Note: This restaurant closed in December 2010.
Note: this is the first review I ever wrote. Hopefully the format and content has improved since then, but the basic review still stands!
Against my better judgment, I broke a 19 hour sleeping marathon to join friends for dinner at Le Cordon Bleu Western Culinary Institute ‘Gourmet’ student restaurant. I would have been better off staying in bed.
The Menu –
Rabbit Canapé on philo with spicy raspberry sauce
Ginger Carrot Soup
Duck Farfalle Pasta – Braised duck, sage paint garnish, and demi-glace
Mixed Greens salad with Granny Smith apples, Blue Cheese and Red Onions with Hazelnut Vinaigrette
Brined Pork Chop, grilled and served with horseradish mashed potatoes, brocollini, caramelized red onion, with bourbon beurre blanc sauce
Boston Cream Pie
At first a small canapé was served: rabbit on a small philo round with a berry syrup. None of it was balanced — the rabbit was overpowered by the butter in the philo and the sauce. Grade – D. The empty dish with the sauce sat in the middle of each plate for 20 minutes before they cleared it away, getting all over the menus.
The soup was insipid and one-dimensional. I was reminded of pure carrot juice poured into a bowl with a little crème fraiche swirled around. Ginger taste was mostly absent. Soup (supposed to be served hot was lukewarm). The entire dish lacked depth and balance. Grade – D
The Duck Pasta – The duck was cold and way overcooked with a soggy skin. The accompanying farfalle pasta was also overcooked and gummy. A dash of sage Paint was so faint as to add no redeeming value to the disk. Grade – F
Mixed Greens Salad – All ingredients were generally fresh and of good quality. The taste of Hazelnuts in the vinaigrette was not evident. My companions who had the spinach salad said it was ‘the worst they had ever had and tasted like it had been dressed hours earlier’. Grade – C
At this point we were warned that the kitchen had backed up and it would be at least 30 minutes before we received our entrees. It was 40.
The Pork Chop – Cooked until it was so dry it would be sufficient for patching the sole of a cheap pair of shoes. The accompanying ‘brocollini’ was a tiny sliver of what looked like wilted greens. The mashed potatoes were served at less than room temperature and had no horseradish flavor. A small out-of-season strawberry sat alone on the plate. Grade D-
The Boston Crème Pie was nothing out of the ordinary. It reminded me of the pre-packed desserts at Whole Foods Market. The chocolate was nothing special and the filling was bland and unremarkable. Grade – C
We all opted for the ‘wine flight’ which was four three-ounce pours from a decent list at $12.00. Unfortunately the Reds were served too warm, and the waiter ‘lost his notes’ of what we ordered halfway through dinner and had to come back and ask as again.
All in all, if the people I was with hadn’t been such good companions, I would have walked out half way through the meal.
I have been having a passionate argument with a good friend for the past few days. His position is the quantity of the food for the price and not necessarily the quality still makes a meal like this a good deal. I pointed out that I could get a huge bag of food at Taco Bell of similar quality for 1/5th the price, or the a slightly smaller but stellar meal for one cent more at Ripe. He argues that I should make allowances because it is a cooking school restaurant and they are not professionals. To me, that is no excuse. If this is the best the students can turn out, then they shouldn’t be cooking for the public until they get enough supervision to turn out food of a reasonable quality. Let me be clear… I don’t expect five-star cooking, but I do expect it to be worth the $25.00 cost. If I owned a restaurant, no one involved with this meal including the instructors would be working for me doing any task more menial than dishwashing.
Towards the end of the evening (which had now stretched to three hours, do to the long breaks), one of the senior staff came out of the kitchen and discussed the problems with the wine. He apologized and said they would not be charging us for our flights. As we finished, another senior staff member came out and apologized again, this time for the entire meal and the problems in service that evening. She was quite forthcoming that the kitchen had dropped the ball on our orders and she was disappointed in the overall execution of the evening’s covers. We had a good conversation and said we understood that these things happened. Without our asking, they comped’ our entire meal and wine for the evening, over $300. We were floored and of course tipped on the value of the entire meal. Whilst this was an incredibly nice gesture, it did not change the quality of the food or the timbre of this review.
Will I go back again – absolutely not. I firmly believe this place could crank out good quality if they spent a little less time on presentation and more on food, simplified some of their dishes, picked more seasonal ingredients, and had more senior instructor supervision. In many cooking schools today students are judged more on presentation than they are on the subtle balance of the dishes they create. Anyone can learn to cook average food that looks pretty. Only a few can make dishes that are gustatory works of art.
- Phone: 503-294-9770
- Address: 921 SW Morrison Street, Portland .
- Hours: Days: Tuesday through Friday, Lunch Hours: 11:30 – 1:00; Dinner Hours: 6:00 – 8:00, Tues-Sat.