Style + Sustenance
Manhattan’s Rouge Tomate has a Michelin star and a nutritionist on staff. The combination is bringing fine dining to a whole new level.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 | Merritt Watts
You've heard of too many cooks in the kitchen, but at New York City's Rouge Tomate, things work a little differently. There are two distinct and all-important voices that weigh in on every plate: The executive chef's of course, and more surprisingly, that of a culinary nutritionist.
With it's sleek design, sleeker clientel and extensive bar, Rouge Tomate is turning the reputation for healthy dining on it's head. Each dish gets a full nutritional analysis before it appears on the menu to make sure it meets the restaurants rigorous health standards. Oh, and that extensive bar? It doubles as a fresh juice bar.
The restaurant also boasts some serious culinary credentials, including a Michelin star. “We don’t want to beat people over the head with the health thing before they’ve even started eating,” says Rouge Tomate’s in-house culinary nutritionist Kristy Lambrou, R.D.. “But the truth is, by the end of the meal, every diner will have eaten about four servings of produce and had a multi-course meal for under 1,000 calories.” Here, Lambrou shares her strategies for creating healthy food that’s worth a reservation.
1 Think hyper-seasonally
Rotating the menu four times a year is, well, so last season. “We work with ingredients just as they start to come into the markets, so our menu has to stay spontaneous,” says Lambrou. “The chef [Executive Chef Jeremy Bearman] will get a phone call from a farmer or a fisherman about what’s great right now, and will plan the menu that way.” Of-the-moment ingredient sourcing allows the restaurant easy access to the freshest, highest-quality ingredients, minimizing the need for fat-filled flavor enhancers such as butter, says Lambrou, and it also means the ingredients are the most nutrient-dense they can be.
2 Create a truly balanced meal
If you’re eating out regularly, sodium is a serious concern. “Salt is essential to cooking delicious food so we’d never cut it out completely, but the key is to balance it,” says Lambrou. Potassium can help counteract the bloating and blood-pressure-boosting effects of sodium. “If we’re using an ingredient that’s already naturally high in sodium, like seafood, we’ll balance it out with a potassium-rich ingredient that works with the dish, like tomatoes, beans or potatoes,” says Lambrou.
3 Add flavor without fat
Where other restaurants have a deep fryer, Rouge Tomate has a sous vide machine. The technique involves cooking food in vacuum-sealed plastic pouches and requires virtually no additional fat. “We can infuse a lot of flavor by sealing herbs with vegetables or meat before cooking,” says Lambrou. Plus, sous vide is known for preventing the nutrient-leaching that happens in even the healthiest cooking methods such as steaming or blanching.
4 Build a better business lunch
Rouge Tomate’s midtown location makes it a hot spot for power lunches, and Lambrou takes the assignment seriously: She carefully monitors the fat content of the lunch menu to help avoid that post-lunch energy slump. The three-course Business Lunch prix fixe weighs in at around 700 calories (that’s fewer calories than a single entrée at other places). “We avoid using butter or cream in savory dishes; instead we’ll find other ways to add richness,” says Lambrou. The restaurant’s luscious squash soup, for example, is a puree of both butternut and kabocha squash. “Kabocha is a starchier squash, so using it in the soup gets us the thick, velvety texture we want without using cream; we’ll use a bit of milk instead.”
5 Make dessert work
So many people won’t order dessert because they think it’s indulgent, notes Lambrou, but the dessert menu at Rouge Tomate pulls its weight: Every dessert on the menu delivers at least one serving of fruit. The only exception? Dark chocolate desserts. “Dark chocolate has plenty of antioxidants on it’s own, so we might use a little less fruit.” Indulgence has never felt so sweet.