I used to walk by the French Culinary Institute all the time when I lived down in Chinatown. It never occurred to me to eat at L'Ecole. Why? Who knows, maybe it was because I was young and in college, and fried chicken from a cart in Chinatown was enough sustenance. Or maybe it was because I studied computer science and it pained me to eat food that was prepared by individuals who pursued their dreams while I debugged while loops over and over and over... Now that I am older and no longer bitter (HA!), it is easier to appreciate culinary student prepared food from L'Ecole.
They offer two different prix fixe meals at L'Ecole, and both are $43 dollars. If you go for dinner before 8pm, it is four courses. If you go after 8pm it is 5 courses. Since I am a certified computer science major, I can tell you that I really should have waited til after 8 to go, but I like sharing pictures with you so my stomach sacrificed one course for your viewing pleasure. (See the things I do for YOU?!)
Dinner starts with the bread basket and a canapé and it was ok. Shrimp is nice, but onto the bread... Lately I have been doing more cardio and I want to eat bread all the time. When the server left the bread basket on my table, I pretty much attacked with with the same gusto Lance Armstrong attacks the Alps in the Tour de France. And Lance won that thing like seven times, so you know how hard I went at the bread. It was decent bread, but mostly my brain was on auto-pilot and saying, "OMG carbs! I crave carbs! Cario training? What cardio training?! You need carbs! NOM NOM NOM."
The fresh corn soup with lobster and pancetta came midway through my climb up the alps and at that point half the bread basket was gone. The soup was corny. No, that sounded wrong... the soup was packed with fresh corn flavor. The soup was tasty and the lobster bits were yummy. I do not know how to describe lobster meat except to say that you know when it is soft and delicious versus when it is tough and overcooked. L'Ecole had soft and tasty lobster. I wonder if people ever serve corn soup cold instead of hot, because that would be interesting.
After I used a few more pieces of bread to soak up the soup, the main event was ready - black sea bass with shrimp. To be completely honest, I was already full from the bread. But there was a little voice that said, "Does Lance quit? What are you? A weeny?" Right after that, my stomach perked right up. What you do not see in the picture above is that the fish sat on top of pieces of roasted potatoes (at least they tasted like potatoes, either way it was starchy). Those potatoes, along with the roasted tomatoes, really made the dish. Acid from the tomatoes + roasted potato + fish = happiness. Ahhh... Oh and after this I ate more bread.
They give you this palette cleansing sorbet trio right before the dessert. Mango, grapefruit, and coconut. Pretty standard as far as sorbet goes, but the grapefruit was the best. I could have eaten a whole bowl of that but the frozen meyer lemon mousse was what I really wanted. The waitress suggested that dessert and mmmmm... it was like ice cream almost. The lemon flavor made it summery and light. Too bad you cannot buy this in the frozen aisle in your grocery store.
All in all, it was an enjoyable meal at L'Ecole. It was pretty cool that the meal was prepared by students. If you go, obviously go after 8pm because you probably do not need to take pictures and you get one more course. Seems to make more sense to me, but what do I know? Maybe I would know more if I could just be Kanye.
Also I discovered that New York Magazine and The FCI (they are the ones who run L'Ecole) are going to team up and host the New York Culinary Event on September 20 and 21. It is going to be a two day event that feature many classes with top chefs like Dan Barber, Eric Ripert, and Masaharu Morimoto. Tickets run a cool $1,395 and you are the type with that kind of coin, you might want to go get a ticket before they run out, because this city is full of rich foodies (otherwise who eats at Le Bernadin every night? Who are you? And can you be my friend?!?)
note: the picture of the knife cutting and the three chefs are not mine. I found them either on the FCI or the NYCE site.
L'Ecole at The French Culinary Institute
New Y ork, NY 10013
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