Foodies Gather at Cordon Bleu’s Technique

It goes with saying that when you go to a student-run restaurant at a cooking school, even one run by Cordon Bleu, you don’t expect professional service or cutting-edge cuisine. The former is unrealistic and the latter is just not what cooking schools are about. With this in mind, a large contingent of Foodies had a most enjoyable visit to Technique in the Atheneum Building on First Street in Cambridge. Of course it helps when stretching an hour-and-a-half meal over almost three hours to have a group of very congenial people around the table.

The menu was about as straightforward as it could be:

I had the soup which was very good — the combination of celery root and cauliflower is not one I’ve used before but I liked it enough to add it to my list. The Grilled Flat Iron (beef) was flavorful and came with a potato preparation I did not know: Pommes Fondant, apparently a block of potato braised in stock and then browned nicely on all sides; the passable bearnaise lacked the clear tarragon flavor it should have had.

The “Warm Tart Tatin” was an unobjectionable poached — or perhaps baked — apple sitting on a circle of puff pastry. Not very impressive as an example for students to emulate but my strong criticism had another focus: this dessert was not in any way related to the classic French Tart Tatin beyond being made with apples. First, I expected that here, of all places, I could count on receiving a reasonable facsimile of authentic Tart Tatine (which doesn’t require any more than entry-level pastry skills to make well); in fact, no serious attempt had been made to fulfill the “contract” I had made in placing my order. Second, and more important, that students were paying top dollar ($45K per associates degree over 15 months) to learn from what purports to be a leading French authority about classic French cuisine and then being mislead so thoroughly seemed to me a travesty. (I get similarly upset when dishes described as “risotto” turn out to have been made with Uncle Ben’s — “risotto” has a very specific meaning in Italian cooking; it does not mean “anything made with rice.”)

Returning to the restaurant’s potential value to diners, I hasten to say that it fills an otherwise empty niche very well: if you have an evening free and intend to pass the time conversing with your companions over a meal which will satisfy a wide range of conventional tastes, Technique can deliver quiet ambiance and a competently cooked meal at an attractive price.

[I hope others who were present will use the comments to add additional perspectives on our experience.]