Young & Hungry: Fine dining with the next generation of chefs

March 21, 2011

 
Normally, this "Young & Hungry" franchise is an occasional foray by my interns into food writing. This is the third Monday in a row Columbia student Kristen Kuchar has volunteered for the assignment, so I'm letting her run with it.
 
Being low on funds, the term “fine dining” doesn’t often enter into my vocabulary. It’s unfortunate that being budget conscious doesn’t allow myself (and fellow students) to have the unique culinary experiences and exposure to the sophisticated flavors that are required in our business. I thought it would take years until I got the chance to indulge, but then I discovered The Dining Room at Kendall College.
 
The Dining Room is run by students in the culinary and hospitality programs at Kendall, but it is definitely on the professional level. I had the chance to take advantage of the lunch prix-fixe menu which allowed me to try three courses for only $18.
 
The lobby contains the typical college décor, but once arriving to the third floor where The Dining Room is located, I completely forgot I was at a school. The walls are mostly made up of windows facing East, which gives way to the breathtaking view of the downtown skylines. The even more captivating view was the one into the kitchen which showed the students busy at work.
 
After sitting down, my sister-in-law and I were greeted with remarkable service and even better, a velvety pesto butter that was meant for spreading onto the fresh, crispy bread that accompanied it. The chestnut and porcini mushroom soup we both ordered was elegantly drizzled over tiny beignets at the table. Other first course options included crispy pork belly, escargot and charred octopus.
 
For my entree, I choose the grass-fed beef tenderloin (pictured above) accompanied by a crispy oxtail and potato hash, watercress and horseradish salad and finished with a savory bordelaise sauce. My sister-in-law fell in love with the silky sauce covering her grilled lamb chops, gnocchi and roasted tomato dish. Both of us couldn't believe how tender and perfectly cooked our meats were.
 
 
 
As good as our meal was, the dessert was unbelievable. I wish I could start every morning with the sugar-crusted waffles (pictured above) instead of my half-soggy, half-burnt Eggos. The waffle's sugary crust had a crunch on the outside and a warm, nut-filled soft center. The creamy maple syrup gelato and the spiced heirloom apple butter made this upscale dessert taste both familiar and comforting. Luckily, I got to sample my guest's devil's food doughnut which was neither too sweet nor too dense.
 
The Dining Room at Kendall has impeccable service and amazing food that would normally cost double - or even triple its price. I would recommend it to any of my fellow "young and hungries" who happen to have champagne tastes but canned beer budgets.
 
The Dining Room at Kendall College, 900 N. North Branch Street, 312-752-2328
Menu, hours and dates open vary, visit their website for updated menus and more information