Ever hear of a farm-to-nutritionist-to-table restaurant?
That’s one way to think about Café Clover, the pretty new eatery that just opened in the West Village (in the space that used to house 10 Downing).
The restaurant is a collaboration between restaurateurs David Rabin (The Lambs Club and Jimmy at the James Hotel), Kyle Hotchkiss Carone, and Jeff Kadish—and renowned personal trainer and Peak Performance owner Joe Dowdell. And to really meld the foodie and wellness worlds, the team brought on Peak Performance nutritionist Mike Roussell, PhD, to work on the menu with chef David Standridge, formerly of Market Table.
It’s a coming together that doesn’t often happen, especially in fine dining, save for at Rouge Tomate, where the team there even spun off their nutritional standards into a service for other restaurants, SPE Certified.
“Unlike a health food restaurant that starts with a healthy perspective, I start from a delicious food perspective and then try to eliminate unnecessary calories and also try to make things more healthy,” Standridge, says, of the Café Clover concept.
To do that, he creates the menu and then gets a full nutritional analysis from Dr. Roussell, who will report on things like if a dish has too many calories or carbs, and then send Standridge back to the kitchen to tweak it.
That doesn’t mean, however, that the chef has abandoned his passion for flavor. In fact, far from it.
Standridge says he did lots of research into healthy ingredients he could swap into recipes. And on the seasonally shifting menu that plays out as simple thing like cooking with coconut oil to working with tons of fresh vegetables, and superfoods like ancient grains and seeds, which appear in everything from tossed onto salads to cooked into pasta.
“When I build a dish, I think about the flavors and texture and balance that I want,” he says. “Like if I want that crunch in a salad, instead of croutons, what else can I use? Chia seeds give us the nice crunch, and bonus, they’re healthy.”
So, you’ll find them sprinkled on the Sweet Gem Wedges with shaved roots and herbs. Homemade tagliatelle is prepared with less flour to make room for cooked red quinoa in the dough, and it’s served with beet greens and maitake mushrooms, making it infinitely savory and satisfying. There’s also salmon served with spaghetti squash and turnip greens and a Cauliflower Steak with romesco and vegetable chutney.
And meals start with flavorful Flax, Chia, and Sunflower seed crackers made with just water and seasonings and served with dreamy butternut squash hummus. (You won’t miss the bread basket—I swear!)
Though Standridge seems to be having a serious (and successful) love affair with healthy ingredients, he’s kept honest by the nutritionist on his shoulder, just in case. “A lot of it is about the responsibility to give the guest a wholesome meal that’s not 1,000 calories more than they expected it to be,” he says. He seems very much up to the challenge. —Lisa Elaine Held
Cafe Clover, 10 Downing St., at Sixth Ave., West Village, www.cafeclovernyc.com