Experimenting Dinner with Dinner Lab: Chef Tan Uckan's Cagdas Turk

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I’ve always felt like cooking and eating is like science. You put a bunch of ingredients together like you’re in a lab (except it’s your kitchen) and then when you’re done, you eat it!  Going out to dinner is a bit different.  Instead of putting a bunch of ingredients together, you’re choosing a location, the food, and company.  If you’re like me and love food, exploring new foods, and interesting new concepts, then you just might be a huge fan of Dinner Lab.  If you hate reading – check out a simple video here.  If you love reading my words (and I know you do!)… read on!

I learned about Dinner Lab through a coworker that knew I was a total foodie.  After doing some researching, I learned that the gist of Dinner Lab is:

  • Talented chefs from across the world will make you a delicious menu you can’t get any where else
  • At a secret location (no worries, no where too sketch, you just won’t know where until the day before)
  • With an open bar, and also sometimes pairings that come with each course
  • And you get to meet other foodies and have fun conversations

Intrigued?  I was.  So I decided to try it out!  I headed over to the website and checked out the next event’s chef and menu.  Chef Tan Uckan from Istanbul, Turkey was going to prepare a 5 course meal.  SIGN ME UP.  Here are the deets to my first Dinner Lab experience:
The location – FUSE Arts Center.  You learn the location the day before the event.  I signed in and jumped on the elevator and the door opens to the second floor and there is a bar ahead.  They are serving a special tea cocktail  This was the special drink of the night, and if you don’t want it no worries, the rest of the bar had beer, red wine, and white wine (and maybe more, but I don’t remember).

In the next room, there were several tables set up for the dining experience. I made some new friends in the first room and were invited to sit with them so I did.  This is where I enjoyed 5 courses:
yogurt soup | pulled lamb shoulder | spicy kale root | fresh herbs

fresh herb & bulgur salad | roasted & spiced pepper | pomegranate seed | molasses glaze

zucchini fritter | green herb dressing | süzme yogurt | fresh tomato (this was paired with Brut, Purete de Silex, Loire Valley, France)
Oglak Kebabi
roasted goat | charred eggplant | pickled red cabbage | pea pureé & poppy seed (this was paired with Joven, Bodegas Y Vinedos, Ribera Del Duero, Spain 2014)

Dondurmali Irmik Helvasi
semolina halva | vanilla ice cream | walnut & pistachio stuffed fig

As mentioned, before you sign up for an event, you get to see the menu.  So it’s not some huge surprise what you’re going to eat.  You also get to tell them what you are allergic to if you are, so they can make accommodations for you.
My thoughts of the food – each dish pretty much topped the previous.  It just got better and better and BETTER.  I was a pig and ate ALL my food, unlike my new friends I made.  NO REGRETS.  I’m not going to be able to eat this again!  (I guess that’s kind of the whole idea behind Dinner Lab – eating something you’ve never had before and maybe not ever again.)
My favorite is the Oglak Kebabi (roasted goat) and the Dondurmali Irmik Helvasi (dessert).  I don’t usually even care for dessert, but this one was amazing.  Ate the whole damn thing.
After the meal, I got to chat with Chef Tan Uckan a bit (he also comes visits all the tables to introduce himself):

So, in conclusion, I would say my first experiment with Dinner Lab was a pretty great experience!  I did learn in talking with others I heard that not every meal have all courses be this amazing, but hey, like any lab (science, cooking, dinner), you win some you lose some, and you won’t know unless you try.
To try Dinner Lab out yourself, you can head over to dinnerlab.com. You can also follow them on twitter and instagram.
Interested in learning more about Dinner Lab experiences?  Check out the second event I attended here!

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