Healthy Restaurant Eating

By The Restaurant Dieter

Category: New York (page 1 of 4)

Review: David Burke Kitchen in New York; dead at brunch but the food was good

By now you know that my husband drags me to restaurants I would never think of going. I’d stop at the sandwich shop for lunch, but he wants to dine

Feeling a little chunky this morning, when the subject of lunch came up I said I just wanted a salad. He looked for a restaurant in Soho on Open Table and picked David Burke Kitchen. (It goes without saying that if a restaurant isn’t in Open Table, it might as well not exist for my husband.)

Asked how he learned of it, he said, “he’s a boldface-name chef,” as if that explained everything. So be it: David Burke, this one’s for you.

My husband had apparently checked the menu before making the reservation and saw it had salads. Only it didn’t —  at least not on the brunch menu. “There’s a chicken sandwich,” he said hopefully.

I resigned myself to the sandwich and ordered the starter of raw and pickled vegetables. That began my evolution from negative to positive. The vegetables included crunchy tart fennel, baby carrots, cucumber slices and endive with a portion cup of artichoke puree.


My husband, of course, ordered the tater tots with caviar and crème fraiche — a perfect Baby Boomer food snob dish.


The chicken sandwich came with a nice salad of spinach, arugula and raddichio. The sandwich itself was piled high on buttered toasted focaccia: chicken, a homemade mayo with some heat, a celery root slaw, a fat slice of tomato and red onion.

It was delicious, especially because the paillard of chicken was surprisingly warm and juicy. It’s so easy to overcook and dry out a piece of chicken pounded flat.

The whole lunch was more fattening than my modest salad would have been. But I left most of the bread and salad to compensate.


As I write this, hubby is having dessert — a chocolate hazelnut flan — and a leisurely second glass of wine. He’s happy.


And me? Happy too. Life’s full of compromises, and some of them result in good blog posts.

Here’s to you David Burke.

Review: Hao Noodle and Tea by Madam Zhu’s Kitchen in New York

Any restaurant that makes a Top 10 list by a respected critic is likely to please my husband. He collects foodie merit badges like an over eager Boy Scout. So I said, “Next time we are in New York, let’s try this place.”

In this case the list was by Adam Platt of New York Magazine and Grubstreet and the restaurant was Hao Noodle and Tea by Madam Zhu’s Kitchen. The line on this West Village spot is that it’s run by a real Chinese person who isn’t cooking from the Americanized Chinese restaurant guide. “Zhu comes from Chongqing, Sichuan, and operates restaurants in Shanghai, Beijing, and Hangzhou, and she and her chefs create a menu which reflects elements of all of these evolving regional cuisines,” Platt says.

The restaurant also receives high marks for ambience and decor. There are no red lacquer tables and dragon heads here; only a cool farm-to-table vibe. It’s a far cry from the Americanized Chinese  restaurants whose names seem taken interchangably from Column A or Column B of the same limited vocabulary: lucky, Budda, dragon, golden, pearl, garden, lotus, jade, China, Hunan and so on.


From the perspective of one trying to eat in moderation, this is a Chinese restaurant that forgoes the typical American Chinese cuisine. There’s no endless bowl of nutritionally vapid white rice, no portions big enough to wreck a diet in one sitting or provide an enormous portion for the next day or two. Portions are said to be shared, but split among four persons, they amount to a  bite or two each at most. The food itself is not low in fat, but you won’t go home stuffed either.

The menu is seasonally influenced and divided by the type of course: cold salads, hot starters, noodles, mains, dim sum and dessert. It’s unclear how to juggle among them, in what order they will appear or what utensils besides one’s own chopsticks to use to serve oneself or others. Go with people who you like and aren’t worried about germs.

The standouts were delicate, tiny fried meatballs; clay pot dumplings made of minced pork with an egg crepe skin in a savory chicken broth; cauliflower stir-fired with chiles and a seafood pancake that was crispy fried but not greasy. The dan dan noodles were silkier and more subtle than the peanut butter laden variety of a typical restaurant, but kind of bland and boring as a result. Overall, it’s a good bet.

Review: Le Coq Rico in New York is real food

One wouldn’t call roast chicken a diet food. Some of its flavor surely comes from the oil or butter rubbed on the skin before roasting.

Still, at about 500 calories for 1/4 of the bird, it’s better than a lot of other choices. I don’t like or eat the skin anyway. And at Le Coq Rico it is at least real food, simply prepared and not shot full of fillers, marinades, hormones or antibiotics.

There are no tricks at all at this bistro that made the New York Times’ 10 best list for 2016. Everything, from the cream of chicken soup to the green salad with a tangy vinaigrette, is real food that might have been prepared by a talented home cook. Even the desserts, which included banana, ginger and a really distinctive chestnut ice cream, were homey.

And homey is definitely meant as a compliment here. Go.



New York’s home of the 1-lb. sandwich, Carnegie Deli, reopens

It’s finally official: Carnegie Deli has reopened. Should we Weight Watchers members or dieters fear that? Nah.

Here’s why.

