Originally open just on Sundays for lunch and dinner, the highly original restaurant DUGNAD, run by a group of artists, has now transformed its concept to become a “puerta cerrada” or hidden restaurant. Now open three times a week, the idea is a private dinner for up to twelve people, spanning at least eight courses.
“Dugnad” is a Norwegian word meaning “voluntary work done together with other people.” It is, in fact, somewhat similar to the concept of a “minga” in Chile’s Chiloé Archipelago, where local communities work together to help each other out.
Founded by Nicolas Lopez and Olivia Dannemann, the idea behind DUGNAD was to develop an eatery run by people who have the time and space to explore and create dishes with passion. Breaking free from the restrictions of bosses and formal restaurant structures, the DUGNAD team place a huge emphasis on having the freedom to express themselves however they please.
“We have a different menu each Sunday,” one of the chefs, Maria Pia Uriarte from Lima, Peru, told This is Chile. “Dinner is six courses and we are enjoying being in Chile because there are very good products here — from herbs to vegetables and seafood.”
There’s no need to worry about gorging yourself on too much food (as sometimes happens with tasting menus), each dish is minimalist and beautifully presented. But don’t think the slick presentation is a matter of luck — DUGNAD employs a food sculptor.
“We have a sculptor who makes the dishes,” publicist Olivia Dannemann tells This is Chile as if it’s something completely normal. “Each plate is individually designed.”
Sure enough each course is as noteworthy for its artistic presentation, as it is for its delicate flavors and unusual ingredients. Served in natural colored clay dishes, an example of the evening dinner menu is as follows: toasted flour, smoked egg yoke and artichoke to start, before moving on to Rey fish with mushrooms. The latter is a fillet of fish with the skin still on, accompanied by a tempura fish skeleton for decoration.
Next come onions in yogurt, followed by a small mug of chicken broth and a diminutive piece of pork served on a plate dotted with squid ink.
The last course takes the form of a duo of desserts: citrus and gin crushed ice as a palate cleanser, followed by an interpretation of creme brulee and meringue. Another dessert that has created quite a buzz is DUGNAD’s chocolate with bacon.
One thing that sets the food at DUGNAD apart is its simplicity.
“The chefs like to study just one product in depth, for example making a plate out of onions. Only onions,” says Dannemann.
And, of course, when in Chile the food is served along with delicious Chilean wine.
DUGNAD also offers “Domingos de Abuela” which are Sunday lunches with comfort food just like your grandmother makes it. The fun quirk here is that if you bring your grandmother along she will eat for free. And, if you like the food so much you can reserve the team to cook for you at home or cater for a group of friends or party.
The DUGNAD tasting menu costs CLP $19,000 and start at 9pm. For reservations contact: email@example.com