Dinner Lab: Anthos

Opa!  This most recent Dinner Lab experience was the most fun we’ve ever had at one of their communal tables.  Anthos was a Greek-inspired menu concept served at a cool venue.  So nice to share inspired food with interesting people.

DL Anthos crowd

The venue was Borrow, a vintage rental furniture business.  So we were surrounded by eclectic pieces, and seated at farm tables and old barn doors converted to table tops.  Plus it’s amazing what a couple strings of lights will do for the ambiance.

Our party sipped on a pair of bourbon based specialty cocktails, one garnished with fresh rosemary, the other with fresh sage.  Tasty and potent.  Then it was time to dig in to the five courses offered up by Chef Russ Bodner.

First up was a crisp Greek salad with winter vegetables, red mustard and a red wine vinaigrette.  Didn’t taste particularly “Greek” to me, but it was good nonetheless.

DL Anthos tuna

Second course was a lightly seared tuna with fennel pollen crust, thassos olives, dehydrated feta and an orange vinaigrette.  Not sure why the feta, a dry cheese as it is, was dehydrated.  I loved the olives, the tuna was nicely cooked and the portion size was good.  But the dressing wasn’t as bold as I would have liked.

DL Anthos dumplings

The third course was a favorite table-wide.  The ricotta dumplings with crab, crispy tobacco onion, spinach and leek.  It was Mediterranean comfort food as its best.  I liked every element of this dish and gobbled it up.

 Just when we thought we’d had the chef’s best…then came the lamb.  Fourth course was a slow roasted leg of lamb.  Even people the table who don’t eat lamb, liked this lamb.  What set it apart of the bulgar trahan and the harissa.

As we bargained for a second helping of the fan favorite, Chef Russ Bodner addressed the crowd, explaining the inspirations behind his menu concept.  Of all the chefs we’ve dined with at Dinner Lab, Bodner was by far the most engaged with his diners, going table to table and spending significant time with everyone to gather real feedback.

DL Anthos dessert

I dreamt about the decadent dessert that was the fifth and final course, a sticky toffee pudding with a metaxa toffee sauce and mahlepi ice cream.  To. Die. For.  It was just sweet enough…to make you want to lick the bowl.

This wasn’t necessarily my favorite menu of all the Dinner Lab events we’ve attended.  But it was the first time we spent much time talking to the other diners at our table and I really loved that part of it.  I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with other local food fans, swapping restaurant recommendations and chatting about unrelated life lessons, like “what not to say to your pregnant wife.”  It reminded me what the experience is all about.  And I can’t wait to dine again  

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Dinner Lab: Antico E Moderno

As I reflect on my third Dinner Lab, experience a single word comes to mind, synergy.  It was a truly collaborative effort of creative minds and local leaders.  And it was pretty exciting.

Dinner-Lab-St. Thomas

The location of the September event was the most interesting of all of the Cleveland dinners so far.  The site was St. Thomas Evangelical Lutheran Church, a sanctuary that won’t be around much longer.  Brickhaus Partners intends to turn the property on Lake Avenue into a collection of luxury townhomes, and call it 95 Lake.

Photo courtesy Brickhaus Partners Instagram

Photo courtesy Brickhaus Partners Instagram

So as part of the experience, the developer, Andrew Brickman, and Cleveland City Councilman, Matt Zone, were on hand to talk about the big plans for the neighborhood.

Dinner-Lab-band

And as an added bonus to the evening, there was entertainment this time.  City Councilman, Kevin Conwell and his band, The Footnotes, played during cocktail hour and through most of dinner service.

Dinner-Lab-Mytro-menu

The menu and the concept belonged to Chef Matt Mytro, (coincidentally, the same guy behind our Chef’s Table from last weekend.)  He and his partner at Flour Restaurant, Paul Minnillo, like to combine old school Italian cuisine with the occasional modern touch.  Mytro took this opportunity to take his modern approach to the next level.

Dinner-lab-burrata

First course was a warm burrata (a fresh Italian cheese made with mozzarella and cream) with vanilla infused potato chips and pickled chili.  Innovative and tasty.

Dinner-Lab-beet-salad

The second course was a mock beet salad with pistachio, whipped ricotta, dried olive and sorrel.  It was definitely a favorite at our table.

Dinner-Lab-John and Dani

My friend, Dani and I were still admiring the beautiful presentation when we noticed that her boyfriend, John, had already polished his off and was asking for seconds.

