Halibut with clams, butter beans and a fennel foam

The Restaurant Dieter has no earthly clue how many Weight Watcher points to assess for a recent five-course tasting menu at Bacchanalia, nor does he care. This is a restaurant and a menu that can be endorsed for dieters without hesitation.

Several reasons:

  • Among the 32 items from which one selects five, there was at least one good choice for each course.
  • The portions were so modest that even if decadent, the damage wouldn’t be too bad.
  • Nobody blinked when I brought in my own Fresca because Diet Coke has so much caffeine. The staff whisked it out of sight and refilled my glass until the can was empty, just as if I’d brought in a very special bottle of wine from home.
  • At $85 for five courses, it was an extremely well priced tasting menu.
  • The server was among the best ever encountered.

She was a petite blond with a short pony tail. Describing the serving staff’s appearance is not something I typically do, but this server deserves the recognition.

Asked about what was lowfat and healthy, she launched into an extensive review of all the options. Her knowledge of the dishes, how they were typically prepared and how they might be adapted for a dieter was encyclopedic.

Mushrooms, pea shoots and beets

And if none of those would meet with approval, she said, the chef could make something up. Perhaps a steak? Or some simply grilled fish? Having suffered through many meals at which clueless servers point to the lone fish dish on the menu (however prepared) and suggest it should suffice, this was refreshing.

In the end, it seemed smart to trust the server and request that dishes be prepared with no additional salt. The research seems pretty clear: Salty food is a trigger for overeating, even after a perfectly satisfying meal.

The courses were:

  • Deep, woodsy local mushrooms with beets, pea shoots and pecans. The description advertised focaccia, but it amounted to two very small crisps.
  • A perfectly cooked piece of halibut, accented with littleneck clams, al dente butter beans, a tarragon sauce and a fennel foam. The fish was cooked so expertly that the texture was close to that of the foam.
  • A piece of prime NY Strip, seared crusty on the outside and juicy rare inside. It was cut in a row of 1/4-inch slices that required no knife.
  • A dice of Georgia peaches with pistachio, oregano buds and a bit of feta. It was a meeting of three guaranteed diet killers — salt, fat and sugar — but so modest in size and restrained in flavor that there was no reason to argue.
  • Wonderfully fresh figs with a lemon verbena ice milk and a couple of thin chips of pecan brittle.

Weight Watchers recommends tracking food via its points system, and typically nothing beats it for weight loss. But when you need a splurge, a certain blond server and the willing kitchen at Bacchanalia come pretty close.

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