Restaurant Week Summer 2013: L’Ecole at the French Culinary Institute

28 Jul

On the same day I went to Ai Fiori for lunch, we went to try L’Ecole for dinner. (I am insanely thankful for my charmed life).

L’Ecole is part of the French Culinary Institute and where students of The International Culinary Center’s culinary arts program get real life experience.

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We immediately noticed that they were advertising “The Rolls-Royce of Lobsters” with a special offering of (apparently very hard to come by) Fourchu lobsters that are grown in a very cold area near Nova Scotia. We Googled it and found many articles raving about how it’s the best lobster you can find.  As Maine lobster snobs, we were curious.  (We find that for some reason, the moment lobsters cross the Maine border, they just aren’t as good. I cannot explain it, but go to Maine and get a lobster bake from a shack off the water, probably for less than $20, and I would bet you would agree that it’s better than any of the best lobster you’ve had in a NYC fine dining establishment).

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Inside the restaurant it is bright and modern.

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With some beautiful photography that certainly shows a love for food preparation.

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The bread was absolutely delicious and tasted very fresh.

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The Restaurant Week menu was the only option (many restaurants have their regular menu in addition to the Restaurant Week Menu), but they included special items with an incremental charge.  The main three-course RW menu is $38, and there was the option to also go with that and a wine pairing for $60.50.  You could also go with four courses for $53 or $83 with the wine pairings.  They told us early on that the wine pairings are 3, 3 ounce pours, equaling about a single glass of wine by the end.  Typically, it’s worth it at most places since they give you great wines. (When it’s not Restaurant Week, they feature a prix-fixe dinner for $44)

Our amuse-bouche was a chilled pea soup with creme freche.  This was a beautiful pea flavor and a very nice first taste.  I’ve noticed a huge glut of pea soup as amuse-bouche recently.

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We chose to split the wine pairings with his Restaurant Week selection. Our first wine was a rose and was so-so.

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Mike chose the sauteed stuffed calamari. This had pork and rice filling, parsley sauce, radishes, and grape tomatoes.  This dish was really well prepared with a great combination of flavors.  The stuffing in the calamari was somehow comfort food without being heavy.  And the dressing was a nice compliment to the main dish.

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There was a crab and roasted corn bread pudding on the menu that sounded sensational, however, they were out of it. So I went with my second choice, creamy corn bisque.  This came with black peppered bacon and tarragon beurre blanc.  The corn flavor in this dish was really strong.  Corn can be hit or miss, but this was obviously made from corn that was at the peak of flavor.  And the cream was a really nice compliment but wasn’t too heavy.

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Our second wine was a Malbec and again, it was so-so.  Both wines somehow missed the mark and were just blah.

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Mike’s entree was the Grilled Hanger Steak Vidalia Onion Rings, Creamless “ Creamed ” Corn, and Sauce Choron which came with a $7 surcharge on top of the prix-fixe.

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I couldn’t try it since there were peppers (I’m allergic) but Mike said it was pretty good.  He said it was tasty but probably not worth paying the up-charge.

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I had to try to the special lobster. I just couldn’t resist. And I love the simple preparation of a steamed lobster.

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The presentation looked nice with the entire lobster cracked open and displayed.

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But someone forgot to consider that the innards (which you can’t eat and don’t taste very good) would leak out all over the plate.  And since there was a small amount of water from boiling the lobster on the plate, my plate was suddenly flooded with gross juices.

And the lobster itself? Ehhhh. It tasted kind of bland.  Hardly lobster-y at all.  I’ve had much better lobster elsewhere and it sure wasn’t billed as a “Rolls Royce.” If this is what a Rolls is like, I’ll stick to Toyotas.

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The fries that came with the lobster were nice; crispy on the outside and good potato flavor on the inside.  The lettuce and tomatoes were incredibly well dressed and a surprising highlight of the meal.

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For dessert, I got the creme brulee.  It was very good but I’ve had better elsewhere. The top was a bit thicker than it should have been so it didn’t have the delicateness that makes creme brulee so great.

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Mike chose the goat cheese cherry turnover.  This was decent but nothing special.

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We were given cookies on the way out and they were soft and packed with flavor.  Another surprise highlight.

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When we checked in on FourSquare, the Special at the restaurant was a baguette.  We opted to take them on our way out and enjoyed giving one away and making the other into nice garlic bread.

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Overall, this meal was very hit or miss.  Both of our apps were great, both of our entrees were so-so (and an up-charge) with the lobster being very disappointing. The desserts were also just okay.  I wonder what it’s like when it’s not Restaurant Week, but I would choose many other places besides L’Ecole for Restaurant Week.

Total Nom Points: 6.5 out of 10

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One Response to “Restaurant Week Summer 2013: L’Ecole at the French Culinary Institute”

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  1. Restaurant Week Wrap-Up: An on-going list of where to go for NYC RW (Updated Summer 2013) » - September 1, 2013

    […] L’Ecole: This was very hit or miss. Amazing appetizers followed by a total let-down for the entrees and so-so desserts. They also billed their lobster as the “Rolls-Royce” of lobsters and it was one of the worst I’ve had.  And from our experience, don’t bother with the wine pairing. […]

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