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Pierre Beemans

The children are long since graduated and the grandchild hasn=t started nursery yet, but I still look forward to the start of the school year. It means that the Algonquin Restaurant International will be open for business again and I can treat the wife and myself to one of Ottawa's best-kept (and best-tasting) gastronomical secrets.

Many of Just Ottawa's readers will be aware that Algonquin College has one of the finest cooking schools in the country. Fewer will know that it also has an outstanding restaurant attached to the school, where budding chefs and restaurant managers get real-life practice in serving and feeding the public. This is no college cafeteria or food court establishment: it is a formal dining room, elegantly set and served, as befits an institution whose graduates cook and cater for some of the finest cuisines in the province.

Everything is prepared and served by the student chefs using only the best and freshest of ingredients, under the careful supervision of their professors (all professional chefs themselves) and restaurant manager. The menu selection is restricted, compared to most restaurants, but always consists of at least two appetizers, two soups or salads, four entrees, and two desserts. The restaurant has an excellent selection of Canadian wines in its cellar; in fact, it serves only Canadian wines.

A recent evening offered us the choice of:
- smoked salmon and herb goat cheese pizza, or grilled asparagus in puff pastry
- lobster bisque, or young lettuce leaves with raspberry vinaigrette
- herbed duo of double lamb chops with merlot reduction sauce, or grilled beef flank steak with peppercorn sauce, or pan-seared tuna with avocado corn salsa, or roasted chicken breast with summer chutney
- chocolate bundt cake or baked lemon cheesecake coulis
The fixed price for the four courses is $24.99, about what one would pay for the lamb chops in a comparable downtown restaurant. With those prices, it is prudent to call ahead and reserve (727-7691) or you can book on their website.

The Restaurant International can accommodate up to 120, but most evenings it is set for about half that number. The waiters are cheerful, enthusiastic young people who, refreshingly, do not wind up their patter with AEnjoy!@. Evening hours are from 5:30 p.m., and lunch from 12:00 a.m. If you go for lunch, you might be able to look in on the cooking, pastry and wine labs next door.

Algonquin College is on Woodroffe Avenue south of Baseline, and the Restaurant International is on the ground floor of Building H, the Philip Killeen School of Hospitality and Tourism. Driving south from Baseline, take the first light left, drive west for about 300 metres and park just after the next light, in the lot in front of the school. Parking is free, on a first-come basis; otherwise you will have to pay for metered parking in the school lot across the street.

Pierre Beemans

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