Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Lumiere' at Le Cordon Bleu
1927 Lakeside Pkwy., Tucker, GA http://www.lumiereatlanta.com/
It's hard for me to name a better bargain in Atlanta fine dining than Lumiere', the restaurant at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Atlanta.
Let me guess: you didn't know that the famous Le Cordon Bleu had a campus in Atlanta, specifically in Tucker near the LaVista Rd. exit of I-285. I would suspect that most Atlantans would share your surprise. The school is tucked into an unassuming office park, so you'll need to look for the blue and white sign at the entrance and then scan the parking lots for a patio with tables and chairs. That's how you'll know you are in the right place. Note: I've eaten at Lumiere' half a dozen times and never seen anyone seated outside, a small mystery.
Lumiere' is a cool place to eat for several reasons, the first being that the kitchen is staffed almost entirely by students who are within two weeks of completing their studies there. Each student must work in the front and back of the house, gaining experience cooking, serving and busing tables. They are excited about moving on to their externships (which range from b&bs abroad to The Ritz-Carlton hotels) and are eager to please, if a little nervous about dealing with some of their first customers. The downside to this is that the service is often fairly slow - last night we waited almost 45 minutes between our appetizers and entrees. Try to be patient and think of the meal as a sort of European experience.
Another big reason Lumiere' is great is because of the prices. Soups are around $3 each, salads $4-5, entrees $10-15, etc. Most of the wine is also very reasonable, with many good selections costing $6 per glass. Tips are not required, but if you do leave a gratuity it will go towards the school's scholarship fund. In a few weeks, these same students will be employed at restaurants where you will be paying two to three times as much to eat their food.
The summer vegetable soup with white beans and pesto was sublime, but my friend Paul was a little disappointed with his appetizer of grilled asparagus, smoked ham, cantaloupe salsa and arugula, noting that the ham was boiled. We were expecting Serrano or prosciutto, considering the cantaloupe's presence. For his entree, Paul ordered the pan-fried trout with succotash salad, fried leeks and a lemon-parsley buerre blanc, which was excellent. At $10.95 it was a steal. My friend Erin ordered the roasted breast of chicken, which I thought was a little dry. I greatly enjoyed the sea scallops with sauteed leeks and fennel. The scallops and veggies lay on a bed of white cheddar grits which was surrounded by a shellfish broth. This costs $13.95. I ordered a very similar dish a few months ago at Park's Edge (in Inman Park) and paid twice that much, and although the scallops were smaller at Lumiere' they were also more numerous, and just as tasty. On the downside, my party agreed that all of the dishes lacked sufficient seasoning. Had there been a salt shaker at the table I would have utilized it.
For dessert we shared a slice of the lemon mascarpone cheesecake with honey-balsalmic reduction and maserated strawberries. I felt the lemon could have been more pronounced, but the texture was ideal, creamy and smooth. This dessert was not quite as good a deal as the entrees - at $3.95 the size of the piece was somewhat small.
A bonus for those of you with allergies: I noticed that the restaurant offers gluten-free lunch and dinner menus.
A few bonuses for foodies: The students at Le Cordon Bleu will happily take you on a tour of the school upon request. If you aren't up for the whole tour (which takes about 10 minutes) you can still enjoy a view of the students in class, seen through a huge window from the lobby. There is also a bookstore with a selection of cooking tools and top quality knives as well as Le Cordon Bleu aprons and dish towels for sale.
Another option to the traditional lunch or dinner is Lumiere's buffet, which is offered once every three weeks for one night. It's is very difficult to find such a great selection of delectibles at another restaurant in Atlanta for $19.95 per person.
Verdict: Fine dining at an excellent value.