October 24, 2012

A More-Than-Fine Dining Establishment

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It turns out affordable fine dining is right at our fingertips. The Terrace in the Statler Hotel undergoes a transformation four nights a week into a masterful full-service restaurant. Establishment, the original product of Restaurant Management (HADM 3350), brings budget-friendly, delicious food to central campus in what has to be the ultimate Cornellian foodie experience. Students apply classroom lessons about restaurant conceptualization, management and execution in a real world food service environment. A learning experience that results in beautifully presented, well balanced, flavorful food to eat? Count me in.

The concept for Establishment was first developed in Fall 2011. Those taking the course hoped to present, according to the restaurant’s web page, an “internationally inspired upscale-casual food and beverages, in a relaxed, student-friendly environment.” A year of conceptual refinement, menu planning and test runs led to the opening of Establishment on Sept. 17, 2012 in the newly renovated space on the ground floor of the Statler Hotel.

Each Monday through Thursday evening, Establishment offers a regular menu as well as unique additions by a three-student management team. This team is responsible for every aspect of the restaurant’s operations on its designated night. Under the leadership of their peers, students strive to provide guests with the perfect dining experience. As Nicholas Asoli ’14 describes working at Establishment, “[It’s] just like a typical shift in any other restaurant. What is so cool about Establishment is that students never really work the same position twice. The whole point of the class is to introduce the students to every position … so that we appreciate all of the efforts required to successfully operate a restaurant.” To execute the management of a fine dining eatery is a tall task, and the Establishment team delivers on every level.

On to the food. Establishment’s chicken satay appetizer is a terrific version of the Thai specialty. The crunchy, charred exterior yields to a juicy core, complemented nicely by that much beloved homemade peanut sauce. At $5 for at least six ounces of chicken, it’s quite the bargain. The artichoke fritters with sweet chili sauce present a far-eastern influence to a traditionally western vegetable. The tender insides, filled with huge chunks of artichoke, are encased in a golden brown outer crust. Four come to an order, but you may not want to cede any of these delicious fritters to your fellow diners. The spectacular value of Establishment’s tasty appetizers make a three-course course meal pleasant for your palate as well as your wallet.

Establishment’s main courses are similarly impressive. The pork chop exudes the flavors of fall, with root vegetables roasted until just soft and an apple cider sauce that compliments the savory, juicy meat. The fettuccine bosciaola offers a gigantic plate of creamy, comforting pasta at just $11. With tons huge chunks of pancetta scattered throughout the mountain of tender noodles, this dish is sure to delight any diner, no matter how many prelims may be looming. Establishment also presents one of the few steaks within walking distance of anywhere on campus. There are not many places around Ithaca where you can get a perfectly cooked New York strip that is this tasty for under $20.

The tempting desserts are highlighted by the pumpkin cheesecake, a velvety end to a marvelous meal.

These regular menu items are supplemented each night by new creations. Said Asoli of his team’s chance to develop a special menu, which included a well-balanced prosciutto and arugula salad with truffle oil as well as an incredibly flavorful, perfectly cooked Dijon-crusted rack of lamb, “My partners and I decided that we wanted to create an experience that would wow all who attended. The process of coming up with such a menu was long and tedious since every detail had to be addressed. However, with that said, it was a fantastic learning experience.”

Professor Alex Susskind, who teaches HADM 3350 and oversees the restaurant’s operations, takes great pride in Establishment. He enjoys seeing students, especially those on the daily management crew, “take ownership of the restaurant and really demonstrate their leadership skills and abilities.” Professor Susskind describes his role as “to ensure that our restaurant provides a positive management learning experience for the students and we deliver a great experience to our guests.” He benefits both those who take his course and the larger Cornell community.

Sitting down to a meal on central campus with food prepared and served by fellow students is a uniquely Cornellian opportunity. The staff is professional, and the food is downright awesome. Establishment offers dinner Monday through Thursday. Reservations can be made online through the restaurant’s Facebook page, but walk-in diners are welcome. For those looking for a refined, inexpensive, delicious weeknight meal for any occasion, look no further than the student-run restaurant in the Statler Hotel.

Original Author: Zachary Siegel