It hasn’t been the smoothest few years for Rouge Tomate, the Michelin-starred wine destination that moved to Chelsea in 2016, only to lose its executive chef and revered wine director shortly thereafter. Now on board to get the train back on track is new executive chef Matt Aita, who on top of an all-new dinner menu is launching an all-day fast-casual, “health-conscious” cafe portion up front tomorrow.
Called Rouge Tomate Cafe, the front portion of the restaurant at 126 West 18th St., between Sixth and Seventh avenues, will function as a more casual counter-service area. At breakfast, dishes include a charred avocado sandwich with pickled chiles, radish, sprouts, and sunflower miso, while lunch and dinner menus have chicken and bison burgers and a grain bowl with broccolini, chickpeas, shiitake mushrooms, sugar snap peas, and chickpea miso dressing. Dinner can be full service in the bar area, too.
Aita has cooked at some big-name spots like Daniel, Jean-Georges; he was also the executive chef at Chefs Club before it shifted to a residency model. Beyond the counter-service section, he’s in charge of the menu in the main dining room. There, the menu keeps Rouge Tomate staples while adding vegetable-heavy dishes such as duck with Hakurei turnips, rhubarb, and spring onion or Atlantic halibut with sugar snap peas, almond, and enoki mushroom.
This move to add fast-casual is an interesting one for Rouge Tomate, a restaurant that has played well with the Michelin-seeking crowd with its deep, geeky wine list and focus on Euro-centric, seasonal fare. Presumably owner Emmanuel Verstraeten hopes to bring in a younger and more varied clientele now sommelier Pascaline Lepeltier has moved on to Tribeca restaurant Racines.
Rouge Tomate Cafe opens March 14, and will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., with dinner on Friday and Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.