Tags: Events | Restaurants & Dining

Bridging the Gap

Posted 04.24.15 by Miranda

About 8 months I got called into my boss’s office to watch a video. The content was intriguing – young chefs, unique spaces, communal dining, and 5 course meals…I wanted to know more immediately! She was explaining a trendy pop-up dining concept that I now know as Dinner Lab. I remember Kate’s excitement as she asked, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we had that here?!”

Fast forward 6 months and I’m standing on a rooftop at 5th and Mill in Downtown Tempe with Kate and Brian Bordainick, the CEO and founder of Dinner Lab. Kate and I get confirmation that Dinner Lab is officially opening a Phoenix market that would include Tempe. We discussed potential locations and listened to Brian’s enthusiasm for one location in particular.

Jump ahead 2 months and there I am, walking along Rio Salado headed toward the Tempe Center for the Arts. However, I didn’t go in…but made my way to the Pedestrian Bridge instead. I was greeted by Dinner Lab folks, who checked in my guests and I...letting us know what to expect during the course of the evening. We were able to see the culinary staff preparing the fare as we made our way to the bar, which was situated on the bridge. With wine in hand, we toasted to an extraordinary evening. After all, we were enjoying a glass of wine with friends at sunset suspended above a body of water and knew that a 5 course meal was about to ensue at a beautiful community table.

I won’t torture you with all of the mouth-watering details, but I will tell you that we were able to meet Chef Nini Nguyen, who created the “Vietnam Nom Nom” menu that graced the palettes of 150 of my new friends. Prior to the first course, she introduced herself to the group and described the meal that she and her staff prepared. Post-meal, Nini came and spoke to the group again, but this time she (gasp!) asked for feedback. Diners were able to leave feedback on a card provided by Dinner Lab throughout the course of the evening, but we were able to give that feedback directly to the chef as well. How often do diners get that opportunity? This feedback ultimately allows Dinner Lab chefs to learn, tweak, and grow as culinary maestros.

Dinner Lab is a truly unique dining concept that bridges the gap between up and coming chefs and ordinary diners like myself. The 5 course Vietnamese meal served on Tempe’s Pedestrian Bridge is a dining experience I will never forget. I look forward to many more Dinner Lab events in the valley, and hope to see Downtown Tempe play host more often than not. Although it might be hard to top a pop-up restaurant on a bridge, I can’t wait to see what Dinner Lab has in store for the Phoenix market…and am looking forward to meeting new faces with each and every meal.

Dinner Lab photos credit: Debby Wolves, AZ Central

Location: Tempe Center for the Arts