Since my first day at City College, I have always wanted to go to the John Dunn Gourmet Dining Room located next door to the JSB Café. I used to glance in while passing by and it always looked so peaceful and elegant, like the perfect escape in the midst of a hectic week.
The Dining Room is primarily run by students in the Culinary Art Program. Not only do they cook the food being served, they are the waiters and waitresses as well.
As I walked into the Dining Room my expectations were high. The scene was just as pleasant as I had envisioned it with modern beige leather chairs, white tablecloths and serene background music.
The waiter, a third semester student was very polite but too soft-spoken and was not very familiar with the current menu.
I decided upon eight dishes: Chicken Marsala, Caprise des Étudiants, Salad Lyonnaise, Crêpe du Jour, Onion Soup Gratinée, Soup du Jour, the beef dish, as well as the steak.
The Chicken Marsala had a sweet sauce that complemented the well-cooked chicken and the chopped mushrooms on top. The taste was balanced and mild but salt was needed to really enjoy the flavors. I would have preferred to see this dish served with mashed potatoes instead of rice; it would have added a bit more of an “oomph” to the dish.
The Caprice des Étudients was a salmon dish. The fish was perfectly cooked, tender on the inside and crispy on the outside, with a fresh taste of the ocean. It came with rice, haricot vert and carrots.
The Salad Lyonnaise is a poached egg salad with bacon and croutons and was my least favorite. It had a bit too much lettuce and the egg was a slightly over-cooked. If it had been a little more loose and creamy it would have done the dish more justice.
The Crêpe du Jour, was a goat cheese and spinach crêpe. It was perfectly made with a nice crisp and it managed to reach the exquisite balance of being light but at the same time filling. The crêpe and the omelet on the menu came with a dessert of choice for the bargain price of $10.
Onion Soup Gratinée, known as French onion soup was magnificent and my favorite dish. The balance between salty and sweet was perfect and the melted Gruyère cheese on top made the well-cooked onions and soaked bread taste even better. It was served in a classic French soup pot, which made the experience feel even more authentic.
The Soup du Jour was a Russian beet soup, which also made a great impression. The sweet taste of the crushed beets together with the sour cream on top made it a delight. I would recommend it as a starter or perhaps a main course on a hot day.
The steak and beef were well cooked and had a nice taste to them. Unfortunately, they were both completely covered in green peppercorns that needed to be removed before enjoying the meat itself. I would like to have seen less of the pepper and maybe a nice sauce added on the side to complement the meat.
As a whole I am very satisfied with my visit. The food was more exclusive than the rest of the City College food joints and all the dishes are under $10. I would recommend The Dining Room to anyone who wants to add a little luxury to his or her school week.
I give it four and a half out of five stars.
Reservations are needed prior to dining. They are open Monday through Friday for lunch, from 11:30 to 12:45 p.m. and dinner is served Thursday and Friday from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.