Yesterday's controversial report about the “Xtreme Eating” awards from the Center for Science in the Public Interest put The Cheesecake Factory in the hot seat for its big fat pasta carbonara with chicken, at 2,500 calories and 85 grams of saturated fat.
Today, I thought it only fair to check out the restaurant's “Weight Management” selections, each weighing in at under 590 calories. The low-cal menu offered three salads and one main dish.
“Wake me when it’s over,” said my friend, who managed to dutifully chomp halfway through the Asian chicken salad, a humongous bowl of romaine, carrots, bean sprouts, green onions, crispy noodles, almonds, sesame seeds, grilled chicken and low-cal sesame-soy dressing. Eventually, she quit out of boredom.
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I’m a big fan of many dishes at this quality chain; love the "small plates and snacks" menu as well as the low-cal Vietnamese shrimp summer rolls. Still, much of the Weight Management dishes got old pretty quickly. An endive pear salad sounded better than it played: grilled chicken, endive, radicchio, arugula, butter lettuce, roasted pear, blue cheese, candied pecans and tomato with a low-cal vinaigrette. A bit more exciting was an entree of grilled chicken (char-grilled chicken breast topped with a tomato arugula salad with steamed white rice and asparagus).
Here's what I know after having eaten at this chain for years: Somewhere between those "Weight Management" dishes and that big fat pasta carbonara are dishes that manage to be both sensible and satisfying.
"Weight Management" Asian chicken salad at The Cheesecake Factory