10 East 60th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues
$72 each for a group of five, with tip
I’ve been hearing about Rouge Tomate here and there so I wasn’t surprised when my girlfriends and I ended up there for dinner. The space is massive and perfect for big groups. It’s the first restaurant I’ve been in a long time where the servers all had custom-made uniforms versus the all-black outfit. The interior design screams money (from the architectural firm Bentel & Bentel) and I was saddened to think that the business might not make it past these economic times. Four days prior, I easily scored a table for five on a Friday night at 8pm. This would have been a difficult feat in regular New York time. It wasn’t exactly empty when we walked in, but the crowd did dwindle after 9:30 and we ended up being the last group by 10:30.
Rouge Tomate has been talked about as the latest restaurant that features local ingredients and farm to table philosophy. Yada, yada, yada, right? For the past two years, I’ve always said that that philosophy in the kitchen should not be a feature anymore–it should just be a given. Every restaurant should just be in that bandwagon today or risk being different, and not in a good way. That said, Rouge Tomate has some well-flavored dishes that spoke louder than they could present them–our waiter could not edge himself between us talkative women. Oh, this is not so bad, was the common response at our table after every taste even though we dismissed every waiter who approached our table.
I opted for the $35 lamb a la plancha. Our waiter explained to all my Spanish-speaking friends what “a la plancha” meant, but could not tell us which part of the lamb was on the grill. I’ve learned my lesson from other restaurants and I’ve always made sure that I’m not paying $35 for shoulder. When the waiter returned and confirmed it was loin, two of us ordered it. Another chose the Berkshire pork and the rest shared the fish in Thai curry. We thought it was a nice touch when they split the fish in two separate dishes, but alas, our bill at the end of the night counted for two of them. We had it corrected, to their chagrin, because our waiter had left mid-service and could not confirm the mistake he had made.
MIstakes aside, the lamb loin was so delicious I found it hard to share it with my group. It was perfectly medium rare served with string beans and tomatoes. The pork loin was naturally sweet that I could have eaten it without the vegetables on top. The Thai curry was delicious even though I always find sea bass a pretty bland fish. The appetizers fared better at our table: the fluke ceviche was bright and fresh; the frisée and fennel salad with prosciutto was my kind of salad, while the asparagus with maitake mushrooms and warm farm egg just made me happy.
I loved the blueberry crepe dessert that tasted like fluffy pancakes. Not too sweet, it was light enough to finish without forcing it down my throat after a pretty hefty meal.
Some waiters don’t know–and worst, don’t care–about the difference between lamb shoulder and lamb chops
Only at Irving Mill did I have a waiter who left mid-service without telling us he was turning the table over to another server
Warm poached egg in salad? You got me!