I experienced the lovely Wine & Dine Happybox recently and had a really wonderful dinner at one of their partner restaurants. I’ve written before about beauty-in-a-box subscription services, but imagine a wine & dine gift box! Now that’s an experience that leaves one hungry for more. Each Happybox is presented in a giftbox featuring a full colour guidebook of 9 different top restaurants and a gift card for redemption at one of these restaurants. Whether you’re craving for exotic Asian dishes or classic European fare or a dish that pushes the boundaries of your comfort zone, you’ll find it in the Wine & Dine Happybox Romantic Dinner for 2.
I sorta hemmed and hawed for a couple weeks because all the nine partner restaurants have delicious items on the prix fixe Happybox offer menu and I didn’t know which one to pick. After studying the restaurant descriptions and reading the menus front to back, back to front, I finally decided to make my dinner reservation at Bodega Y Tapas. I am a big fan of tapas because it’s comprised of a variety of appetizers and snacks. In Spain, patrons of tapas can order many different tapas and combine them to make a full meal. The serving of tapas is designed to encourage conversation because people are not so focused upon eating an entire meal that is set before them. That sounds perfect for a romantic dinner, isn’t it?
Experiencing the Wine & Dine Happybox couldn’t get any easier. First I called the restaurant of my choice to make a reservation, then I activated the Happybox gift card online. On the evening of my dinner reservation, I showed up and handed the maitre’d my Happybox gift card. However the funny thing for me was, Bodega Y Tapas happened to be in the midst of revamping their menu and so the prix fixe menu listed in the Happybox guidebook was no longer being offered on the evening I was dining there. I only found out about this after I got to the restaurant. Fortunately, Chef CK Lee at Bodega Y Tapas suggested substitutes which I gladly accepted and I trusted him to serve whatever he deemed as the restaurant’s signature dishes.
First up was the Joselito Iberico and oh, what a treat this is! Iberico cured ham from the free-range, acorn-fed Iberico pig has always been appreciated in Spain. The hams are stored in sea salt for a week or so, then washed and hung in the secaderos, with immaculately maintained, carefully ventilated chambers. In summer heat, the hams sweat and the outer fat melts and penetrates the muscular fibers, a process vital in making the meat tender and aromatic. This is so delicious, from the texture to the aroma to the flavor… I enjoyed every single slice of this Joselito Iberico ham.
Next: Sizzling Tiger Prawns or Gambas al Ajillo is one of the most popular tapas dishes in Spain. This quick and easy dish is so simple to prepare and is bursting with some wonderful flavors and aromas! If you are love prawns and you love garlic and have never tried Gambas al Ajillo before then you are in for a treat. This is a classic dish and I often order this whenever I go to a tapas.
This is the Grilled Spanish Octopus, with Heirloom Tomatoes, Sweet Potato Chips, Balsamic Reduction, Balsamic Powder and Edible Flowers. I think the presentation is very pretty and colorful. I was particularly intrigued by the balsamic powder which I’d never had before. It was most interesting!
Blue Tahitian Mussels in Garlic Onions Chili Padi White Wine Sauce. These had gotta be one of the largest and plumpest mussels I’ve ever encountered.
Spanish Cuca Sardines with Lemon Shallot Salsa, served in tin can. I loved the presentation of this even though it’s a simple sardine-in-a-can dish. But that tin can is oh-so-rustic! Flavor-wise, the sardines aren’t fishy or anything. I personally would have preferred this to be a bit more lemon-y though.
Then Chef Lee surprised us with this star dish: Crispy Pork Crouton. Chef Lee explained that this is made of pig head terrine spread thinly over a slice of ciabatta, panfried, then presented atop three cubes of slow-cooked pork belly. Served with freshly grated horseradish, fresh greens and dijon mustard sauce. This is one helluva creative dish which had all the right flavors, texture and originality. The bitter bite of the finely-grated fresh horseradish is paired brilliantly with the “porkiness” of the pork belly. I totally totally dig this dish very much!
Just when I thought there was no way he could top the last dish, he presented this Ciabatta Wrapped Crispy Egg. This time, crispy ciabatta and small slices of Iberico cured ham enveloped a gooey poached egg, served with spinach and mushroom ragu. Chef Lee added some truffle oil to this also, which made this that much more decadent. Delicioso!
As a finale, Australia Wagyu Cubes Smoked in Hay. Again, I was impressed by this innovative dish and the top image illustrated how the Wagyu cubes were smoked in this stack of hay that’s been specially imported from France. I appreciated the rustic process that gave the beef cubes a robust smoky flavor in every bite. The smokiness also effectively cut through the greasy taste of the beef. The second image showed how the dish is plated, with lettuce, mushroom and “mignonette” sauce.
All in all, I enjoyed this dinner and even though the menu turned out not to be the same one listed in the Happybox guidebook, I was impressed by Chef Lee’s generous substitutions from the newly revamped menu. After experiencing the Wine & Dine Happybox personally, here’s a tip: When you call the restaurant to make a dinner reservation, please be sure to mention that you will be using the Wine & Dine Happybox giftcard and confirm the prix fixe menu as mentioned in the guidebook beforehand. That was something which I didn’t do but I had a happy experience regardless. I think this giftbox idea is so awesome that I have gone on to purchase two separate Wine & Dine Happyboxes as birthday gifts to a couple of good friends. It is such a simple idea really, dining out is an enjoyable activity yet not many restaurants directly offer a gift certificate that you can purchase. So the Wine & Dine Happybox is perfect for this. It is a respectful (and fanciful) birthday or thank you gift for friends and business contacts. Who can say no to being treated to good food and wine, right?