Arts & Culture

Exotic flavors spice up campus culinary scene

Andrews Commons serves updated Gate standards, as well as new Asian fusion cuisine

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The new Andrews Commons on Pembroke Campus features a variety of cuisines, private study rooms and a large, comfortable dining area. Options include stir-frys, pizzas and soda from a touch screen vending machine.

It’s hard to believe that the same Brown Dining Services that serves bland, exhausted green beans and burnt, greasy grilled cheese sandwiches will now offer made-to-order, zesty vegetable stir-fry and crispy, gourmet pizzas hot out of a stone hearth.

If there is one word to describe Andrews Commons — the newest campus eatery and study lounge that opens today — it would be “versatile.” With the variety of seating arrangements and the innovative food and beverage options, the space is a recipe for success.

Diners immediately notice this versatility upon entering the spacious dining and study area, awash in natural light from the high, arched windows at the front of the room. The welcoming atmosphere invites students to nestle in an armchair, hunker down at a countertop or squeeze in with friends onto a cushioned bench. Flanking both sides of the space are private study rooms equipped with floor-to-ceiling whiteboards and conference tables.

The touch-screen soda machine is the beverage version of the New Curriculum — it offers a startlingly expansive array of soft drink brands and flavors. The dizzying number of options allows for twists on tried-and-true favorites and experimentation with unfamiliar novelties: Think peach-flavored Mello Yello or vanilla root beer.

The pizzas, served up sizzling and aromatic from stone hearth ovens, are fresh and dangerously enticing. The cheese pizza is a satisfying classic, and the sauce tastes full-bodied and is well-represented, with three distinct layers — crust, sauce, cheese — visible in the cross-section of each bite. This serves as a welcome departure from the tendency of commercial eateries to smother an anemic tomato sauce beneath the work of an overzealous cheese grater.

Gutsier combinations are also available. One particular standout features a unique amalgamation of traditional tomato sauce and basil pesto ­— the tanginess of the sauce and the nuttiness of the pesto do not compete for attention, but strike a pleasant harmony with one another. Crowned with fresh mozzarella, the toppings, such as chicken, arugula, and pepperoni, are evenly distributed to ensure the perfect balance of  each ingredient in every bite.

The Asian fusion station puts to shame the packaged noodles and dumplings at the Blue Room thanks to Consulting Chef Mai Pham, chef and owner of the Vietnamese and Thai Lemon Grass Restaurant in Sacramento, Calif. Her food columns in the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as her numerous cookbooks, including “Pleasures of the Vietnamese Table” and “The Best of Vietnamese & Thai Cooking,” have earned her the coveted James Beard Award and an honorary Master’s degree from the Culinary Institute of America, among other accolades.

Pham presented a step-by-step demonstration of various recipes to chefs at Andrews Commons on Monday, emphasizing how to maximize the flavors of fresh produce, herbs and spices with the kitchen’s top-of-the-line culinary technology.

Chefs clustered around her during the demonstration, nodding vigorously and scribbling down notes as she dispensed casual nuggets of wisdom, such as “this is a good experiment to see if you have enough water in the curry,” and “I would make the vegetables for this dish a bit on the al dente side.”

Upstairs houses a 24-hour study space houses sleek, minimalist lighting units above each desk, as if right out of an Apple advertisement. These lamps, combined with the ubiquitous USB-compatible outlets and ultramodern carpet design, lend the room a streamlined ambiance of maximum efficiency.

With its fresh and flavorful cuisine and ample study and social spaces, Andrews Commons promises comfort, excitement and full stomachs. Now that’s getting your meal credit’s worth.

 

A previous version of this article misstated the name of the University’s newest campus eatery. In fact, it is Andrews Commons, not Andrews Dining Commons. The Herald regrets the error.

  • sleek minimalist lighting unit

    “A streamlined ambiance of maximum efficiency”?? W in T actual F. Nice to know that the BDH has been bought up lock, stock, and barrel by Brown’s PR staff.

    • SMLU for short

      “The touch-screen soda machine is the beverage version of the New Curriculum.” Barf.

    • ultramodern carpet design

      drinking the kool aid from the fancy vending machine

    • Maria Orbay

      Cowards. Insult the author with your own name if you want to make accusations.

  • Said No One Ever.

    Yay! Another study space!