New York’s famed Carnegie Deli ‘will reopen in 2016’

Carnegie Deli says it’s determined to reopen in 2016. That message to its adoring fans comes via the restaurant’s website itself and, ironically, the website Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York.

“We would like to set the record straight. Carnegie Deli will reopen in 2016. We are ONLY temporarily closed,” according to the report. The midtown New York institution closed in April because of an unauthorized gas hookup and has had a string of troubles since.

Carnegie’s reputation in part comes from superhuman portions  — typically 1 pound of meat per sandwich — and sharing charges that discourage sharing. Yes, I have in fact eaten a whole sandwich there. And yes, the restaurant’s motto is, “If you can finish your meal, we’ve done something wrong.”

Just for sport, The Restaurant Dieter Googled the phrases “Carnegie Deli” and “Weight Watchers” and this is all that came up.

You’d be justifed for wondering how an item about Carnegie turned up on this website. Well, it turns out that Carnegie Deli does in fact have some good salads on the menu. And you can always go with a friend and take the tiniest bite of his Reuben. Heaven.

Review: Pearl & Ash in New York City

When The Restaurant Dieter asked how his husband discovered Pearl & Ash, he slyly replied, “Oh, I’ve seen it on some lists.” While The RD struggles to count Weight Watchers points, his spouse lives for sampling The Restaurants That Count. Apparently Pearl & Ash is one of them.

“Since it opened in February, the restaurant has become the city’s most exciting place to drink wine,” the New York Times critic Pete Wells said in 2013. The RD’s husband also is a wine snob. He subscribes to several wineries’ mail order programs, has the wine delivered to the office and stored in an undisclosed location away from home and away from my prying eyes. You can imagine the pull that review exerted.

The upside is that his hobby provides plenty of material for The Restaurant Dieter, so I guess everybody wins.

The winningest thing about my meal this week was the server, who was engaging and accommodating. Of course, we ate at the ungodly hour of 5:30 p.m. Saturday, and even she confessed there wasn’t much else to do.

The dinner menu was small — a half an 8 1/2-by-11 sheet of paper — with about 20 items including dessert. Normally, this is a bad sign for plentiful healthy options, but there were several the server recommended. I tried them all:

  • Charred rapini, parmesan, fresno chiles and sour peanuts. The parmesan came in the form of a thick paste smeared on the bottom of the bowl, with everything else smeared on top.
    Rapini with parmesan

    Rapini with parmesan

    This could have been a lower fat dish by eating less of the parmesan paste. The server said it was 2 parts heavy cream to 1 part parmesan cheese. The slightly bitter rapini combined with the creamy parmesan worked. I smeared up every bit of it. That turned this little starter into 6 Weight Watchers Smart Points (2 tablespoons heavy cream and 1 of parmesan).

  • Beets, satsuma orange, pistachios and aged pecorino. Everybody’s got a beet salad, and despite the visual display of all sizes, shapes and colors, this one was really pretty average. The satsuma orange could just as easily been a Mandarin from a can. I had to look it up. A satsuma is…a type of Mandarin orange. Meh.
  • A perfectly cooked portion of cod with diced fennel, nicoise olives in an onion broth. It came in a bowl and with a spoon, of course.
    Cod in onion broth

    Cod in onion broth

    Given the size of the portion — the server said 3 ounces — I treated it like the soup it seemed to be. I estimated it at 1 point for the cod, and another 2 points for any mysterious fat in the preparation.

The best thing I tasted, unfortunately, was my spouse’s dessert: a rich brownie, sitting in a pool of the darkest caramel sauce I’ve ever seen, topped with a bourbon ice cream and a meringue. Two tastes of that had to be another 2-3 points.

Through all this, The Restaurant Dieter’s spouse read the wine list and occasionally made small talk. The “city’s most exciting place to drink wine.” Uh-huh.

Brownie with bourbon ice cream

Brownie with bourbon ice cream

 

Review: Bar Américain in New York City

To call Bobby Flay a celebrity chef is an understatement. The guy is everywhere — on Iron Chef and other cooking shows; on game shows like “Jeopardy” and “Celebrity Poker Throwdown”; on TMZ dueling with his ex over her boob job.

Chef Bobby Flay

Chef Bobby Flay

Is one of his restaurants really the place to go on New Year’s Day for brunch when you’re dead serious about eating healthy? Um, yes.

The Restaurant Dieter’s pals had reserved Bar Americain, described as an American brasserie. The brunch menu mixes things up with a hint of French, some Southern, some Southwestern.  But there are plenty of choices for a Weight Watchers member hoping to keep the points expenditure to a minimum.

They start with an extensive raw bar and shellfish platters going for $75 and $120. Then there are salads like a southwestern Cobb, mani-mahi tacos and spicy tuna tartare. And should your friends want something richer there are two kinds of eggs Benedict, croissant French toast and a burger.

Housemate chips with blue cheese dip

Housemate chips with blue cheese dip

The staff pushes a side of hot potato chips with a blue cheese sauce for a side, which we, of course, ordered. I had one large chip with the barest taste of the blue cheese sauce. It tasted exactly as you’d expect — very Flay-like and totally unsubtle. One guesses this $9 side does quite well for him, but I wasn’t dying for more.

