the other 24 cities Dinner Lab operates in. They handle the logistics, the chef shows up to cook, and you shove delicious food in your mouth.

Jay and I had the opportunity to attend their first event in Baton Rouge at the beginning of April, and it was everything I imagined it would be: cool menu, cool space, and cool chef.

I feel it necessary to inform you that as a diner, I am down for anything. I will taste almost everything at least twice. While Dinner Lab's Culinary Director, Chef Mario A. Rodriguez, didn't have anything super out of the ordinary on his menu aside from goat and fish dumplings, I’ve learned throughout my time here at Bite and Booze that some people are more cautious about what they’re willing to eat and where they’re willing to eat it. I, on the other hand, am an adventurous eater and do not discriminate against sketchy places.

Having that said, I found myself to be perfectly comfortable sitting in the Olde Town Emporium eating a Malaysian menu inspired by dishes Chef Mario learned in New York City kitchens.

As a logistics company, they killed it: four separate seatings of sixty people each over the course of two nights. From our vantage point as diners it seemed that everything got executed flawlessly.

The signature cocktail of the evening prepared our palates for the courses to come and the menu lived up to the Dinner Lab hype that's been buzzing around town these past few months. We got some sensational food with some bold flavors that are hard to find around here. The clams and goat stood out as the highlight of the meal. If I'm being picky, I thought the menu contained too much pineapple. Three of the five courses had a pineapple element. In one case I found it overpowering (the salad), in the second it didn't truly belong (the soup), and in the third the pineapple absolutely made sense (with the goat). Overall, the night was a blast and I'm looking forward to future Dinner Labs in Baton Rouge.

First Course: Green Papaya & Lychee Salad with Fried Peanuts and Cilantro Crema
First Course: Green Papaya & Lychee Salad with Fried Peanuts and Cilantro Crema

Second Course: Red Chili Littleneck Clams with Chinese Sausage and Green Onion
Second Course: Red Chili Littleneck Clams with Chinese Sausage and Green Onion

Third Course: Tamarind Stew with Fish Dumplings, Rice Noodles, and Red Chilies
Third Course: Tamarind Stew with Fish Dumplings, Rice Noodles, and Red Chilies

Fourth Course: Goat Rendang with Coconut Rice, Pickled Pineapple, and Kaffir Lime
Fourth Course: Goat Rendang with Coconut Rice, Pickled Pineapple, and Kaffir Lime

Fifth Course: Coconut Panna Cotta with Rice Cake, Ginger Granita, and Cashew Crumble
Fifth Course: Coconut Panna Cotta with Rice Cake, Ginger Granita, and Cashew Crumble