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Rouge Tomate

rouge tomate.jpg10 E. 60th St., between Fifth and Madison;

(646) 237-8977;
Open seven days, noon-4:30 p.m., 5:30-10:30 p.m.;

CUISINE: Modern American;
VIBE: Glossy culinary spa;
OCCASION Midtown
lunch, business dinner, detox dining;
DON’T MISS DISH: Arctic char,
yellowjack crudo, rabbit with chestnut pasta;
PRICE: Appetizers $10,
entrees $20, desserts $10;
RESERVATIONS Accepted in downstairs dining
room. Different menu in upstairs cafe; both equally good.

There are 393 calories in the rabbit
Fleischnacke at Rouge Tomate. The nutritionist counted. How many
restaurants do you know that have a nutritionist?

Fleischnacke is German for minced meat
rolled in pasta and cooked in a stock. At Rouge Tomate, this means
farm-raised, braised rabbit rolled up in chestnut pasta and sautéed in
rabbit jus. None of the ingredients requires quotation marks.

There’s not a mock anything anywhere in
this dish. Those 393 calories also include a celery root purée, roasted
celery root, roasted chestnuts, chestnut foam and a salad of apples,
celery leaves and tarragon.

And that’s one of the more caloric dishes on the menu.

My favorite appetizer – the celery root and almond panna cotta – is
only 155 calories. The panna cotta is made with unhomogenized whole
milk and topped with lots of peekytoe crab, grapefruit segments and
fresh tarragon. The calories matter, but only because the food is so
exceptional.

Usually the thought of self-consciously
healthy food makes me depressed – so depressed I get the urge to curl
up with a jar of peanut butter and a spoon.

But I don’t feel that way at Rouge Tomate,
even though they’ve replaced most of the fats we associate with haute
cuisine. Take butter, cheese and cream away from most chefs and they
would throw their hands up in despair. But Jeremy Bearman, chef at Rouge Tomate, has had a few good mentors, including Joel Robuchon and Daniel Boulud.

Here’s how it works: Take the lobster à la plancha with green fennel
risotto. Usually, what binds a risotto together is butter and cheese.
Instead, Bearman uses fennel stock, fennel purée, fennel juice and
fennel-fronds purée – the quintessence of fennel. He finishes the dish
with sauce Americaine, a brandy-spiked lobster stock with a splash of
Pernod. These are robust flavors and you never pine for the absent
fats.

Rouge Tomate adheres to an 85-page S.P.E.
charter – Latin for Sanitas Per Escam. That means health through food,
a phrase that comes from Emmanuel Verstraeten, the founder of the original Rouge Tomate in Brussels.
What this really means is sourcing, preparation and enhancement. It’s
the cult of culinary balance – the balance of taste and nutrition – not
a bad cult to be in. But it’s bigger than that.

Rouge Tomate may be a prototype for a restaurant of the future – a
new way of thinking, a new way of eating, a new way of dining out.

Let me just point out some of the highlights of this wonderful menu:
squab and slow-roasted faro salad; Arctic char with smoked sea salt and
Asian pear sorbet; and yellowtail amberjack crudo with vanilla salt, a
mung bean salad, crispy ginger, kaffir lime and fresh tropical fruit.

There’s also dessert, which is where you would really mourn the
missing calories. Except you don’t here. The chocolate and banana
tasting is 272 calories – a chocolate and caramelized banana napoleon,
roasted baby banana split and a teacup of rich hot cocoa. James Distefano,
the pastry chef, makes a terrific parfait with yogurt, fresh
huckleberries, candied lemon and a chamomile crisp. In fact, the only
dessert that doesn’t work is the Hudson Valley apple soup.

I hope Rouge Tomate is going to be here for a long, long time. Especially if Jeremy Bearman stays in the kitchen.

 

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