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By Jim Duncan Reviews

Des Moines Area Community College Bldg. 7,
2006 South Ankeny Blvd., Ankeny, 964-6369
Open weekdays when school is in session 11:15 a.m. - 1 p.m., some Sundays and Thursday nights.
Reservations suggested.

Bistro at ICI

The Iowa Culinary Institute (ICI) is one of the state’s best-kept secrets in higher education. Since a 2005 expansion, the school has served a cosmopolitan student body of about 150. Students come from countries such as Spain, Canada, Brazil, Lebanon, Jamaica, Costa Rica, Thailand and half a dozen countries in Africa. ICI has even graduated six students from Tibet. To visualize the institute’s influence on Central Iowa dining, imagine the local scene without George Formaro (owner chef Centro, Django, South Union, Gateway Market Café), Terry Boston (Executive Chef of Des Moines Golf & Country Club), Kurt Chausse (Executive Chef of The Café and Aunt Maude’s), Dan Dixson (Chef de Cuisine at Sage), Jeff Duncan (GM of Dos Rios), Nick Illingworth (Chef de Cuisine at Bistro Montage), Hal Jasa (founder of Underground, Inc.), Ephraim Malag (Executive Chef of Tournament Club of Iowa), John Weiler (Executive Chef at Fleming’s), Chris Ranallo (owner/chef of Ranallo’s) and Hong Willer (owner/chef of Café Shi). All are ICI grads, and I could go on.

An even better kept secret is the college’s teaching restaurant Bistro, which is open to the public. Each year, second-year students cook under staff supervision while first-year students wait tables. Not every student masters that latter role quickly. On one recent visit, my waiter exclaimed “Oh, wow, the plate is **** hot. Can I borrow your napkin?” That happened on just the second day of the new school term. Second-year students began the year in better form. Creamy corn soup was a revelation even compared to those in Des Moines’ best restaurants. Bistro’s was made with freshly shaved corn and Pickett Fence’s cream, a natural dairy in Woodward. Salads were made with fresh, local greens and homemade dressings — a tomato vinaigrette stood out.

Fish tacos delivered filets of whitefish in a lemon garlic slaw with a mango chutney. It was paired with roasted new potatoes. Stuffed chicken was served “airline style” with the winged bone rising from the breast. It had a zingy glaze of Dijon and herbs de Provence and was paired with home made potato chips. Bistro’s gyros were the best I’ve had in Des Moines with thinly sliced, perfectly seared lamb served on fresh pita with cool tzatziki (yogurt based sauce), olives, onions and garden fresh tomatoes. Glazed salmon was perfectly cooked “rare,” as ordered, and accompanied with fresh fruit. From an Asian buffet, I sampled bone-stock noodle soup with pork and myriad vegetables, perfectly crisped pot stickers, nori-wrapped sticky rice with avocado and crabmeat, and a stir-fried dish.

Pound cake was served with a firm crumb that nicely absorbed its chocolate Kahlua sauce. A hot apple cobbler was simpler and easier to appreciate. The fruit’s texture burst on the teeth, and the pastry was perfection in a pie tin. Like the best apple pies, it had been seasoned with restraint.

Bistro also serves about fifteen themed, multi-course dinners each year on Thursday nights, including some special feasts created with l’Association des Cuisiniers de la Loire. That professional culinary group sends top chefs to Des Moines each January from our sister city St. Etienne, France. Bistro’s daily menu offers four sandwiches, two salads and four entrees. Entrees and sandwiches come with soup or salad and a choice of side dishes. Salads come with soup. A pizza of the day, a buffet of the day and a quiche of the day are also offered. All orders cost just $8. Dessert did not cost extra, although that wasn’t mentioned on the menu or by the servers. I’ve seen better values — but not in this country during the last couple decades.

Side dishes
Matt Pearson (Dish, Torocco, Club Car) is running the kitchen at the new Skybox, where Coaches Corner used to be… The downtown Coney Island, an original skywalk vendor, closed. That makes Winston’s the senior restaurant on the skywalk system. CV

Food Dude Reviews 2008 2007 Reviews
Splash Raw Oyster Bar (1-3-08) Flavors of India(1-10-08)
Uncle Wendell's (1-17-08) Jesse's Embers (1-24-08)
Taste of Elegance (1-31-08) Old Country Buffet (2-7-08)
Baker’s Food & Fuel (2-14-08) Coffee (2-21-08)
Cool Basil (2-28-08) Sports Bars (3-06-08)
Daddy O’s Bodacious Foods (3-13-08) Maverick Grill (3-20-08)
Phat Chef’s (4-03-08) Shotz & Grill Cordoba (4-10-08)
Radish (4-17-08) Alba (4-24-08)
Billy Mack's (5-01-08) Jethro’s BBQ & Sports Bar (5-15-08)
Viva los Forasteros (5-22-08) Torocco! (5-29-08)
The King and I (6-05-08) Chipotle Mexican Grill (6-12-08)
Django (6-26-08) Swine (7-03-08)
Sbrocco (7-17-08) Zuzap (8-14-08)
Le Jardin (8-21-08) Samurai Sushi & Hibachi (8-28-08)
Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano (9-4-08) Old Castle (9-11-08)
Old Mexic, New Mexico (9-18-08)  

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