Comidas con Onda: Dugnad – Dinner Behind Closed Doors

Dugnad, a puertas cerradas (closed door) restaurant is a foodie experience where you take part in the stimulating, yet down to Earth, dinner where a group of up to 18 random guests come together to enjoy an 8 course tasting menu accompanied by organic wines and craft beers at the chef’s home. 
We walked into a minimalist dining room with two large canvasses of modern art, oldies playing in the background and large art books lining the corners. A relaxing environment with wide-open windows overlooking the sun setting over Santiago with fresh air seeping in from Parque Bustamante just outside, we began our culinary tour relaxed yet anxious to begin our mystery dinner. 
We made a reservation, a deposit, and were welcomed into Chef Nicolas’ home. None of us had any idea what would be on the menu., but as the dishes and drinks rolled out, everything was a complete, beautifully presented surprise. Before digging in to each course, Nicolas gave us a description of each plate and wine and left us alone to delve into his artistic creations and combinations.

First Course: Carrot and toffee purée and orange and lime purée over sweet popcorn. The carrot and toffee purée was a surprising hit. 
Second Course: Salad – arugula, grapes, cumquat, fava beans, beans, plain yogurt and lime

Each plate was not only an imaginative and artistic expression, but a vast array of flavors and unique combinations that most of the guest hadn’t tried or imagined before. Dugnad describes itself as cocina de producto – using quality products, individually picked and perfectly cooked, uniting each ingredient to tell a story with each plate. It’s well thought out and executed with no overpowering seasonings that can often take away from their natural flavors, instead they use a mix of common and exotic ingredients painting a picture that is both welcoming and intensely intriguing.

Third Course: raw egg yoke and cauliflower, cauliflower purée, & bread crumbs topped with ground malt

Cenas a puertas cerradas is like a dinner party with strangers. Sitting family style, you naturally begin to converse with strangers enjoying excellent food and great, organic wine. I originally thought this would take away from my experience, but it was an asset – these people loved food and wine just as much as I do, and the conversation never became awkward as we tasted and shared our opinions on each dish. When you share in particular leisure activities, you generally meet people who have some similar interests, and it turned a pleasant and interesting meal to one that was fun and memorable.

Fourth Course: raw fish, sautéed avocado, dried plum, cilantro and jalapeño. Flower petals, bacon and chocolate, squid ink, raw fish, cow’s tongue are just common ingredients Dugnad uses.  
Fifth Course: sautéed beets topped with pistachios and cilantro
over yogurt

After the dinner, Argentine Chef Nicolas Lopez joined us in a culinary conversation giving us an idea of what Dugnad is all about. As he explained, dugnad is a Norwegian word describing a community project organized and orchestrated by the community/neighborhood. Similarly, Dungad is a collaborative project formed by a group of friends and artists creating this pop-up restaurant or closed door restaurant (AKA supper club, secret or underground restaurant).

Typically these trending dinners take place at the chef’s home, rooftop, garden or at a fixed or mystery location. The idea is that the chef has more liberty to experiment and creatively make dishes without the pressures and barriers that a restaurant would impose. People either find out from word of mouth or through an internet platform, usually Facebook. It’s a great way to do something new and sample new food in a more intimate setting with the guest and chef.

Sixth Course: slow cooked pork belly with a crisp outer layer & mango salsa. 
Each plate is individually designed, and Dugnad has a food sculptor.

Nicolas expressed his passion for cooking and creating new things based on the combinations he’s tried in international cuisines and experimenting which is why some of his creations may have seemed a bit out of the ordinary, yet they come together and complement each other quite nicely. For example, we told us about the pork dish and how the mango sauce with an onion petal was deconstructed and inspired by Indian chutneys.

Seventh Course: chocolate macaroon & banana ice cream

One of the things I took away and what Chef Nicolas emphasized was that this was a very human experience; we’ve all come together to enjoy excellent, new and unique food, converse with each other in a pleasant environment, and go away with an experience. Bear in mind that this dinner lasted four hours, (but didn’t feel that long at all!) and it was one of those moments when you detach yourself from your busy life and enjoy the most simple things that we are so accustomed to ignoring or rushing through as we’re wired with cell phones in hand.

As Nicolas and his partner, Olivia Dannemann, are globetrotters, having lived in Norway, New York, among other cities and countries, they’re back in the southern corner of the world making their mark in Chile, and in mid March, the artists will make their break into more traditional dining with a new 99 Restaurant in Providencia. Can’t wait to stop in!

Eighth Course: Chocolate moose, fresh strawberries
 and banana ice cream

Info and links:

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