Thursday, February 5, 2009

You Say Tomato, I Say Tomate

I believe that every once in a while, you need to treat yourself to a fine meal. In that frame of mind, my colleague, David, and I made lunch reservations at Rouge Tomate – a posh midtown restaurant focusing on delicious and healthy dishes made from local, nutritional ingredients. The restaurant follows the philosophy of S.P.E., which stands for Sanitas Per Escam in Latin, but symbolizes an “innovative approach toward well-being through balanced and optimal nutrition that maintains, strengthens, and protects the body.” So, what better place than this to treat ourselves to a delicious, body-cleansing experience?

We began our gastronomic adventure with the complimentary bread and dip they brought to the table. The dip is a spinach and garlic puree (pictured, right). It was a vibrant, rich green color, and it actually tasted equally as green, but not in a bad way. It was fresh and flavorful, and we felt good about eating it.

For our appetizer, we ordered the leek and potato flatbread with feta cheese, pine nuts, grapes and capers (pictured, left). We found this dish to be absolutely delicious. The bread was thin and crisp, but didn’t crumble easily when you bit into it – sturdier than we expected. And the combination of fried potatoes, leeks, feta, grapes, and pine nuts was sensational. All the flavors that melded together in our mouths were creative and fantastic. I’m not a caper fan, so I could have lived without that aspect, but the execution of this appetizer was spot on. It was almost like breakfast on flatbread, but better. And it got me thinking of other combinations I could come up with at home for a dish like this.

For the main dishes, David ordered the venison brochette a la plancha with bulgur wheat, dried fruit chutney, and minted yogurt raitta (pictured, right). The venison was perfectly cooked and seasoned. Wonderfully tender medallions of venison, and the side dishes added a very interesting middle eastern compliment to the dish. I would not have though to prepare venison in a style like this, but I guess that’s why I’m not an acclaimed chef.

I ordered the Heritage Breed chicken with autumn vegetable fricassee, quinoa, chestnut and cranberry (pictured, left). This home-style dish definitely had a comfort food element, but jazzed up in a healthful and trendy way. And the presentation was so lovely and colorful, which made it even more appetizing. The dish was really pleasant, and the chicken was juicy and tender. However, in retrospect, I can’t understand why I didn’t order the delicate squash agnolotti, which is supposedly similar to squash ravioli, with farm egg, watercress, and warm mushroom vinaigrette. I had asked the waitress about the dish, and she described the sauce as “pine-nut oil and maple syrup”. I can’t imagine that being bad – so I’ll have to try it the next time I decide to splurge on lunch.

We skipped the dessert this time around, though they all did sound delicious. Next time I go, you will get a review of their pasta, desserts, and wacky health smoothies (we saw some incredibly green drink getting whipped up at the bar and had to ask about it – it was supposedly a delicious vegetable puree. I think I’ll take their word for it). In the meantime, if you have some money and some time – the space was really open, airy and modern (picture, right), and the food was tasty and filling, but you left feeling good about what you just ate.

Rouge Tomate – 10 East 60th Street, 10022