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 Google Map.
- Hours: Days: Tuesday through Friday, Lunch Hours: 11:30 – 1:00; Dinner Hours: 6:00 – 8:00, Tues-Sat.
Sir Loins says
Has anyone been to this joint recently? I’m curious to know if its gotten any better.
It’s too bad that the WCI press release doesn’t mention what they’re cooking for Bastille Day. Carafe’s special menu isn’t exciting to me.
I’d think that by making a press release about it, WCI/Restaurant Bleu is intending to set diner expectations higher than normal.
Anyone know of any other restaurants in town that are ramping up a special Bastille Day menu?
Sir Loins says
Duh. I skimmed over the paragraph where they tell you their menu. Looks like it’s over in 45 minutes, anyway. Touché.
We’re going there for lunch today, I’ll let you know.
This was such a horrendous experience. oh. so. bad.
Pork Cop says
Come on!!! Give us the POOP!
Yep, sounds no better than last year:
My husband and I both got the Bastille Menu, each getting one of the two options.
We went at one, and the place was only half full, yet they sat us right in the middle of the restaurant, where we watched the the Eiffel Tower (and the prospects of a decent meal) slowly melt away. Every couple of minutes a server would bump into our chairs, it was almost comical.
Onto the food: First course was applewood smoked trout on Anna potatoes with lemon cream and parsely oil. The trout was like stale tuna salad that a bottle of liquid smoke had fallen into, and the ‘anna potatoes’ more akin to homemade potato chips gone very, very wrong. The juxtapostition of greasy chip, which they further garnished with parsley infused oil, and yesterday’s tuna was nauseating.
The other first course was a seared sea scallop with potato-fennel puree, tarragon and black truffle oil. There was nothing inedible about this dish, but nothing interesting either. I tasted no fennel, save for a garnish. It was a seared scallop over mashed potatoes.
One entree was Salmon ala Nage. The salmon was waay overdone and the fish stock and veggies it was served with tasted like a glass of chardonnay. How could you overcook the fish and still end up with a heavy, overly-winey sauce. This one was just disgusting.
The other entree was Chicken Vol Au Vent: stale puff pastry and what tased like canned chicken soup. Maybe that metallic taste came from the stock?
Dessert was lavender infused pot de creme and profiteroles. The pot de creme was just a bad idea gone overboard. It tasted like perfume. I liked the profiteroles, though. They were topped with chocolate ganache and chopped hazelnuts.
The bread was good too. Assuming they are making it in-house, they are doing something right with their baguettes.
The poor server appeared to be afraid of people. She had three tables. She would deliver a round of dishes and then go stand in front of the line waiting for the next round. Honey, it ain’t comin’ out right away. She dropped the check with dessert. She barely spoke 10 words. Poor thing, just terrified of everyone.
And the bussers, are made to wear these poly navy blazers and grey trousers. They must never get them cleaned because they all reek of b.o. and speed stick. Watch were you are pointing that armpit, fella!
The teaching chefs roamed around asking if everything was okay. But, you know, where to begin? I hate to confront when lunch has already gone on for an hour and a half and I just want to leave.
My husband wanted to excuse the food and service by saying that they are just students and that the cost is super cheap ($17.89 for two people including drinks). But seriously, if you want to donate to a charity, do so. I, myself, wanted lunch, and my money would have been so much better spent at the carts outside the WCI.
Great review Angelhair, you have a gift with descriptions. One should always be skeptical of anything that advertises on late night TV or during the Jerry Springer show.
Jennifer White, President, Western Culinary Institute says
For more than 20 years, Western Culinary Institute has served the Portland community as a culinary and hospitality education provider, combining the history and teachings of the world-renowned Le Cordon Bleu curriculum. The teaching methodology of the Le Cordon Bleu curriculum is to deliver information first through lecture and demonstration, then provide opportunities for hands-on practice.
Restaurant Bleu is a perfect example of this teaching methodology at work. Here, students interface with you – the customer – for the first time. At Restaurant Bleu, students are tested on their skills in a real life environment in front of real customers. This makes their learning experience at Restaurant Bleu extremely valuable. This also means that you – as a customer – and your feedback about your dining experience – are part of their learning process.
We appreciate your compliments along with your constructive feedback, and we encourage you to come to Restaurant Bleu to help our students learn. Every six weeks, a new class of students rotate through Restaurant Bleu. Offering each class of students the opportunity to serve our customers is the cornerstone of our educational process.
Jennifer White, President
Western Culinary Institute
Thanks for the form letter, but your restaurant sucks and your students clearly have a lot to learn. If it is first and foremost a learning experience for your students, then perhaps you shouldn’t be charging for lousy food and even worse service. I was there a year ago and it sucked, and I have heard from everyone I know who has been in the last year that it still sucks.
Frankly, I have been to several culinary school restaurants and yours is far and away the worst. And no thanks, I won’t subject myself to another crappy meal with horrendous service at your establishment anytime in the near future.
I actually attended WCI a few years ago (before the school moved into its new location), and I used to love to take people to the school’s restaurant to dine. However, I think the fancy new digs are an inadequate attempt to obscure the fact that the quality of the food they’re serving to the public has declined significantly.
One of the most glaring problems is that the menus don’t really change from season to season; it’s difficult to dazzle with washed-out Sysco tomatoes in February. Also, I don’t know if this is still the case, but when I was a student, everyone had to endure two rotations in the front of the house: two weeks serving at lunch, and three at dinner. Frankly, there are just some people who should stay in the kitchen; cooking and serving are two completely different avocations, and I don’t think the experience of waiting tables increases empathy between the two camps more than it perpetuates a lousy experience for the victims in the dining room.
I understand that WCI is a profit-making enterprise just like any other business, but that motive seems to overshadow any sort of admissions standard; a misfit’s money is just as green as a scholastic star’s. The culinary arts program is billed as an accelerated 2-year program, so not only are the classes so packed to the gills that no one can really get the individual attention or valuable hands-on experience s/he needs, but the information is presented in a pretty dizzying way in order to keep up the pace.
I’ve eaten at the school’s restaurant once since its relocation, and that visit will be my last. WCI already got $30K of my money; I’m going to spend my food dollars elsewhere.