Review: The Summit Room at Midwest Culinary Institute

I was lucky enough to be invited by MCI’s director, Joe Moss, to The Summit Room’s preview evening on May 22. In an earlier post I gave you a bit of the background, so let’s skip the niceties and get on to the food.

We were greeted with glasses of champagne and the first dish of the evening– a spicy tuna tartare on top of buckwheat noodles. Awesome! What was great about it is they kept the beauty of the dish– elaborate plating, beautiful presentation– despite the fact that we were eating one-bite versions of each dish, and they were served on plastic plates. I was very impressed by this. The flavor of the tuna was nicely complimented by the spiciness of the dressing, which came from kochujung, a Korean garlic and pepper paste.

On the ice sculpture, they served some antipasto– cheeses, meats, and a tapenade made of eggplant, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and the biggest capers I’ve ever seen.

We then moved on to the entrees– we didn’t discover the second courses until after we had entrees, so our experience was slightly out of order.

Duck breast with barley, wild mushrooms, red wine and orange was my first and was most impressive. The duck breast held up well in the hotel pans, and the barley and mushrooms were a nice, rich compliment lightened up by the citrus and red wine.

The risotto cake held up fairly well, too– though I think I would prefer this as an appetizer than an entree. It is, however, a lovely vegetarian choice.

The next dish, the pork, was my absolute favorite. It involved roasted pork with chipotle and tomatillo sauce, pickled jicama, fried plantain and house-made chipotle ice cream. You get hot and sweet and creamy and cold and sour all in one bite. The chipotle ice cream was surprising– creamy and sweet, then as it hit the back of your throat warm and spicy. Just awesome. I hope to go back just to get this dish.

As warm and rich as the pork was, the Arctic char was creamy and light-tasting. It was served with some jicama as well as mashed chickpeas, saffron cream and some fennel. Delicious.

We then discovered the second courses, which were tucked away and a little hidden. They were great and inventive– I could make a meal out of the arugula and gnocchi, with goat cheese and favas. I don’t like favas, generally, but I liked them cold and just barely cooked.

The other salad was a composed salad of asparagus, bread, raisin puree, pine nut puree, and parmesan. Beautifully presented, and quite delicious. I loved the sweet and rich raisin puree!

And now for the desserts. Oh, the desserts. We tried all three, of course. This is why I need to actually *go* to the gym:

The rich, dark brownie with banana, passion fruit puree, and malted ice cream on the side was my favorite. I never thought that banana and passion fruit would go together, but boy, did it.

We also had rhubarb tarts with fromage blanc, port, and mint. The rhubarb was cooked in port, and the tart filled with the fromage blanc and topped with the rhubarb. A great use for this seasonal vegetable (which I need to cook with, and soon).

The other item in that picture is lemon custard, topped with pistachio, honey and lavender on top of a crisp cookie. This reminded me of tart lemon curd, with a nice contrast of salty pistachio and sweet honey. Wonderful.

The Summit Room is an absolute gem. The prices are great– $7-29– and the flavors are pretty adventurous for Cincinnati. When Joe and I chatted after dinner, he told me about the lamb– not featured at this tasting, but it involves encapsulated mango puree. Molecular gastronomy in Cincinnati– who knew? If you want cutting edge food at a good price that helps future chefs shine, you need to try out The Summit Room.

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  • k

    i think i would go just for those desserts. mmm.

  • Julie

    The desserts were awesome. I should have made Terry get a brownie too. Mmmm.

  • liz

    i love these photos… everything looks so creative and delicious! where is the summit room anyway? is it at the school?

  • Julie

    Everything WAS creative. I was so impressed. It is indeed at the school– there are signs leading to it, and valet parking. Can’t miss it!

  • Kel Klump

    We went last weekend to eat there and it was good. They have kinks to work out but after talking to the chef after dinner their summer menu is being tweaked and should be out soon. Cant wait to try it.

  • Julie

    Kel, did you have the same menu I ate off of? I’ll be interested to see their summer menu as well.