August 09, 2011

The Class Act Restaurant

Breakfast time at the Class Act. 
Each meal features a different linen theme,
such as the sunny yellow breakfast linens.
 Yesterday we wrote about our stay at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center.   That post noted that among other features, the Hotel has a gourmet restaurant.   That restaurant is the Class Act, and it lives up to its name.

As with everything else at The Hotel, the Class Act is a real-world, real-time educational experience.  The servers, cooks and other staff are students, overseen by instructors.  The restaurant features seasonal menus, uses local and Iowa products whenever possible and features exquisite glass artworks - including a chandelier - made by Kirkwood students and faculty. 

One of the featured tables, complete with
a custom chandelier made by one of
the Kirkwood art instructors.
We ate two meals at the Class Act, Friday dinner and Saturday breakfast.   On each occasion, the food was perfectly cooked, artfully presented and just plain delicious.   The service was excellent, and we were very pleased that our morning server was able to take us on a tour of the kitchen and arrange for a tour of the classrooms.

For dinner on Friday, we both had mushroom and potato soup.  The soup featured pureed Yukon gold potatoes, mushrooms, cream and bacon, plus sauteed mushrooms.   It had an exquisite flavor, due in part to the mix of various mushroom varieties, including shitake and oyster.   It was the best mushroom soup I've ever had.

For the main course, Juli had a half plate of gnocchi served with brown butter, snow peas, asparagus, arugula and shaved Parmesan.  I had scallops served atop a green bean and asparagus almondine and topped with a roasted tomato and cream sauce and heirloom tomato salsa.  We both sampled from each other's plate, and both of us found both dishes to be excellent in every way.   The gnocchi were tender, the vegetables perfectly tender-crisp and the scallops perfectly cooked.

Although the soup and main course was hearty enough a meal to be satisfying, we couldn't pass up dessert.  Juli got coconut mango frozen entremet made of a coconut-lime dacquoise, mango orange sorbet and chocolate rum cremeaux.   I got the triple berry crisp, served with a smalls serving of vanilla ice cream.   Juli's featured a more delicate mix of flavors, while my crisp was both more basic and more bold, and full of whole strawberries and blueberries and fresh raspberry sauce. 

For breakfast, Juli had an omelet with ham, tomato, mushrooms and cheddar, while I had buttermilk pancakes served with a blueberry and strawberry compote and maple syrup.  Once again, both breakfasts were perfectly cooked.  The pancakes were easily the best I've ever had at a restaurant.  Juli's omelet came with a serving of delightfully-seasoned fried potatoes and toasted bread made by the restaurant's baking students. 

Price wise, the Class Act is very reasonable, especially given the quality of the food.  If someone wants a mound of food for a low price, they're better off going to a buffet place, but if you would like to have a gourmet dinner or an excellent breakfast, you aren't going to find any better than the Class Act.  We've certainly paid as much or more for meals vastly less satisfying than what we got at the Class Act.  We recommend it without reservation, and will definitely be dining there again next time we're in Cedar Rapids.

You can see the Class Act's hours and other information here.  The link also includes links to the current menu.   As noted above, the restaurant features a seasonal menu.  Our visit came near the end of the summer menu; once classes start for the fall, the restaurant will feature a different menu, and most or all of the dinner selections will change.   We look forward to choosing from a new selection of dishes next time we visit.

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