At just $4.50, an artistically plated serving of a terrine of shiitake mushroom and poached chicken breast wrapped in braised leek is a steal.

After all, a terrine is a dish you would normally find at a chic and fancy restaurant, which could easily cost anywhere between $15 and $30 a portion.

That cut-price terrine is just one of many sophisticated dishes that has been served at Amber@West, a continental and French training restaurant at ITE College West in Choa Chu Kang.

The restaurant has also used dainty, edible flowers - the kind served at high-end restaurants - to decorate its Lyonnaise salad ($4).

Dishes on its current menu, which changed when the restaurant reopened earlier this month after renovation, include a cognac-scented pate served with croutons ($4.50), as well as a Nicoise salad ($4).

The training restaurant, which was set up in July 2010, aims to provide students pursuing National ITE Certificates in Food and Beverage Operations and Western Culinary Arts programmes with 'an authentic learning environment'.

There, students run the show, from the preparation of the food to plating it, as well as taking reservations, setting the tables and serving real, paying customers.

The students are earnest and ask for your feedback at the end of the meal so that they can learn and put suggestions into practice.

There are other schools that run training restaurants and cafes too. The students who run them are enrolled in programmes that include diplomas and certificates in culinary arts, catering and hospitality.

These institutions include Republic Polytechnic, which opened Oliva restaurant; Shatec Institutes, whose students run Recipes by Shatec; The ART, which stands for Assumption Restaurant of Training, at Assumption Pathway School in Cashew Road; and Temasek Polytechnic, which has four eateries - The Top Table, Deli Delite, Bistro Walk Cafe and Sugarloaf.

While some eateries, such as Recipes by Shatec, Oliva, The Top Table and Amber@West are smart-casual and a little more formal, others such as The ART, Deli Delite, Sugarloaf and Bistro Walk Cafe are more casual.

Mr Wee Tat Chuen, 40, principal of Assumption Pathway School, a vocational school for students who may not be academically inclined, says: 'The students are given the opportunity to handle food preparation and baking in an authentic setting with real customers, and that helps to build up their confidence for when they enter the workforce.'

The 'hands-on' experience is essential, say course convenors and principals.

Ms Petrina Lim, course manager of the baking and culinary science diploma course at Temasek Polytechnic School of Applied Science, adds: 'Bistro Walk Cafe was set up to allow students to familiarise themselves with a cafe organisation and its operations as it would emulate that of the industry and commercial operations in the real world.'

But more than just helping students gain insight into the industry, these eateries are also getting it right in terms of the food.

They might be trainees, but the dining experience is pleasant and the food is decent and reasonably priced.

Dishes at these training restaurants include items such as a roast spring chicken with ratatouille, chickpea and roasted garlic soup, and cajun chicken.

Prices can range from $3.50 for sandwiches to $6.50 for pasta with clams, and $20.90 for a roast spring chicken with ratatouille. Three-course set meals start from $10.

Diners in the know have been flocking to these restaurants, which makes reservations highly recommended.

The Top Table at Temasek Polytechnic, for example, is frequently fully booked.

One diner who enjoys the student-run dining experience is bookkeeper Chan Hsu Ying, 43. She has dined at Recipes by Shatec and Amber@West and loves how the staff are courteous and always willing to please.

She says: 'It is good to support and encourage those who will be part of our future food and beverage industry. The food is very good value for money - it is hard to go wrong.'