dish buzz: la rouge tomate

My second Restaurant Week outing was to La Rouge Tomate, a restaurant located just South of Central Park that focuses on providing dishes which are as local and seasonal as possible. It seemed like a great pick for Restaurant Week, even though I’ll admit I was not familiar with the restaurant beforehand. My friend Meg and I got there early, and so we pulled up a seat at the bar to relax. We tried out their Pear Crisp, which was comprised of ten cane rum, white pear purée, fresh vanilla, lemon, all topped off with prossecco. It was a very unique drink – refreshing and distinctive. Sarah, the third in our party, summarized it nicely when she arrived, calling it liquid Apple Jacks.

Our server promptly seated us, and we were greeted by an amuse-bouche courtesy of the chef of rutabaga soup with apples. It was warm, refreshing, and a nice balance between the more salty vegetable taste and the sweet flavor of the fruit. Usually I find the amuse-bouche to be a nice gesture, I also usually find it to be forgettable boardering on generic. But I will eat it every time just the same! It was refreshing to find this one to be so enjoyable. I kind of wanted a full appetizer-sized portion. They also sent out some fresh whole wheat bread, which had a slight kick courtesy of jalapeño, accompanied by a spinach-almond butter. It was an interesting mix of flavors. I liked it since I found the salty spinach was a nice contrast to the jalapeño influence. I’d never seen such a take on spinach and was really impressed by this choice of accompaniment to the standard bread basket.

Cranberry Bean Soup - Rouge Tomate

Cranberry Bean Soup - Rouge Tomate

For my starter, I chose to go with the Cranberry Bean Soup, which was prepared with chorizo, celery, fennel, and chive. The chorizo was a key ingredient here, adding a stronger flavor to the more soft mix of the other ingredients. I felt like this was the perfect cold weather soup. I’ll admit, I’m not a big bean fan, so I didn’t realize that cranberry beans were actually a type of bean. The soup used the bean in a nicely puréed form, which I appreciated. It was not too salty, which is something not seen often. Sarah went with the Tombo Tuna Poke with Asian pear, watermelon radish, oyster mushroom and sesame. It seemed to be similar to a tartare, but sadly I was not able to partake due to my mushroom allergy. Meg tried the chickpea hummus, which was prepared with roasted peppers, olive, sesame and flat bread crisps. I’ll admit, I almost preferred the crisps to the hummus itself! The hummus was a tad salty and bland, lost in comparison to the flavorful crisps.

Black Cod - Rouge Tomate

Black Cod - Rouge Tomate

For main course, both Sarah and I chose the the Atlantic Hake Fish with winter bean stew, fennel, lacinato kale and provençal oil. The fish was prepared to the perfect point, not overly cooked and dry – instead it was warm and flaky. The dish was on the saltier side due to the combination of the fish, the kale, and the fennel, yet it worked somehow. The flavors didn’t really compete yet seemed to come together with each bite, each layer showing through with their differing flavors. Meg instead ordered the cauliflower risotto with heirloom cauliflower, parmesan, garlic, and lemon confit. I enjoyed my one bite, but found the flavor of the parmesean along with the lemon overpowering, drowning out the risotto and especially the cauliflower, which seemed to not even be present altogether.

Citrus Chocolate Pudding Cake - Rouge Tomate

Citrus Chocolate Pudding Cake - Rouge Tomate

For dessert, I’d decided going in it had to be chocolate or I wasn’t ordering it. This meant my selection for dessert was the citrus chocolate pudding cake, which was served with hazelnut, orange scented frozen yogurt, and a fresh serving of what I’d mostly closely dub a blood orange preserve. It was a wonderful mix of flavors. The chocolate was more on the dark side – the right balance of sweet and bitter. The yogurt was more of a sweet influence, balanced by the more tart flavor of the blood orange. I was very happy to have gotten in my chocolate fix, my only complaint being that the pudding cake was not quite as warm as is typically the case. I believe this may correlate to a timing issue, which is my underlying main complaint about our experience at Rouge Tomate. Let me elaborate…

Our food here was absolutely amazing. Very well done – fresh ingredients assembled in a fun and innovative way consistently throughout each course of the meal. If we’re evaluating food only, then the review would stop here. However, I wouldn’t be doing anyone a favor if there was no mention of the service, or lack thereof, during our visit here. In general, my experience during Restaurant Week has been that they are usually trying to push you through as quickly as possible. Unlike the average patron who may or may not elect to partake in all three courses, they know what they’re getting with the Restaurant Week diner, leading to a virtual dining revolving door so to speak. I usually take that in stride as a part of the experience.

What I don’t understand though is when the progression is unnecessarily slowed down. The dining room was not dead, though on a Monday night was far from busy. Our server was pleasant, but after greeting us, was virtually invisible. We had to pry him away to order and there was a long delay between each of our courses, odd for a nice restaurant when we placed our full order of all three courses upfront. By dessert, we were all physically exhausted and honestly almost wanted to ask for our desserts to go. The delays crescendoed at the end, where we had to wait some 20 minutes to pry our server away from flirting with fellow waitstaff. I enjoyed the food. I did. But the service was unnacceptable in my book, and may mean this is my one and only outing to La Rouge Tomate.

La Rouge Tomate – 10 E. 60th St (between 5th & Madison Avenues) – 646.237.8977
Reservations Required

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