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Tuesday
Sep012009

Brunch at L'Ecole


  • Cuisine: French
  • Atmosphere: bright, spacious, sophisticated
  • Attire: business-casual, smart-casual
  • Ideal for: prix-fixe, group dining, brunch
  • Must try: Sweet and savory bread basket (brunch), French toast
  • Price: Brunch: $19.50 prix-fixe (2 courses)
  • Reservations: Via phone or opentable.com
  • Phone: (212) 219-3300
  • Website: www.frenchculinary.com/lecole.htm  
  •  Location: 462 Broadway, (at Grand St.)
*All photos from this meal can be viewed on Flickr
**Note* L’Ecole, the restaurant within The French Culinary Institute, is unique in the fact that meals (aside from brunch) are prepared by FCI students.  L’Ecole’s purpose is to serve as a “working lab” for future chefs.  This is where Bobby Flay, David Chang and Dan Barber got their start!

What’s the space like?
Honestly?  The space kind of reminded me of those make-shift breakfast areas in newly-built/remodeled Hampton Inn’s/Doubletree’s/Hyatt’s (hotels).  You know what I’m talking about: Blond wood furniture, glass blocks, tall ceilings, wooden chairs accented with upholstery, etc.  While this may sound unattractive to some, the atmosphere was quite nostalgic for me.  During my junior and senior years of college, I, too, gained some priceless experience and knowledge at my school's student-run restaurant.  

How was the service?
Our server was notably friendly and extremely knowledgeable about the menu.  Phil and I were treated famously!

Did you drink?
I had a fabulous latte, served with homemade chocolate-pistachio biscotti, that tasted almost as perfect as the one I savored in San Remo, Italy. 
*Note* L’Ecole offers guests both flat and sparkling water free of charge!

How was the food?
Aside from being delicious, my meal was tastefully affordable!  You can't beat a $19.50 prix-fixe special that includes coffee, a basket of freshly-baked bread and pastries, an appetizer and an entree! 
  • Basket of freshly-baked bread and pastries: This arrangement of carb-rich goodness could very well be the city's best kept *free* secret!  Baked fresh daily by the FCI's bread and pastry-focused students, this bountiful assortment included: An obese citrus scone, hearty walnut bread, pecan coffee cake, and a super moist sweet bread dotted with golden raisins and dried cherries. 
  • Hamachi Tartare: What looked like the body of a snake made out of toothpaste was actually parsnip puree acting as an anchor on a long rectangular plate (not much bigger than an olive tray).  Shaved cucumber slices, crunchy puffed rice "kernels," and cubes of fresh raw hamachi (Japanese amberjack fish) sat atop the velvety, buttery puree.  A heavy drizzle of Meyer-lemon vinaigrette finished the dish.  The differing flavors and textures of the tartare were pleasantly overwhelming, though I found the hamachi, otherwise typically mild/delicate in taste, to be slightly "fishy."
  • French toast: Two slices of challah bread French toast, each no more than 1/2-3/4' thick, were imperfectly placed atop one another.  Plump blueberries were strewn across the plate, whereas overly-ripened banana slices sat neatly like a line of fallen dominoes.  I poured every last drop of the warm maple syrup over the toast, allowing rich sweetness to suffocate every crevice of the porous bread.  After waiting a minute or two, I took my first bite.  With the exception of the bananas, L'Ecole's version of this traditional breakfast entree was splendid.  I appreciate a restaurant that doesn't serve Americanized "lumber jack" portions, because as far as not overeating, we could learn a thing or two from the French!
What’s pricing like?
$19.50 prix-fixe brunch special that includes coffee, a basket of freshly-baked bread and pastries, an appetizer and an entree! 

Will you return to L'Ecole?
Absolutely!  I look forward to sampling L'Ecole's lunch and dinner menus. 

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