"Seasonally inspired, locally sourced Modern American cuisine".
Delicious, fresh & creative food in Midtown Manhattan! The service is mostly friendly and attentive,
but the seating policies can be, lets say, frustrating. This was one of our favorites until we were subjected to these policies.
Chickpea Hummus, Sweet Pepper, House-Cured Olives, Flatbread Crisps
Meyer Lemon-Saffron Gnocchi, Broccoli Rabe, Garlic, Sweet Pepper, Parsley
Maine Lobster and Beet Salad, Grapefruit, Avocado, Daikon, Ginger, Marcona Almond
Whole Brook Trout a la Plancha, Parsnip, Baby Spinach, Heirloom Citrus, Shallot
We appreciate restaurants and chefs that are willing and able to create food that is both delicious and healthy, instead of (only) taking the easy route of using butter, cream, salt, sugar in an effort to make their food flavorful. We have a craving for more restaurants that have true food intelligence: true knowledge about the ingredients and how they affect the human body and a willingness to work to create flavorsome food in a healthy way. If patrons leave a restaurant after an anjoyable lunch or dinner, and feel great and energized (instead of feeling uncomfortably full and sluggish), is that not the best kind of endorsement a restaurant can get?
In an article I read some while ago, a pretty respected chef expressed: "If you think you cannot make things taste good without butter, salt and cream, you need to get more training." We agree. In our home kitchen we do not use butter or cream and we use very little salt. Yet, we create some amazing food, if I may say so myself (Thank you for many ingenious ideas, Tal Ronnen!). If we, lowly home cooks, can do it …
This is why we fall for restaurants like Rouge Tomate. They seem to cook mouth-watering, healthy food for vegetarians and omnivores alike.
The bread - whole wheat, fresh and quite tasty - was served with a smooth carrot-orange spread: a great start that set the tune. A promise. A wonderful deviation from the same-old-same-old tune: "here's some plain white bread with a slab of butter", sung in way too many restaurants here and all over the world.
The Gnocchi were tender and fluffy, yet moist and filled with flavor: just the right amount of lemon and a hint of saffron. The broccoli rabe was cooked perfectly (more please!), as were the red peppers and the slightly caramelized garlic.
The hummus, plain and light, was served with pleasing, herbed and spiced flatbread, pepper and olives.
The lobster and beet salad (with grapefruit, avocado, ginger and almond) provided a nice mixture of different flavors and textures. The lobster itself was tender and quite tasty and -to our delight appeared not to be butter-poached (as the very heavy "rage" in this city has been for too long). At least it did not leave us with that trademark overly full and a bit yucky feeling you get after eating butter poached lobsters (or butter poached anything). Fresh, in all senses of the word.
The whole brook trout, stuffed with spinach and topped with small cubes of red pepper, shallot, parsnips, cilantro, was a bit heavier, but fresh, perfectly cooked and quite palatable. The waiter told us that some patrons love this fish dish so much that they eat absolutely everything, including the head. "Urban" tale or not, I did not find that hard to believe. We did leave the tail and the head, though.
On our first visit the cappuccinos were some of the best we have had in any restaurant in New York. Well made, strong espresso with just the right amount of milk and foam: perfect. Delicious, full, smooth taste. Unfortunately, later visits revealed huge inconsistencies in the quality of Rouge Tomate's cappuccinos.
Rouge Tomate is one of very few restaurants that care enough about their patrons to have soy milk at hand: the thousands and thousands of people suffering from lactose intolerance can have their cappuccinos (lattes, etc.) with milk and enjoy them too - without immediate stomach pain.
The waiter told us that since they cater to many vegans and vegetarians, they (unlike most restaurants) also cook with soy milk.
Except for the unfortunate experience concerning their seating policies, the service has been friendly, non-pretentious and professional.
We stopped going for over a year, and re-visited a couple of times in late 2012. While still quite tasty, we felt the "wow factor" was missing.
THE PHILOSOPHY & GENERAL INFORMATION:
Rouge Tomate says: "Our nutritional approach is based on a charter called SPE®, which stands for Sanitas Per Escam (Health Through Food), and was developed through the collaboration of chefs and dieticians working together. We use only local, seasonal and sustainable ingredients in our kitchen and prepare them with the goal of capturing their essential flavors while maintaining their nutritional integrity. By bringing this nutritional awareness to the menu, we hope you will not only taste the beauty of responsibly raised products but experience the fulfillment of eating a meal that has a complex nutritional foundation."
We have seen reviews where diners opine that this makes for bland or tasteless food, but based on our own experience, so far, we disagree. Without wanting to dismiss anyone's personal experience, I do want to point out that if we are used to food that is made with a lot of butter, cream, salt, sugar, we will have a bit harder time sensing the strong, natural flavor of fresh ingredients that have not been cooked with those "flavor enhancers". I know that from my own experience. It takes a while. The thing is though: once you get there, you wonder why you did not arrive earlier.
Rouge Tomate received one star in Guide Michelin 2011.