A decadent crawfish étouffee vol au vent is one of the student-prepared dishes served in the Presentation Room at the L'Ecole Culinaire; lunch service is offered on Wednesdays and Thursdays only.
I'm not saying that there aren't moderately priced lunch venues on the Country Club Plaza, but it's hard to compare a bowl of pasta from, say, the fast-casual Noodles & Co. (ranging in price from $4.39 to $8.29) with the stylishly presented, sophisticated meals being served in the dining room of the eight-month-old culinary school L'Ecole Culinaire
. It may be one of the very best lunch deals in town.
L'Ecole Culinaire, at 310 Ward Parkway, officially opened its student-operated dining venue, the Presentation Room, on February 26. Lunch is served only on Wednesday and Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Reservations are, the restaurant warns, "strongly requested."
L'Ecole Culinaire student Natasha Bailey -- holding a sour cherry and amaretto sorbet -- is the manager of the school's dining room.
Brian Schumann, the campus director of the school - a for-profit subsidiary of St. Louis-based Vatterott Educational Centers Inc. - says fourth-phase students rotate between the kitchen and the front of the house (as managers and servers). Peter Castillo
, a popular local chef and restaurateur hired as an adjunct chef instructor, oversees the kitchen operation. French-born chef Patrick Palmentiere is the school's program director.
Schumann says the Presentation Room will begin serving dinners (also only on Wednesdays and Thursdays) in May. The dining room serves wine by the glass and by the bottle. Other beverages poured are tea, coffee and fresh-squeezed lemonade.
The current lunch menu features two starters: a first-rate charcuterie plate, with a duck rillette, duck pate with lingonberry jam, a superb vegetable terrine and house-made condiments (Walla Walla onion chutney, yellow-pepper ketchup) for $6; and a decadently rich crawfish étouffee vol au vent for $7.
There are two sandwiches (a jerk-style pork loin with a pineapple aioli, and a boneless fried chicken on a flaky buttermilk biscuit with roasted-garlic gravy), two featured salads and, as an entree, a tender flat iron steak smothered in a blue-cheese sauce with hand-cut fried potatoes.
The school's pastry students prepare five or six different dessert offerings each day. Lunch prices range between $6 and $10. Tipping is not permitted. For reservations, call 816-627-0100.