When people know they’re being graded, they tend to step up their game. I took that lesson, along with a very full belly, away from my lunch date at Class Act, the restaurant arm of MCC’s Culinary Academy. Serving gourmet-yet-affordable four-course midday meals Wednesdays and Fridays, with a new menu every week, Class Act is a true hidden gem that locals and tourists alike should add to their eating-out rotation.
Virtually every member of the dining room staff, from the folks who sear your salmon to the guy who refills your water glass, is a Culinary Academy student. They’ve clearly been well schooled on the finer points of fine dining—politeness and professionalism abound. The ambiance is also in keeping with the upscale theme; linen tablecloths, fancy menus and elaborate settings (I never know what to do with all those knives), not to mention a pretty solid view of both the ocean and the mist-shrouded mountains, make you forget you’re seated above a community college cafeteria.
The food, as mentioned, changes week to week, so what I had won’t be what you’ll have. But there’s no reason to think the high quality will change. Course one was a caramelized leek and goat cheese strudel served over smoked tomato sauce. I’m not usually a huge fan of goat cheese, but here the customary muskiness was muted and the flaky pastry and sauce provided excellent complimentary flavors.
The salad that followed was just the way I like it—mixed greens joined by an array of special guest stars including nuts, roasted peppers, orange slices and cannellini beans. The dressing was light and allowed the fresh ingredients to do the talking.
The toughest part of the afternoon was choosing an entrée; usually there’s one item that stands out—or a couple that don’t—but here everything was intriguing. In the end I settled on the pine nut crusted mahi-mahi, while my dining companion went with the grilled pork loin. The fish was excellent, one of the better bits of mahi I’ve had in a while, which, given how unbelievably ubiquitous that dish is on Maui, is saying something. It was served with a side of creamy gratin potatoes and veggies—asparagus and carrots cleverly tied up in a “bow” made of squash, one of many creative flourishes that elevated the meal’s artistic status.
The pork, meanwhile, was incredibly tender, and pleased the palate with a sweat-and-savory meld of apple, leek fondue and cider gastrique (a fancy word for sauce, for those, like me, who occasionally need Google to demystify fine dining).
By this time we were both ready to burst, but there’s nothing like a light, fluffy butterscotch milk chocolate mousse to convincingly make the case that you’ve got a little room left after all.
Looking at Class Act’s upcoming menu—which features items like filet mignon, braised lamb shank, wild mushroom risotto and peanut butter and chocolate profiteroles—it’s a safe bet that no matter when you choose to attend, you’ll eat like a king for a peasant’s ransom.
I’m not their teacher—and given my propensity for burning microwave dinners that’s a decidedly good thing—but if I were, these food-slinging students would pass with flying colors. MTW