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Review Mon Aug 24 2009
A++. Smiley face. Star.
That's the assessment my husband and I gave to the students who prepared and served us a fabulous dinner this week at Kendall College. I won a gift certificate to the Dining Room at a recent benefit, and we decided to visit to celebrate our anniversary. We expected it to be good; actually, it was fantastic.
The Dining Room offers a prix fixe three-course meal for $29 Tuesday through Thursday evenings, when school is in session. The menu was full of choices - about 10 different appetizers and salads, seven entrees, and about as many desserts. We didn't hold back; we each ordered our prix fixe options and then chose three extra starters and one extra entrée. Before you judge, understand we had a $200 gift certificate that had to be used all at once. And to answer your next question, no, we didn't even come close to hitting the mark. With tax, our three appetizers, two salads, three entrees, two desserts, two San Pellegrinos, one tea, and one espresso cost - get ready for this -- $132.
However, volume alone doesn't equal value. We could tell we were in for a great tasting meal from the moment our starters arrived. Hubby ordered roasted bone marrow with oxtail marmalade. We took turns liberally spreading the marrow and marmalade on the toasted porcini-orange brioche and sprinkling it with the sea salt that accompanied it. Spread, bite, moan, repeat. We also tried the bay scallops with chive gnocchi, which were well-prepared. My favorite appetizer, though, was the pan roasted perch with cauliflower puree and crispy guancale (pig cheek, i.e., fancy bacon.) Read all about it after the jump.
I don't think I've ever eaten perch that wasn't battered and fried, so I was surprised by how delicate this fish can taste. The cauliflower puree was magical. One of our waiters, Daniel, who is about to graduate from Kendall and should go far, took the time to explain it was prepared, but I doubt I can ever recreate its silkiness at home.
Daniel and Bon, who also served us, really made the night special. They knew we were going to eat our way through the menu, and they didn't rush us. When my pork chop with cherry barbecue, caramelized shallots, and goat cheese grits arrived, I literally gasped: It was at least two-and-a-half inches thick, and about as big as my two fists. They reassured me that dessert wouldn't be ruined because they would be happy to box up whatever pork I couldn't finish.
We ended our meal with two very different desserts, a sundae of coffee ice cream and chocolate-covered toffee pieces, and panna cotta with wildflower gelee and black basil seeds. Daniel came by to check on us and asked, "Isn't that the best jelly you've ever had in your life?"
Indeed, it was up there, and so was our experience at Kendall. We've been to many of the city's great restaurants, from North Pond to Blackbird, Frontera to Green Zebra. We agreed we'll add the Dining Room at Kendall to our rotation because not only are the service, food and value exceptional, but it's clear that the people bringing us our meal - people like Daniel and Bon - are enjoying the experience as much as we are.