“When people think about food that is somewhat good for you, they think it’s not fun anymore,” says David Standridge, the head chef at the new Café Clover (10 Downing Street, 212-675-4350) in the West Village. “The idea here was to start with delicious food that everyone would want to eat, then make it healthier without compromising the experience.”
Standridge was behind the line at Market Table when the Café Clover team — David Rabin of The Lambs Club, Kyle Hotchkiss Carone, Jeff Kadish, and Joe Dowdell — approached him with a plan for a restaurant that would feature healthy but great food. Standridge would design the dishes, making his own health-oriented tweaks, and then work with a nutritionist, Mike Roussell, to fine-tune them. “He does the full nutritional breakdown of each dish, and he’ll make recommendations,” Standridge explains. “Maybe something is just above the ideal calorie count, or maybe it should have a little more protein. Sometimes I skew a little too healthy, and he’ll tell me we can afford to put more starch in this dish. It’s about getting the full breakdown and understanding what’s going on the plate.”
Each of the dishes on the Café Clover menu has gone through that process, and so you’ll find items like a lentil risotto, which Standridge says “has everything that’s good about a risotto. It’s rich and creamy with good texture, but lentils are better for you than rice. We make it with Parmesan and cream, and it has a really delicious flavor.”
The chef is also turning out a lobster dish he had on the list at Market Table, though he’s substituted coconut oil for butter for the sauce. “Coconut oil has really wonderful flavor, and it enhances the lobster,” he says. “It’s actually better. I never would have discovered that.”
Look, too, for a half-dozen or so greenmarket salads, appetizer servings of shaved hamachi and roast oyster, and entrees like a cauliflower steak, quinoa tagliatelle, and a pasture-raised strip loin.
The drink menu, designed by Johnny Swet of The Skylark and Jimmy, follows in a similar vein, though Standridge says it’s harder to make cocktails truly healthy because you’re still working with alcohol. Some of Swet’s concoctions incorporate ingredients like yuzu or market vegetables. See the Beatnik, made with vodka; fresh beet, ginger, and lime; muddled mint; Sirop de Canne (a sugarcane spirit); and seltzer; or the Tropic Thunder, made with rum, house-made pineapple syrup, fresh lime, and Thai bird’s eye chile plus a coconut water ice block.
Standridge describes the space as sleek, clean, and bright, and casually elegant. Designer Steven Gambrel paid homage to West Village artists by creating light fixtures using plaster casts from artists like Alberto Giacometti and Max Ernst. Black-and-white geometric patterns race across the ceiling, light blue banquettes line the space, and antique mirrors hang from the walls.
“We’re really primarily a beautiful West Village restaurant,” says Standridge. “I love the idea of someone coming in here and not knowing anything about the restaurant, having a great meal, and then, as an afterthought, learning that the food is really good for you.”
Café Clover opened on January 12, and is open for dinner nightly.