That same server who pushed the chips, however, was a complete pro when it came to adjusting my choice, the tacos. “I can leave the sauce on the side,” he offered, without my asking.

The entire dish comes pretty well deconstructed anyway — two 3-inch flour tortillas, bib lettuce for wrapping, a pineapple-and-macadamia-nut relish, pickled onions, a hot red pepper sauce and julienned papaya and cabbage slaw. Mine came with a citrus sauce on the side, thanks to the accommodating server’s offer. It wasn’t needed, anyway. There were plenty of interesting flavors among the condiments that were provided.

I tracked the whole of it as 1 flour tortilla (3 points); 4 ounces mahi-mahi (1 point); 1 teaspoon macadamia nuts (1 point); and 3 safety points for fats and other stuff I couldn’t quite figure out.

Call it a good start to a new year.

 

Review: Little Park in New York City’s TriBeCa

The Restaurant Dieter has said it before: When the reservation is at a restaurant serving only a prix fixe or tasting menu, there’s not a whole lot a Weight Watchers member can do. This is especially true when the occasion is New Year’s Eve at Little Park in TriBeCa with friends.

Depending on how you behave with the bread basket, the situation can either wind up an all-out binge or a reasonable meal that wipes out your weekly bonus of Weight Watchers SmartPoints. I chose the latter.

Lobster, charred meyer lemon, mustard greens

Lobster, charred meyer lemon, mustard greens

Little Park is one of those places I’d never heard of, but my friend who is up on the New York restaurant scene said it had become the favorite of women doing power lunches. It makes the New York Times’ best list at The Scoop.

Each of the courses offered a choice of two options, so I asked the server what would be healthiest and lowest fat. Then I followed her direction for all courses, except for the last one, where I picked the lobster with charred meyer lemon and mustard greens.  If you’re going to make a decision not to count points, embrace it.

The meal took a leisurely three hours, providing lots of time to catch up with friends. Each course was excellent. Portions were modest, as tends to be the case on tasting menus at fine restaurants. A rich dish like the squash tart with brown butter, sage and maple arrives at a modest 2-3 ounces. It was so rich and earthy that a second or third might have been nice. (It’s on the regular dinner menu, by the way.)

Rye corzetti with potato, smoked trout roe

Rye corzetti with potato, smoked trout roe

The server had recommended the rye corzetti over the cauliflower risotto for the pasta course. Corzetti was a mystery, but it turns out to be large circles of pasta. The combination of the rye flower, an almost-not-there sauce, the size of the portion and the perfect al dente preparation made it almost seem like a diet food. Again, I could have eaten a large bowl.

Which suggests a future visit along with New York’s power-lunching women. The menu has lots of items that call to folks trying to eat healthy. The brunch menu, in particular, has great offerings such as a multigrain waffle and coconut and spelt pancakes. See you there.

 

 

 

Review: Cafe Luxembourg in New York

IMG_4669

The restaurant’s signature image, from a time when a fuller-figured gal was just as sexy.

Cafe Luxembourg is French, with all the steak and frites that implies, but lunch still has great options for a person on Weight Watchers. That shouldn’t have surprised The Restaurant Dieter; it’s an Upper West Side place that celebrities apparently love. And you know how they are about their weight.

On my first visit some years ago, tucked into a booth surrounded by what looked like a gaggle of gay men sat the diminutive Broadway queen Kristin Chenoweth. Yesterday, it was Broadway, film and television actor, Michael McKean and his wife, actress Annette O’Toole. McKean sat close enough for me to lean  over and say something stupid like: “I loved you in ‘Laverne and Shirley.'”

Cafe Luxembourg tuna burger

Cafe Luxembourg tuna burger

Instead, following appropriate New York protocol, I read the menu and pretended I had not noticed him. The lunch menu has suitably low-fat classics like roasted autumn vegetables, steak tartare, salmon tartare, Cobb salad and even steak (assuming one holds the frites and gets the green salad instead).

I was in a mood for something substantial and went for the tuna burger, green salad on the side. I counted the SmartPoints as 1 for a tablespoon of salad dressing; 4 for the tuna burger (no breadcrumbs, our server said); and 5 for a sesame bun.

Cafe Luxembourg chicken paillard

Cafe Luxembourg chicken paillard

My companion had the chicken paillard, which was simply grilled chicken and a green salad. That dish often comes covered in breadcrumbs and fried.

But of course it wouldn’t here. At 4-feet-11, Miss Kristin Chenoweth and the other celebrities of the Upper West Side have to watch what they eat.

 

 

New York review: Red Farm has a big salad, but it’s not very good

Time to re-charge The Restaurant Dieter, and what better place to do it but New York City, where there are so many good restaurants.

One that recently opened in our neighborhood on the Upper West Side is Red Farm, which bills itself as: “Innovative, Inspired Chinese Cuisine with Greenmarket Sensibility.” Well.

It was OK. Just OK. Bottom line: there are a few dishes for us Weight Watcher types to savor, but regrettably, the chicken salad isn’t one of them.

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