Cafe Clover’s Skinny Eats

For the stylish and health conscious, Cafe Clover is the restaurant to see and be seen. The big, circular dining room is prime for people watching, and everyone is certainly dressed for the occasion, with suit and ties and designer handbags in tow. I was probably a little under-dressed in my J.Crew sweater and shorts, but the congenial waitstaff didn’t hold it against me, which was nice.

The menu at Cafe Clover has been designed with skinny girls and calorie counts in mind. In an interview with Well + Good, Chef David Standridge, formerly of Market Table, mentioned that he’ll try to repurpose a delicious dish to have less calories. They even have a Peak Performance nutritionist on hand to help skinny things down, that’s how serious they are about it.  Less calories doesn’t necessarily mean less flavor, but we’d be lying to ourselves if we said there wasn’t a difference.

seed crackers and spring pea guacamole
seed crackers and spring pea guacamole
seared diver scallops with summer corn, tomatoes, pickled peach and green curry
seared diver scallops with summer corn, tomatoes, pickled peach and green curry

For instance, instead of bread and butter, Cafe Clover serves every table a complimentary plate of gluten-free seed crackers and spring pea guacamole. The crackers, true to their word, are purely made of seeds and there isn’t a fiber of gluten holding them together. Knock out a pepita and the whole thing crumbles. It certainly tastes wholesome, but nothing compares to a basket of hot, freshly baked gluten-filled bread.

poached halibut with artichokes, baby potato, olive tapenade, turmeric oil
poached halibut with artichokes, baby potato, olive tapenade, turmeric oil
blistered shishito peppers
blistered shishito peppers

The poached halibut was actually pretty solid, the fillet was soft and buttery, but you could tell that perhaps they used maybe half the olive oil or wine to cook the fish in. I thought the artichokes and the olive tapenade came on too strong, but otherwise I would order this again. Something I would pass on? The blistered shishito peppers. In a traditional preparation, the peppers are mild and soft, but the ones at Cafe Clover were at times way too spicy and still pretty tough. I think they may have flashed them in the pan for a hot minute and then removed them so that the oil wouldn’t get absorbed too much. I would also pass on the seared diver scallops. They were too dry and tasted as though they had been toasted directly on a pan without any oil, and the accompanying sauce and pickled vegetables felt a bit overdone.

quinoa tagliatelle with beet greens, maitake mushrooms and sunflower kernels
quinoa tagliatelle with beet greens, maitake mushrooms and sunflower kernels

The quinoa tagliatelle was the one dish where health and flavor made a successful collaboration. This dish was just as hearty and robust as any bowl of bolognese from a Babbo or Del Posto, which was impressive, given that there were only mushrooms and beefy vegetable proteins in there. The noodles broke apart a little too easily, which I assume is due to the unconventional whole wheat and quinoa blend, but those broken bits still tasted great.

Not surprisingly, this dinner left me wanting more, probably because my usual dinner calorie and fat intake had been cut in half. And also half the flavor. There’s no doubt that Cafe Clover is a beautiful restaurant with good intentions, but sometimes being just another pretty face won’t cut it.


Cafe Clover
10 Downing St (between Bedford St and 6th Ave)
New York, NY 10014
(212) 675-4350

 

 

 

Brunch Roundup: Jack’s Wife Freda, Update on Dimes

Jack’s Wife Freda is perennially mobbed at brunch. The several times I attempted to put my name down for a table, I was always quoted a wait time of at least an hour. You either have to come here on the early side, say 11 or 11:30, or you should try to visit when the rest of the city empties out for the holidays.

I’m not surprised by how popular this place is. The atmosphere here really can’t be beat, especially during the summer months. They open up the front doors and set up tables on the sidewalk so that you can enjoy some al fresco dining. It’s fun and lively, trendy without being annoyingly sceney, and the Mediterranean food is varied and tasty. You can bring anyone here, friends, dates, family members, and everyone will feel relaxed and have a good time. The matzo ball soup is fantastic, as is the tuna salad. If you want something more traditional, the poached eggs with grilled tomato and haloumi is a good choice.

freda's matzo ball soup
freda’s matzo ball soup
poached eggs with grilled tomato and haloumi
poached eggs with grilled tomato and haloumi
tuna salad with chopped tomatoes, avocado and red onions
tuna salad with chopped tomatoes, avocado and red onions
rosewater waffle topped with lebanese yogurt, mixed berries and honey syrup
rosewater waffle topped with lebanese yogurt, mixed berries and honey syrup

I always like ordering something sweet like pancakes or waffles for the table, and on this particular visit, we split an order of the rosewater waffle. The waffle is a little softer than what you’d expect, more l’eggo my eggo than straight out of the waffle iron, and it comes with a dollop of lebanese yogurt, a different take on the whipped cream we’re accustomed to, but just as rich and full.

As an fyi, Jack’s Wife Freda is one of my favorite go-to’s for a group dinner. The scene is just as laid back and lively, and they take reservations for groups of 6 or larger, which isn’t too hard to get. It does get a little bit loud in the pm, but the service is good, and once you have some wine in you, you just kind of roll with it and it’s all good.


Jack’s Wife Freda
224 Lafayette St (between Spring and Broome St)
New York, NY 10012
(212) 510-8550

I also have a quick update on the new Dimes restaurant that opened up on Canal St. I wrote about the healthy, California cafe last year, which I was a big fan of, and I was curious to see how things had changed in the bigger space. It is slightly bigger in size but not by much, still lovely and beachy white inside, and while it can accommodate more people, there’s still going to be a wait. The wait times are never too bad, though, maybe 35 minutes for a table of two. The service, on the other hand, is horrible. Expect sourpuss waitresses to mix up your order and move you to another table 35 minutes into your meal with no apologies. Let me tell you, in California, everyone is smiley and bubbly, so while the food at Dimes is California-inspired, the service definitely is not.

sayonara summer tacos
sayonara summer tacos
hash with zucchini and eggplant
hash with zucchini and eggplant and black rice

The menu seems to have expanded a bit. The nori wraps look new, as do the cactus pitaya bowls. I tried the sayonara summer tacos, which were surprisingly bland. Eggs and salsa are some of my favorite things, but these tacos lacked the spice I wanted, even with the extra hot sauce that was brought to the table. I also ordered the big salad, which was literally a huge bowl of raw greens lightly dressed in a rosemary balsamic dressing. I wasn’t expecting the salad to be so nakedly fresh, as if the vegetables were just plucked from the garden. I would have preferred some cooked veggies in the mix, especially the brussels sprouts, because otherwise it was a little too green and wholesome and crunchy. I would definitely recommend the hash, which was a wonderfully hearty concoction of spiced vegetables and black rice, filling without being fatty. Stick to the their famous sweet and savory bowls, don’t expect too much from the service, and you’ll have a decent time.


Dimes
49 Canal St (between Orchard and Ludlow St)
New York, NY 10002
(212) 925-1300