A year and a half ago “Artistic Tucson” aka Charlie Spillar send me an email about a new restaurant called “A.i. Bistro” of the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Tucson (AIT) at 5099 E. Grant, west of Rosemont. It is a culinary school for young people (median age 25) to learn how to cook and serve cuisine from around the world. The Art Institute offers education in design, media arts, fashion & culinary professionals.
Click below for Charlie’s August, 2010 favorable article about the art gallery at AIT and this fusion style restaurant. http://tucsoncitizen.com/art/2010/08/04/great-art-great-food-at-tucson%E2%80%99s-art-institute/
Finally last week I ate lunch at this restaraut (only open Wednesdays and Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) at this restaurant, and was pleasantly surprised. The small student-run restaurant has only 10 tables and is on the 2nd floor of the large AIT school building on Grant, but it has lovely corner window panels that look out towards Grant. The tables have a fine dining look with white tablecloths & red or black napkins, and fresh flowers on the tables.
Everyone was friendly and welcoming, and three tables are elevated so you can actually watch your own meal being prepared in the exhibition kitchen right next door, through large picture windows. I ordered the Barbeque Salmon, Cous Cous, and Arugula salad for $7.00. The other choices sounded delicious as well, such as Roast Loin of Pork with a Proscuitto and Herb stuffing, or the Chicken Scaloppini with a buttery roasted tomato emulsion. The lunch entrée came with several slices of soft bread and two types of butter (regular and herb). Specials change weekly depending on the season.
While I waited for the students to prepare my meal, I checked out the eight pieces of student art on the walls, by those enrolled in graphic design or fashion design – all taking a basic course in color I was told.
My meal arrived promptly and the barbecue salmon was exquisite in flavor and softness. I usually order salmon when I eat out, and this was the best I’ve had in decades. The salad was tasty as well, composed of arugula, apple slices and onion slices, with a bacon vinaigrette. The soft cous cous was finely prepared as well and made a wonderful, complete meal. Later I enjoyed a creamy light dessert of prickly pear ice cream for only $1.50, my first experience with this cactus food aside from prickly pear jelly.
I give an “A” to the students for this overall experience and the quality & price of the food. You can also order a complete meal of appetizer, entrée, dessert and drink for $11.95, or a three course tasting meal for that same price.
Lunch is being served by the students for the summer semester till September 13. Call 520-318-2726 to make a reservation (required due to limited seating), but there were a few walks-ins when I was there (space available). Lots of customers were dropping by for take out as well, so this restaurant has become popular since it opened in July, 2009. Email is AiTucsonbistro@aii.edu.
Students in the culinary program competetly called me back to confirm my reservation, and I had to reschedule it once.
Informative websites if you’re interested in AIT or the Bistro itself: www.artinstitues.edu, or specifically http://www.artinstitutes.edu/tucson/about/ai-bistro-restaurant.aspx