Dining review: Student-run Technique gets high marks
Prix-fixe menu lives up to delicious expectations of culinary arts school.
Technique Restaurant at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena has a menu that includes Halibut with clams, swiss chard and chorizo. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer / October 4, 2012)
The food, on the whole, is superb and the atmosphere in the lobby of the old Pasadena Star News building is cool. But what makes this such a novel, delightful experience is the gaggle of professionally dressed students trying to keep their cool as they play restaurant. Only this is for real. Patrons have made reservations, often well in advance, and are expecting an excellent meal. The students deliver it.
One of our servers explained that over a six-week course, students work every night in a different position at the restaurant. On Monday, you might be working the grill, and on Thursday you're handling a party of six in the dining room. One night you're the host/hostess, the next you're chef de patisserie. So it's always something new but each student we met handled his or her challenges with grace, intelligence and a friendly smile.
As a patron, you have a few dining choices. Most people partake of their prix-fixe chef-selected three-course meal ($20 for lunch; $25 for dinner). However, they recently started serving à la carte items for $5 to $22. True to the restaurant's name, the entrees are divided by cooking technique: sauter, pocher, griller, braiser, frire and rotir. More specifically they are sauteed halibut, lamb loin poached sous-vide, grilled burger or rib eye, braised duck cassoulet, fried soft-shell crab tempura, and roasted Jidori chicken. There are also enticing starter, dessert and wine menus.
We found the prix-fixe meal to be a delicious bargain. The French onion soup was rich and gooey with Gruyere cheese. The flatbread topping du jour was a nicely seasoned eggplant. However, I would skip that in the future because there is plenty of freshly baked bread in the complimentary basket. Speaking of complimentary, the generous chef bestows culinary gifts now and again. We were surprised with tangy calamari canapes at the beginning of our meal and some velvety mini-cupcakes at the end.
After the starters, we gazed upon our impeccably presented entrees a few moments before diving in. Every slice of the prime beef rib eye excited my taste buds. It was cooked medium rare, as I requested, and marinated evenly, though not too heavily. I had to laugh because our sweet, sheepish waiter explained the sides as “some peas and carrots and, oh, some potatoes.” I wasn't expecting much but the peas were freshly shelled, the carrots were delicately prepared, and the potato and celery root pave was extraordinary. Jidori chicken, our other entree, translates from Japanese to mean roughly “chicken of the earth.” The chanterelle mushrooms, bacon and creamy Bearnaise sauce take the sprightly chicken breast to a deep, satisfying place.
By this point, we were full to the brim but made room for dessert. I'm not sure it was worth the effort. The cheesecake with mixed berries was pleasant but the butterscotch bread pudding was heavy as a brick. Even the next morning with coffee it didn't deliver.
Nonetheless, the students at Le Cordon Bleu shine where it really counts, at the stoves and grills. Try to get a seat that affords a view of the expansive kitchen. Watching the goings-on is live entertainment. It's like getting dinner and a show for $25. It's a reality show instead of a play but it's theater nonetheless.
LISA DUPUY has written about food, travel and entertainment for over 25 years. She can be reached at LDupuy@aol.com.
What: Technique Restaurant
Where: 525 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena
When: Monday to Friday, lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; dinner 5:30 to 8 p.m.
Reservations: Strongly recommended beginning Mondays at 10 a.m. for the following week
Contact: (626) 229-1377; techniquerestaurant.com, www.opentable.com