Dinner-Lab-swordfish

Course number three had easily the most tender swordfish I’ve ever eaten. Had to look up what “Alla bagnara” meant to understand how it was made…steamed in a garlic broth.  Aha!  That’s why is was so fantastic.

Dinner-Lab-rigatoni

The fourth course was hearty and satisfying.  Chef Mytro said they made the corn rigatoni fresh that day.  But to me the lamb neck sugo (a rich tomato sauce) was the star of this dish.  I could’ve eaten several bowls of that!!

Dinner-Lab-panna-cotta

Dessert was a familiar treat.  The panna cotta sweetened with cereal milk that we’d enjoyed at Mytro’s restaurant, Flour, on Saturday.  This time there was a toasted marshmallow, always a good idea.

Dinner-lab-jen and ben

I love these dinners for a score of reasons.  But I appreciate them because they give me a reason to sit down through a relaxing service and enjoy my husband’s company, as well as those of good friends.  Can’t wait to see what’s next. 

Dinner Lab Does Cleveland

The culinary scene in Cleveland is something to behold…and devour!  And the rest of the country is finally figuring it out.  Besides world class chefs (including James Beard Award winners) and destination restaurants, other related businesses are flocking to town to feed us foodies.

Dinner Lab is a pop up restaurant concept offering memberships to diners who want to try innovative food from emerging chefs, or new menu concepts from established ones.  The events are hosted in unconventional spaces that exist for a mere 24 hours.

This weekend Dinner Lab officially launched in Cleveland with an event catered by Daniel Espinoza, a chef from Chicago.  As a member, I got an email several weeks ago, revealing the date, and the menu title and concept, “Anomar” Modern Mexican Cuisine.  I was excited to be a part of the first meal so we immediately bought the max amount of tickets allowed per membership, 4.  Then about 48 hours before the meal, the location was revealed.

Dinner-Lab-Gallery

The host site, smARTspace at 78th, is a mixed use space on Cleveland’s west side, offering up 6,000 sq. ft. of event and exhibit space.  It was nice to wander down the hallway, sipping on the signature cocktail of the night, checking out the various displays.

Dinner-Lab-Cocktails

We chose the second seating, so we got to check out the meals of our fellow diners on the other side of the room as we made our way to our communal table.

Dinner-Lab-Menu

Now… after all this hype is was finally time to EAT! Out came the first course, an imaginative calamari salad with chorizo.  (Here’s the part where I regretfully admit that I forgot to take pictures of the plated food.  I was so excited about the meal, that I failed to properly document it.  I’ll do better next time! Grateful for my guests who shared their pics)

Dinner-Lab-Calamari

Second course was a crispy tostada topped with pork.  A humble, hearty round two.   As we were served, we were also invited to give honest, constructive feedback and reviews of each dish on survey sheets.  It’s an integral part of the Dinner Lab experience.  I was a tougher critic than the rest of our party.  I didn’t care for the consistency of the chorizo in the first course, and thought the tostada could have used a little sauce to top it off   But the rest of the meal was a home run!

Dinner-Lab-Prep

We had some exceptional fried chicken, served on a cilantro grits for the third course.  And the final savory course was my favorite, a generous portion of tender mahi mahi, with a green mole sauce (my favorite component of the whole meal!)

Dinner-Lab-Jen and Drew

And for dessert, the make-shift kitchen cranked out a dense sponge cake with strawberries, peanuts, and caramel sauce.  The meal was also accompanied by three drink pairings, all of which were well-matched.

Dinner-Lab-Diners

While my husband and I mostly came to visit with our guests (my brother and his fiance, and a friend Danielle who joined us) the Dinner Lab concept encourages a “community dining”, through their communal tables.

Dinner-Lab-Dining-Room

We met a nice couple from Pittsburgh who dined next to us.  A Dinner Lab membership allows you to take advantage of events all over the country…which I think is pretty fun.  I’d love to wrap an overnight trip around one of these events in the future.

Chef Daniel Espinoza

Toward the end of the meal, the chef addressed the crowd as a whole explaining the inspiration for “Anomar,” his grandmother, Ramona.  Then after service was over, Espinoza came to visit each table individually, like a newlywed glad-handing guests at his wedding.  Espinoza was charming, gracious and attentive.  He asked us questions and answered ours.

Front of the house staff told me that initially they’ll be hosting events every month until word gets out and membership builds up.  The goal is to offer one every week.  Sounds delicious!

Dinner-Lab-Jen and Danielle

I invite you to join me for dinner at the next Dinner Lab event!  Click here: Member Invitation  and get $20 credit toward your first meal.