If only all school lunches tasted this good. Cooked by the students of the French Culinary Institute under the supervision of their chef instructors, L'Ecole offer classic French recipes using top flight ingredients (imagine the field trips to the Greenmarket) and technique whose occasional failings are more than compensated for by the evident enthusiasm.
There is a real desire to please at L'Ecole—both in the front of house where the service is effusive, and also from the various departments, kitchen, pastry and bakery, that provide the food. The latter contributes the bread that is textbook perfect—crusty and crunchy with an airy interior, it is wonderful slathered in butter or topped with the terrine from the appetizer menu. But not before the kitchen sends out a complimentary amuse bouche of asparagus wrapped in prosciutto.
An appetizer of five-spice marinated duck is sure to please, cooked to a rosy medium; a meaty slab of pâté studded with pistachios, larded with foie gras and perfumed with truffles, is equally pleasing.
A main-course offering of arctic char was a bit too fishy, things were not helped by the accompanying paella that, despite also being texturally correct, was also too salty and chorizo-dominated. But extra credit should be awarded to a succulent roasted Hampshire pork loin served with mint and pea puree and a buttery potato terrine.
The desserts were no less accomplished—a creamy panna cotta was matched by a tangy compote of rhubarb and raspberry, spiked with ginger; a trio of chocolate was equally pleasing.
Top marks for the lunch deal at L'Ecole, where the small failings are more than made up for by the enthusiasm of the kitchen and staff. There is a card included with the check that asks for comments for the students. I encourage you to respond—it is an invaluable aid to the future chefs of America. You can certainly eat more accomplished meals, but how many of them will allow you to be a patron of the arts?
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