By Heather Hoch
By Eric Schaefer
By New Times
By Rachel Miller
By Eric Schaefer
By Heather Hoch and Lauren Saria
By Robrt L. Pela
By Heather Hoch
Under new ownership, Healthy Heart is a little more into hard-core health than Flying Crane. You won't find chicken cutlet here. Nothing is fried--"All meats steamed, braised, or roasted," says the menu. The soups? They're "defatted before final preparation." Ingredients? "All food prepared with non-fat or low-fat, non-cholesterol or low-cholesterol ingredients." And, naturally, there's a "commercial reverse osmosis" system that filters water for cooking and drinking. Healthy Heart is less heavily into aesthetics than Flying Crane, too. Don't look for objets d'art in this basic, no-frills strip mall storefront. Tied-back, white cloth curtains provide the only homey touch. No dinnerware, either. It's strictly plastic cutlery, plastic cups, plastic plates. In fact, one evening, having apparently run out of plastic plates, the restaurant served two of our main dishes in a Styrofoam container, ripped in half. The soups make up for the lack of elegance. Southwestern vegetable tastes like somebody's been stirring it up in a big kettle for several hours. And the gazpacho is hands-down the single best menu item. It's fashioned from tomato juice and stewed tomatoes, and studded with cucumbers and celery. My kid, whose initial reaction had been "Ugh," changed her tune after one spoonful, demanding I order a large bowl just for her. She's obviously inherited her father's refined palate. Healthy Heart has a Hindulike aversion to beef--and all other red meat. With one exception (a lean pork medallion), if you want animal protein, it's going to come in the form of ground turkey or boneless, skinless chicken breast. That doesn't work too successfully in the rigatoni-with-turkey-meatballs entree. Yes, ground turkey has fewer calories and less fat than ground beef. Unfortunately, it's got a great deal less taste, too. For this dish to work, the marinara sauce has to compensate for the bland fowl. Healthy Heart's doesn't. Whole-wheat garlic toast, lined with canola margarine, furnished what aid it could. Baked stuffed peppers don't sport much more oomph. It's one of those typical I-eat-it-because-it's-good-for-me platters, and it reminded me of a conversation I overheard a few years ago at Gentle Strength, the quintessential Valley good-for-you eating place.
A regular was extolling the nutritional virtues of a bean and rice dish to a recent convert. "But how does it taste?" asked the convert. "It doesn't taste too good," the regular admitted, "but I eat it all the time."
Healthy Heart's stuffed peppers merit that same dubious endorsement. A snoozy mix of ground turkey, brown rice and breadcrumbs sits lifelessly on a small square of pepper. If this dish came in pill form, it would be a sedative. Significantly peppier is chicken breast brushed with mustard and herbs, served over a curry-tinged stew of cubed potatoes, sliced carrots and peas. I'd like this platter even if I weren't aware of its healthful qualities. Nothing short of the most scrupulous sense of professional obligation could ever induce me to order a dish described as "ground turkey stew over toasted oat bran." And to be completely candid, I technically didn't order it. I made my wife get it. I was glad I did, even though it looked even scarier than the description--gray shreds of meat flecked with oat bran, sitting on top of a slice of white bread. Actually, it didn't taste bad at all, but I can't imagine anyone racing to Tempe to check it out. Ordering sweets in good-for-you restaurants is a no-win situation. If good nutrition isn't compromised, dessert's bound to taste awful. And if nutrition is compromised, it still won't be compromised enough to give you enough taste bang for your calorie buck. Pass up Healthy Heart's low-fat cheesecake and peanut butter bars, and fill in the appetite cracks with the fruit cup instead. Both Flying Crane and Healthy Heart aim at a clearly defined market segment, the healthy-eating crowd. But, unlike Flying Crane, Healthy Heart is just not able to transcend it.