Mundane dinner reservations, begone! There’s a new wave of dining that has been making strides in recent years: pop-up dining, which features exclusive menus curated in exciting locations that are usually available as one-night-only experiences.
Friday night marked the first Dine and Shop Pop-Up Dinner at downtown Main Street’s Market Arcade, courtesy of Rust Belt Love and The Plating Society, an all-in-one culinary establishment that offers catering, meal delivery, and even recipes.
Four courses of fine dining were prepared by Chef Darian Bryan, the Jamaican-born executive chef of The Plating Society, who mixes his Caribbean heritage with culinary styles from around the globe to create timeline post-worthy delicacies.
This new dining style is perfect for a unique and exciting date night, a friendly social gathering, or just an opportunity to treat yourself. It’s an innovative formula that brings a fresh concept to traditional dining out.
I had the pleasure of being one of 18 guests who experienced an evening of amazing food, ambiance and socialization in a chic and intimate setting. Not only was the pop-up experience in itself something new and exhilarating for me, but the culinary expertise of Chef Bryan had me and my fellow diners anticipating each course that arrived.
As a girl who loves a good bowl of butternut squash soup in autumn, I’ve tried many different kinds, but Chef Bryan’s roasted butternut squash and apple soup, garnished with roasted sunflower seed kernels presented a refreshingly new take on a seasonal staple.
The chef certainly has a talent for pairing flavors, with combinations like smoky bacon bourbon jam with the naturally understated sweetness of scallops, a salad featuring fruity poached pear to accent zesty mixed greens with candied pecans, nutty gorgonzola and a tangy red wine vinaigrette, a medley of savory diced bell peppers, celery, and scallions for a fresh and colorful addition to crab-stuffed sole, and a creamy panna cotta dessert topped with a tart pomegranate glaze and decadent chocolate curls. And that's only a glimpse of the night’s incredible offerings.
I was completely blown away by every course, a series of dishes that complimented one after the other like a fine production, no detail overlooked. Everything was cooked and seasoned to perfection, leaving my palate pleased and awestruck. You know something is really great when it sparks your creativity. That’s what Chef Bryan’s dishes did for me. I think I’m equal parts intimidated and inspired to get into the kitchen and experiment with some colors and flavors myself!
His dishes truly embody the concept of food as art, making a pop-up the perfect way for him to showcase his culinary expertise and to allow a lucky few at a time to consume some true masterpieces.
In fact, his plates are as aesthetically pleasing to view as they are delicious to taste. Presentation is very much a part of Chef Bryan’s expertise, hence the meaning behind his company’s name, The Plating Society. The chef does not merely serve food; he presents it.
The pop-up was a great success, as Bryan’s years-long dream was finally manifested.
“This was in the planning from a while back…so doing this for the first time...Wow,” he said of the evening. “All this planning for all of these three years, it’s finally here. I can’t believe it. It’s just a wonderful feeling.”
Bryan also cited the connections made between his guests as contributing to his passion for being a chef.
“I love cooking because food brings people together,” he said. “When we walked through the door, we were all strangers, By the end of the night we’re all friends because everyone’s having fun and having a good time.”
Feel bad about missing out on the experience? I can’t say I blame you, but don’t despair. Chef Bryan plans to do a pop-up each month and he’s cooking up some even bolder ideas.
“The next location could be somewhere weird, somewhere crazy. On a rooftop, who knows?” he says. “The only things I need are my hotbox and my burners.”
While pop-up restaurants will continue to be part of Chef Bryan’s future, he does foresee his very own brick-and-mortar restaurant in the city, specifically, a fine-dining Caribbean restaurant that is sure to transport locals to a tropical paradise full of flavor.
“I want to bring Jamaica to Buffalo,” he said. “I want to make my guests feel like they’re in the Caribbean. On my walls, I want to project a screen of the ocean and the waves...”
Hopefully, the city will be graced with a standalone restaurant in the near future. In the meantime, however, do yourself a favor by following Chef Darian Bryan on Instagram and Facebook to see where he’ll pop up next! Wherever it is, I know I’ll be there. Will you be there, too?