When Matt Aita was the chef at the now-closed Rouge Tomate in New York City, he worked with in-house nutritionists to make sure each dish was healthy as well as tasty.
“I couldn’t serve a portion of beef over five ounces,” he recalls. “They did calculations and tests to see how many vitamins and nutrients were on the plate.”
Rather than being constrained by these requirements, Aita thrived, ultimately helping earn the restaurant a coveted Michelin star. Aita left Rouge Tomate in 2018 (it closed shortly afterward) to take on a different type of cooking challenge: gluten free. Now he is culinary director at Little Beet Table, which has locations in New York, Chicago, Maryland and — as of this summer — Greenwich. In addition to axing gluten from its ingredients list, the restaurant doesn’t use butter for its savory creations.
Aita says thinking about diet and diet restrictions goes hand in hand with being a good chef and searching for the best ingredients. “Any vegetables you get grown in good soil from a good farmer is going to taste a lot better than a farm in the Midwest,” he says. “The more nutritious the cuisine, the more you can make it delicious.”
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You can see this philosophy in practice at the Greenwich Little Beet Table. The sleek new restaurant has an impressive space anchored by an eye-catching white marble bar and large windows looking out at Greenwich Avenue. It can’t quite escape a slightly corporate feel, though, as the company is owned by Aurify Brands, which also owns Little Beet Table’s fast-casual sister concept, The Little Beet, and other brands including the Five Guys hamburger chain.
The restaurant has a vegetable-forward menu, but fish and meat are here too. This is no good-for-you-but-bad-tasting health-food venue. I didn’t realize until after my visit that butter wasn’t used in the appetizers or main dishes; and I was only unhappy with one of the gluten-free crusts and pastries I sampled, and I’m a dedicated gluten-vore.
At Little Beet Table, as elsewhere, a large portion of the menu is inherently gluten free. The roasted shrimp salad, served with quinoa, avocado, spiced almond, and delicious golden raisins, didn’t need a gluten-free bread to taste as good as any salad I’ve had. Nor did the perfectly cooked Ōra King salmon, which is served with vegetables that change depending on the season and topped with a dressing made from green apple juice, celery and ginger juice and emulsified pickled mustard seeds.
In place of butter, the restaurant uses its own vegetable stock, and it works wonders on these and other dishes.
“I wouldn’t say butter is terrible for you, but at most restaurants you go to they use a lot of butter, a ton,” Aita says. “It’s kind of disgusting how much butter gets used in restaurants.”
The restaurant’s pasta comes from New Haven-based DePuma’s Gluten Free Pasta, but many other gluten-free items are made in house. To do this, Aita’s team uses Cup4Cup, a gluten-free flour developed in the kitchen at The French Laundry, the acclaimed restaurant in California. This traditional flour substitute can be swapped for regular flour without altering the amounts listed in recipes. The flour used in the restaurant’s profiteroles dessert is amazing. The fluffy cream puffs stuffed with ice cream and topped with chocolate and caramel sauce are good enough to make you forget the word “gluten” ever existed. Less effective is the broccoli pizzetta; the crust was overly crunchy and on the bland side. The gluten-free flour was the right consistency in the spiced chocolate cake, but this dessert was too sweet and overpowered by its spice use.
Fortunately, those misses were the exception. The warm chocolate chip cookies dessert was excellent and of the I-can’t-believe-there’s-no-gluten-in-these variety, and the Korean rice cakes have become a favorite at the restaurant for good reason. Also impressive was the restaurant’s beverage program. There are gluten-free beers as well as spiked kombucha and an impressive cocktail list. My party enjoyed the fennel margarita, made with fennel-infused tequila, as well as the LBT Palmer, one of several non-alcohol options the restaurant offers.
Little Beet Table
376 Greenwich Ave., Greenwich
Price range: For the table $12-$16, appetizers $10-$23, entrées $19-$39, vegetables $10-$12
Hours: Mon.-Thu. 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Fri. 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-10:30 p.m., Sun. 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
Ambiance: Modern with a breezy, open design, comfortable chairs, wooden table tops and marble bar. During my visit on a Monday night it was surprisingly busy, but had good sound absorption which made it easy to converse.
Food: Gluten-free offerings with an emphasis on nutrition that does not detract from excellent flavors.
Service: We sat at one of the bar tables and were served by the bartender who was efficient, friendly and shared some great cocktail recommendations and also provided beer samples.