Next to the hustle and bustle of the cafeteria, on the first floor of the Center Building is the calm and clean atmosphere of the Renaissance Room where patrons interested in dining in style are greeted by Culinary Arts and Hospitality students practicing their craft.
While dining there with a guest, I was greeted by friendly and professional staff who remained attentive to our needs throughout our dining experience.
We were promptly served our drinks, followed by freshly baked bread rolls and a complimentary pear and pomegranate salad, which showcased excellent knife cuts. The salad was a great use of perfect in-season pears, although the onion flavor was a tad too strong and the pomegranates were difficult to eat.
Our first courses were served promptly, and the waiters were right there when we needed them, without hovering. My dining companion ordered the fennel and red onion salad and crab and champ bake, which was topped with a tomato-watercress dressing and served with a bibb lettuce salad. She commented that everything was beautifully presented and tasted delicious.
I ordered the French onion soup, a classic rich soup that can often taste too much like onion. On this occasion, however, the soup was cooked to perfection and was garnished with a few baked cheese crostini. I’m a huge fan of edible garnishes, especially those covered in melted cheese. This was an appetizer for the lover of caramelized onions and classic flavor profiles.
For the main course, I ordered the Poulet Sauté Marengo. In English, chicken sautéed with tomato and mushroom, served with French green beans, a fried egg, sautéed shrimp and a wedge of toast in the shape of a heart. Being close to Valentine’s Day, this was a cute and timely accent. Overall, I enjoyed this dish. The chicken was a bit dry, but nothing to stop me from ordering it again in the future.
The chicken portion was generous as were the green beans. This was a simple, yet satisfying dish.
To complete our dining experience, we were served a dessert sampler consisting of crème brûlée, a whole wheat scone with Caledonian cream and crêpes stuffed with lemon soufflé. The combination of these three desserts was fabulous.
The crêpe was paired with a raspberry sauce that perfectly complemented the tartness of the lemon. Between the perfect fruit pairings and awesome execution of the crêpe itself, this was my favorite of the three. The crème brûlée was traditional, made perfectly and delicious. The scone on the other hand, had a very strong citrus flavor and was my least favorite of the three. Accompanying dessert was a fabulous cappuccino.
The Renaissance Room is staffed by Culinary Arts and Hospitality students under the supervision of their instructors. Working in the restaurant is a required class for the second year of the culinary and hospitality program. Each week, menus from two different nations are featured.
The restaurant featured cuisine from France and the British Isles the week of my visit. French cooking is very traditional and serves as a basis for many other cuisines, so I ordered from the French side of the menu. My guest ordered from the British Isles offerings.
The dining room is tidy and organized. The decor features chandeliers and framed pictures along the walls of students working in the kitchen. This room feels as dated as the rest of the Center Building, but is still classy and cozy. Next term, the restaurant will be temporarily housed in Building 19. Then in fall term a brand new Renaissance Room will make its debut in the Center Building.
For those who appreciate five star cuisine and service, and for the chance of seeing the culinary program in action, this is an experience not to be missed. Patrons are advised to book well in advance, however. Winter term is already fully booked. If this isn’t enough to whet the appetite, the $10 price for a full three course dining experience should clinch the deal. My only regret is not knowing earlier that I could be treated to food this good on campus.
Renaissance Room reservations: 541-463-3533.