Gee, how much trouble can a dieter get into when he chooses a restaurant called Leon's Full Service, where that appetizer is one of the most talked about dishes? Or how about that same restaurant's "pub frittes," which can be ordered with 14 sauces ranging from catsup to goat cheese fondue?
It's not that I've lost my mind. I figure The Restaurant Dieter must venture beyond what's safe if there's anything to be learned at all. Besides, it was a weeknight and I wanted to dine close to my home in Decatur, Ga., an intown Atlanta suburb with a charming downtown restaurant scene.
A couple of years ago that would have been a no-brainer. A franchised location of one of the salad chains, Dressed and Tossed, had opened. I forget which, but it was reliable, fresh and safe. I stopped by on my way home from work at least once a week. It didn't last, unfortunately, and now is home to an office for Kaiser Permanente, the large health insurer. Ironic, isn't it?
Leon's does the "New American" thing in a renovated downtown gas station. The menu hits all the notes, from artisanal cheeses to a grass-fed burger with Tillamook cheddar cheese. Besides the previously mentioned bacon-and-peanut butter starter, there's healthier fare such as PEI mussels and salads.
I opted for the mixed lettuces with chevre, pumpkin seed and an orange tabasco vinaigrette, dressing on the side of course in one of those little portion cups I've mentioned. The dressing missed that bright note of orange that I expected, likely because it was ladled into the portion cup without being thoroughly mixed. The oil floats to the top.
|Leon's Full Service "veggieloaf"|
For my main, I went for the seared "veggieloaf," which the server described as the "lowest fat thing on the menu." She said it contained quinoa and other hearty grains.
If healthy=ugly -- and let's face facts, sometimes it does -- the veggie loaf was a sure winner. Brown, brown, brown. Was that a dirty kitchen sponge on my plate or dinner? Still, the veggie loaf was nicely browned, but it did not have the oily sheen that screams fat. It had just enough spice to belie the bland appearance. The veggie loaf was was topped with a tangle of greens, no doubt to boost its visual appeal. It rest atop a cool salad of roast cauliflower, shiitake mushroom and julienned sun-dried tomatoes.
|Leftover romesco sauce; had to do it|
The whole dish sat atop a pecan romesco sauce, that I felt compelled to mostly avoid. It was excellent, and in very small doses added at least a little kick to the veggie loaf. I have no doubt that the diners most satisfied with this dish mop up every bit of the sauce with the veggie loaf.
Chalk this up as another restaurant meal that's difficult to assess. A Whole Foods recipe for quinoa loaf clocks in at 170 calories and 4 grams of fat for a 6-ounce serving. This was probably more like 8 ounces and tasted richer and denser than the recipe indicates. So let's just be scientific about this and declare it double. You gotta better idea?
Then for the salad: a tablespoon or an ounce of chevre (70 calories, 6 grams fat); a tablespoon of oil-and-vinegar salad dressing (I always figure using Newman's Own dressings when I don't know -- 75 calories and 8 grams fat) and a tablespoon of pumpkin seeds (47 calories and 4.5 grams fat).
Now for a confession: On a previous visit, I have tasted the bacon-and-peanut butter thing, and damn it was good.