The roasted chicken with chorizo stuffing and lemon caper cream sauce

Third Course: An excellent dinner at a reasonable price

Mirror Out and About

When the schedule of fall seatings for Third Course Bistro was announced by North Island College (NIC) this year, I emailed immediately to try and get a reservation, as I was told they tended to fill up quickly.

I’d somehow never been for dinner at the seasonal, limited seating, “restaurant” put on at NIC and I’d always heard it was something I should definitely try. A sincere thank-you to those who made that recommendation. I came to journalism from over 15 years in food and beverage service, so I tend to have pretty high standards when I patronize restaurants and resorts, instinctually picking apart – even if it’s just at a subconscious level – the service and product I receive. While my background can be a disadvantage in that I tend to enjoy decent experiences less than others who may not be as critical, it can also be an advantage because I think I appreciate good experiences more than others. After all, I know first hand the effort that goes into them for them to be that way.

Having said that, I always compare these experiences to some kind of personally-conceived notion of “value” using a scale of, “relative to other experiences I’ve had,” or, “what I could get for that much somewhere else.”

And on those scales, I have to say that Third Course falls pretty close to the top. For $27.95, I had a three-course dinner: an appetizer of garlic shrimp topped with an herbed tomato salsa, an entree of roasted chicken breast with a chorizo sausage stuffing topped with a lemon caper cream sauce and an amazingly rich dark chocolate mousse for dessert.

Considering the entree alone would likely be sold at around that $30 price-point at at least two higher-end restaurants at which I’ve previously worked, that value is outstanding. Everything was also delicious, which was kind of a nice bonus. I could have done without the asparagus, I suppose, but I say that as someone who doesn’t like asparagus, so….

In any case, my wife had the “four courses for $30.95” option. Her dinner consisted of an appetizer of Italian bruschetta topped with shaved parmesan and a balsamic reduction followed by a second course of butternut squash soup with caramelized apples. As an entree, she had maple-glazed blacked salmon and for dessert she went with the créme caramel and fresh berries.

One of the best parts of the evening was when our server explained that this round of seatings was the Tourism and Hospitality students running the show, rather than the Culinary Arts students – who normally operate the bistro – and that many of the students in the kitchen hadn’t ever cooked for anyone other than themselves before, so they were looking for feedback.We explained that the salmon was a little on the salty side, but that everything was either at or above our expectations going in.

Our server passed that information along to the kitchen, and found out that the student preparing the salmon that particular night had double-seasoned it, not knowing it didn’t need salt and pepper before the blackening spice was added, which is likely what caused the extra saltiness. We were offered another plate of salmon – which we reluctantly declined as we’d both just eaten more than we normally would at a sitting. We also received a sincere thank-you for our honest critique, because that’s how people learn.