Monday through Thursday from 5:45pm to 8pm the Statler’s beloved Terrace restaurant gets a cover of white linen, real silverware, and a uniformed staff of Hotelies ready to manage, cook, and serve a gourmet meal to anyone who walks through the door–for a grade. This is Establishment at Statler.
After two initial weeks of training, students in HADM 3350 are organized into groups of three to design a restaurant concept. On each group’s “night,” the students design a menu of specials (in addition to the base menu which is served every night) based on a theme of their creation. They are then responsible for training their classmates in preparation and service of the meal to deliver a truly unique dining experience for the guests. Themes of the past have included, “Prohibition,” “A Feast of Ice and Fire,” and “Keep Calm and Squeeze Sriracha.” Every other night of the semester, the students rotate between stations in the kitchen and front of house (i.e., waitstaff) in order to get well-rounded experience.
The theme of this particular night, “Miami Vice, California Spice” was the project of Thomas Collum, Derek Walker, and Lauren Kaplan. Seeing as Lauren writes for Spoon, our editor Daisy and I decided to check it out.
According to Thomas, the theme was inspired by a desire to use seafood, and some more “fun, edgy dishes with interesting presentations that people don’t see all the time.” Their menu definitely reflects this. They prepared a Sangria Blanco, South Beach Shrimp Ceviche with plantain chips (Lauren posted the recipe to this here), and California Crab Cakes with mango salsa and a side of cilantro lime quinoa. Naturally we ordered one of each, but more on that later.
While awaiting our table, I had a chance to talk to some other students who were dining out to celebrate Josef P’s birthday. Most of them were no strangers to Establishment, and Josef (’15) explained that he keeps coming back to try the varying special menus. Amanda B (’15) agreed, adding that she has also come in the past to support her roommate. Those that were dining there for the first time had some pretty high expectations. When I asked what they expected from tonight, there was a collective answer of, “Good food.” Laughing, I asked if they had high standards despite the fact that these are students, not trained chefs. Michael S (’15) retorted, “Nah, I’ve seen Hotelies in action before. It’s always good.”
Daisy and I set our own standards as we ordered one of everything on the special menu as well as a few classics from the standard menu and some desserts. Before you ask if the meal passed our test, I’ll let these pictures speak for themselves.
We started with the crab cakes. They were crispy, tasty, and the puree of avocado and poblano peppers gave it a nice kick of flavor. And who could resist the treat of mango salsa in the middle of an Ithacan winter?
Next, the ceviche. Although the plantain chips look like bananas, they actually tasted a lot like potato chips and added a nice crunch to the shrimp and avocado. Definitely check out Lauren’s recipe because the lime/cilantro combination is to die for.
The trio of specials, including the citrus/lime sangria. Everything was fresh and tropical; exactly the taste of summer we were hoping for.
To fill up, we got some old favorites. This is the Steak Frites with mushroom-thyme butter. Four words: Melt. In. Your. Mouth.
Any regular patron of Establishment will tell you not to leave without ordering the truffle fries. These addictive fries are tossed in truffle oil, parmesan and parsley then served with a side of saffron aioli: comfort food with class. If you plan on sharing these, be sure to order an extra side of aioli.
The B&C burger is served with cheddar cheese, bacon, and chipotle mayo as well as typical burger fixings on a fluffy brioche bun. Although it is typically served with fries, we opted for salad.
Moving on to desserts: the Bailey’s creme brûlée and a chocolate-covered coffee bean. When every single word in the title sounds delicious, you know it’s gonna be good.
The three-berry cobbler with crème Anglaise is perfect to warm up on a chilly night. Just be wary of the blue mouth you’ll have afterwards!
This edible cloud is new to the menu this year, and according to our server is doing better than its predecessor, the citrus cheesecake. It’s the new angel food cake, served with lemon curd and raspberry sauce. Sweet, tart, and soft with just the slightest crunch of crust–yum.
To reserve a table, check out OpenTable and keep an eye on Facebook for event pages specific to each night’s themed menu.