Tuesday, August 17, 2010

In 2008, Emmanuel Verstraeten expanded his Brussels concept,Rouge Tomate, to New York.
The philosophy of Rouge Tomate surrounds the concept of S.P.E., an acronym for “Sanitas Per Escam” (Health Through Food). This idea rests on three key principles: sourcing, selecting ingredients seasonally and locally; preparation, using cooking techniques that preserve the food’s integrity and nutrition; and enhancement, optimizing nutritional value via product combination and menu diversity.

Chef Jeremy Bearman’s does a wonderful job following the S.P.E. concept while also preparing delicious food. I was told by an employee that you could enjoy a three-course meal for under 1000 calories. It's quite impressive to deliver a delicious appetizer, entree, and dessert for under 1000 calories when most restaurants could use those 1000 calories just in the first course.

The decor by "Bentel & Bentel (the firm behind most of Danny Meyer’s New York restaurants) also reflects the feel-good premise without conjuring a yoga retreat." Rougue reflects beautiful elegance while making guest feel comfortable.

Rouge Tomate is not only known for their food, but also known for their juice bar. Since the concept behind Rouge embodies health, the cocktail menu offers a variety of options from non-alcohlic blends to seasonal favorites. Rouge Tomate's in-house juice bar squeezes fresh fruit and vegetable juices daily for all of their specialty cocktails and signature combinations. The juice bar utilizes the freshest seasonal produce to ensure they have not only the highest nutritional value but exceptional taste.

Whether you get the Jasmine (jasmine infused gin, apple juice, and fresh green jalapeno) or the Rose sangria (berry infused Rose, Watermelon, Orange, Seltzer) you will be pleasantly surprised. The white wine we got with dinner was also refreshingly good, while also demonstrating the same practices of balance and nutrition. The sommelier came over to our table to talk about the wine and how she picks wine not only for its taste, but the wineries sustainable, organic, and biodynamic practices of viticulture.

Rougue just added crostinis to their menu. The addition of the crostini option wasn't to replace ordering an appetizer, but to get guest to order a little something extra. The crostini option is perfect for those waiting at the bar for their table. All the crostinis are quite good including the crab, serrano ham/eggplant, jersey tomato, and ratatoulle. The crab crostini seemed to be the table favorite. The only service flaw that I recognized came during this part of the meal when the runner brought the food out without describing each crostini. Although we figured it out for ourselves, some people might like a description. Other than that, the service was on point all night.

The server than brought out an amuse bouche served in a mini shot glass. The amuse bouche was a cold, creamy corn soup that really got me excited for my meal. For my entree, I ordered the chicken which is very unlike me. Not only do I eat chicken every day at home, but many restaurants don't impress me with their chicken dishes. I decided to get the chicken based on the server's recommendation and I'm glad I did. It was a local Amish chicken served with fingerling potatoes, fennel, arugula, and a heirloom tomato jus. The chicken was cooked sous-vide style, which is pretty new way of cooking. Sous-vide comes from the French for "Under Vaccuum" and involves cooking items packaged in airtight plastic for long periods of time in hot water (around 60 degrees C or 140 degrees F)

The chicken had a beautiful, crispy skin that really impressed me. I couldn't believe this dish was healthy, because it had so much flavor. I also tried the trout and salmon dishes that were also good. Both dishes were cooked "a la plancha", which comes from the Spanish for an iron or aluminum plate usually incorporated into the oven. The whole brook was served with quinoa, almond, fava bean, apricot, spiced yogurt, and chermoula. I was also got to taste the Columbia River Salmon which was served with summer squash, eggplant, miso, and a tomato-ginger dashi. Both fish dishes were really well cooked, but the chicken really stood out here.

The server than brought us out a cantaloupe sorbet to cleanse our palate for dessert. Now that I think of it, the server didn't tell us about the sorbet and he just placed it in front of us.

Rouge's dessert menu is based on fruit as they stick to their concept of balance and nutrition. All three desserts were great as I tried the Blueberry, Plum, and Bittersweet Mi-Cuit. The blueberry dessert was a warm clafouti topped with red currants and buttermilk-lemon ice cream. The Plum came with sticky rice balls with crystalized ginger and a plum-shiso sorbet. The Bittersweet Mi-Cuit was definitely the most artistic of the three. This dessert came with a molten chocolate cake, banana, and coffee ice cream.

Rougue Tomate served me with an awesome experience from the cocktails to the food. I thought the restaurant did a good job embodying the concept of the S.P.E. without being too preachy. I will definitely be back at Rouge whether its for a well-crafted drink or a delicious, nutritious meal.

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