The Culinary Institute of America
1946 Campus Drive
Hyde Park, NY 12538
Phone: 845 451 1012
Reservations through Open Table
Open for Lunch & Dinner | Tuesday through Saturday
Dining out at one of the Culinary Institute of America’s four restaurants is one of the more enjoyable epicurean adventures you can undertake in the Hudson Valley. Students spend time in each of the venues, working their way through each dining room and kitchen, all overseen by the CIA professional staff of instructors. Each of the restaurants offers a distinct dining experience and theme. Regional American menus rotate regularly at American Bounty; Italian specialties are the focus at Caterina de Medici.The newest venue to open is the Bocuse Restaurant, an homage to the legendary Lyonnaise chef, Paul Bocuse. In the late 1960’s Chef Bocuse and a few of his colleagues popularized what came to be known as “Nouvelle Cuisine”, a reimagining of traditional classic French haute cuisine with a new emphasis on purity of presentation and a rejection of the laborious and elaborate recipes and sauces of “cuisine classique”. Their new techniques inspired a revolution in cooking where the food’s natural flavors would now stand on their own, using the juices to enhance the presentation instead of the classic heavy French sauces like Béchamel. Steamers became popular in kitchens, along with – quelle horreur! – microwaves. Most appropriately, The Bocuse Restaurant occupies the space which was once the home to L’Escoffier Restaurant, the Culinary’s former temple of cuisine classique. When we last stopped in for dinner, we started the evening down the hall at the Bocuse’s sister restaurant, American Bounty. The reason you might consider doing that too is that unlike the Bocuse, The American Bounty has a bar, and a very nice one at that. It’s a nice place to collect your tablemates and enjoy a selection from the restaurant’s excellent wine list. They are most accommodating, even allowing patrons to carry their glass with them to dinner at Bocuse. The dining room staff at The Bocuse is the most seasoned that you will find at the CIA, simply because the students are only a few weeks from graduation by the time they get to work here. The students rotate through the four restaurants as they progress through the curriculum, leaving Bocuse, with the most difficult preparations and most formal service, for last. Dining at the Culinary is always enjoyable, and it is always an adventure. You will enjoy it much more if you remember that you are dining in a classroom. The student that is pouring your wine may be the next Ferran Adrià, or she could also be the next Guy Fieri, so enjoy it for what it is. The meal will be great. So will the wine. The Bocuse sports one of the better wine lists in the area, especially for their selection of wines under $100, and premium wines by the glass. For $40, you can enjoy a bottle of a very serviceable Bourgogne Rouge from Bouchard Père & Fils, marked up less than 2/1 from retail. Stepping up in price just a bit, a bottle of Marsannay from Côte de Nuits, Domaine Collotte is probably the best value on the list for just $60, and that is what we ordered. (There are no Grand Cru or Premier Cru vineyards in the Marsannay AOC so their wines tend to get overlooked, but can offer a great value.) All of the menus at the CIA make good use of the local Hudson Valley farms. To their credit, they also make an effort to limit their seafood offerings to sustainable catches, as certified by the Marine Stewardship Council and Seafood Watch. Last week’s menu offerings ranged from a classic strip loin of beef to a braised rabbit. I fell for an appetizer of duck prepared “three ways” – a creamy rillette, a salt-cured prosciutto, and a foie gras torchon. You can check out the entire menu (as of this writing) here. You will want to save room for desert, and one of those deserts must be the home made ice cream. The made-for-Instagram tableside presentation includes a cloud of liquid nitrogen and lots of oohs and ahs from your neighbors in the dining room.
Up until this new opening, I have always had a hard time choosing between Caterina de Medici and the American Bounty as my favorite CIA restaurant. The Bocuse Restaurant may have eliminated that quandary.