Tuesday, April 5, 2011

At Rouge Tomate, the Divine and the Sublime

Part of the mission at Rouge Tomate is to serve foods such as green pea risotta that help promote good health. Photos from Rouge Tomate.

food at Rouge Tomate is prepared with the principle that gourmet meals can be healthful.

The haute cuisine here and at the original Brussels eatery is low-fat and good for you. Of course, if they did not mention this in their manifesto on SPE® (Sanitas Per Escam or Health Through Food), no one would ever know it.

Everything this reviewer sampled at Rouge Tomate on two visits – weeks apart – was tasty and inventive with well-balanced flavors. Dishes look just like their less heart-healthy brethren at other fine dining establishments. Presentation is sometimes heart-stoppingly beautiful, and ingredients are locally sourced to maintain their nutritional integrity.

On my initial visit to Rouge Tomate, lunch was remarkable for two reasons. First, there was the service. The receptionist welcomed me and my husband by name as soon as we opened the doors. Second, was the meal. Not surprisingly, it was good, but sometimes there is good and then there is sublime. Incidentally, Rouge Tomate is a Modern American restaurant with a Michelin rating.

The interior of Rouge Tomate was designed by architects, Bentel + Bentel.

Bread does not come with butter or even olive oil, but with a dense, flavorful puree of vegetable (spinach on this occasion, though the cauliflower or broccoli is also to be reckoned with.) So creamy is the puree that it suggests butter. It smoothes on the bread like the richest of spreads. One is almost tempted to just savor this whipped vegetable concoction by the spoonful and skip the rest of the meal. But then one would miss the great meal that followed. (See a cooking demo with chef Jeremy Bearman at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p40WWtxWY1M)

We both ordered the octopus salad as an appetizer. Served warm, it is tender and flavorful. If the rest of the meal is awful, we concur, this is worth the whole enchilada, as it were.

Turns out the rest of the meal is also transcendent. Succulent duck with duck terrine and lots of veggies and a smear of pumpkin puree are excellent. The spaghetti with sage almond butter will do well as leftovers for dinner because there is way too much to eat, and we haven't yet had dessert.

Tuna Salad Plate a la Rouge Tomate.

At a more recent lunch at Rouge Tomate, we had another go at the octopus salad. It was just as pleasing as the first time, proving that tenderness was not a some-time thing. Alas, the divine offering of pureed vegetable spread for the bread has been replaced by a more prosaic herb-infused olive oil for dipping. The menu is a seasonal affair, therefore it changes frequently.

Also on the plate is a Portuguese sardine and tabouleh salad that is both visually pleasing and delicious. The tabouleh is piled into a rectangle in support of a row of perfect sardine filets skin side up with a light coating of wasabi mustard on their undersides. As if this were not enough, also prettifying this dish is a salad of vibrant colored citruses and slithered daikon.

The mushroom soup with little pieces of hazelnuts and sunchokes is at once creamy and crunchy. The gnocchi is also dense but not chewy. It has a perfect texture and a fabulous pesto sauce.

Potatoes Flat Bread.

Dessert is a dollop of a maple ice cream with raisin-textured chestnuts and a delightful streak of chocolate mousse, as well as a cocoa cake with the taste of biscotti that has the tenderness of pound cake. It is garnished with finely diced mini cubes of chestnuts. The chewy texture, though, takes away from their tastefulness. The favorite dessert from both visits to Rouge Tomate is the squash pound cake with a soft meringue on top. It is crunchy, chewy and comes with dollops of ice cream of a squash variety and a mélange of apple and pomegranate seeds.

On occasion, Rouge Tomate shutters for a special event; avoid disappointment by calling for a reservation.

Visit http://www.rougetomate.com/ to learn more about Rouge Tomate.

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