Dinner Lab really knows how to fancy up an empty space! We arrived at 7 and were welcomed with cocktails. They had a nicely stocked bar, with a talented bartender ready to mix things up to your liking. I went with one of the house drinks which was a sweet tropical punch with a starfruit as garnish. Fancy pants!
Our first course was Bunuelos de Bacalo, which are cod fritters. The fritter was served with pickled squash and a lime-crema. This reminded me of Jamaican fish cakes, which I love. It had just the right amount of fishy flavor that was cut nicely with the lime-crema. The drink pairing was a passion fruit mojito which was added some complimentary sweetness to the saltiness of the cod.
Our second dish was a bean stew with pig tails. If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know I like all the parts of the pig that most people turn away from, so seeing this on the menu made me happy. I loved the flavor of the pig tails. They were cooked until they were fall-off-the-bone tender and with the beans made a really thick hearty stew. It was paired with a Yazoo Hefeweizen (a beer that is normally too "banana-y" for me) but I thought this pairing was genius. The light fruitiness of the beer really cut the thick fattiness of the stew.
Next up was ceviche on roasted eggplant with corn salsa and almonds. I have to be honest- this was the only dish that I thought fell short. The eggplant was overcooked and was pretty soggy and if you add tender and soft ceviche to it, you get an overly mushy plate. I feel like the fish would have been better showcased on a eggplant chip or crusty bread. The upside was the corn and almonds were a really nice addition and added a tad bit of much needed crunch. The ceviche was paired with a white Spanish wine that I enjoyed, considering I'm mostly a red wine gal.
Alright people, hold on to your panties, here is the Pièce de résistance of this meal: Lengua a la Fricasse. This dish is braised beef tongue with a pumpkin mash, an onion raisin slaw and some fried pig fat cracklings. I could hardly contain my excitement over this dish! The tongue was perfect, cooked so long and low that the meat just melted in your mouth. And to Chef Paco's credit, the tongue retained amazing flavor and didn't have the curse of being bland. The pumpkin mash and the onion raisin slaw added a really nice sweet note to the fatty tongue. And who can say no to FRIED FAT?! Everything about this dish was beautiful and I will probably try to recreate this in my kitchen sometime soon when I'm feeling brave. The Lengua was paired with a Spanish red wine.
Let's talk dessert, because this meal ended on a high note. It's hard to find a well-rounded chef that can also make a really stand out sweet dish (hello every season of Top Chef- I'm looking at you) and Paco had this DOWN. Dessert was a Coconut Flan served with dulce de leche, spiked peaches and ajonjoli (candied sesame seeds). I have a soft spot for flan and this was made slightly different, using starch instead of egg as a binder. The consistency was smooth and cool and was cut with the rum of the peach. I will admit that I made sure to pick up all the caramel from the plate with my finger. I HAVE NO FOOD SHAME. The drink that was paired with this was like a Puerto Rican version of egg nog, but fancier and way better than any egg nog I've ever had. It was thick and sweet (condensed milk FTW) and I even went back to beg the bartender for seconds.
Overall, I was totally impressed with this dinner and everything Dinner Lab is trying to do. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the polite and attentive waitstaff and the fact that everyone made a pointed effort to make guests comfortable, happy, and encourage mingling. I believe registration for membership is open and I think they are planning on doing 2 dinners a week going forward. And since the menu changes every time, there is something for everyone.
I would also like to thank Brian and Drew for making all of this possible. Way to go guys, you have a hit!
*Disclaimer: Steve and I were invited to attend this event at no cost. The opinions seen here are solely my own.*