After four visits to the Newport Beach location, and one to the original Phoenix location, my mom and I now know exactly how to order at True Food Kitchen, a Fox Restaurant Concept that specializes in healthy, globally inspired cuisine.
That’s not to say that we were ordering all that poorly before.
We quite enjoyed the chicken chopped salads and edamame dumplings we selected on prior visits – so much so that we chose to return specifically for those items. And we would have continued returning again and again for them had we not decided to switch it up when we dined in the sun-splattered space two Saturdays ago.
“Let’s do something different,” my mother said as our settled into our bright yellow booth on the patio, our sunglasses plastered to our faces in typical So Cal fashion.
I bristled at the word, “different” – both of us tend to get into ruts when we find dishes we love – but agreed to take part in her spontaneous eating plan. There was a quinoa salad on the menu, after all, and it seemed imperative that I give my signature seed a chance to romance my palate.
I do have a reputation to uphold.
So for our third visit to True Food Kitchen, which will be opening a fourth location at Santa Monica Place soon, we opted to split the Herb Hummus with whole wheat pita, tomato, red onion, cucumber, and feta ($10); the Tuscan Kale with lemon, parmesan and bread crumbs ($8); and two half orders of the Spring Chopped with snap peas, strawberries, walnuts, goat cheese, and balsamic dressing ($6); and the Quinoa Tabbouleh with watercress, beets, pomegranates, lemon and cold pressed olive oil ($6).
We were ecstatic with our choices – particularly the hummus, kale and quinoa. The kale salad is composed of dinosaur kale, which is slightly sweeter and more delicate than the traditional curly kale that is more readily available. The textured dark blue-green leaves are sliced raw and treated almost like a ceviche – the lemon and olive oil dressing “cook” the slivered slices so they lose some of the coarseness that is typical of the hearty green. It’s a simple dish, but the clean flavors and mangled textures of the kale and bread crumbs are addictive – particularly when paired with the quinoa tabbouleh.
The tabbouleh is made with red quinoa, a prescient choice since the red variety is more substantial than the more delicate white. It stands up to the large chunks of sweet beets and crunchy marcona almonds that add a touch of elegance to the also simple dish. But the simplicity is warranted – the restaurant concept relies on high quality, fresh ingredients to create flavor rather than overcomplicated sauces and dressings. It’s the type of food that people want to eat every day.
Which explains why my mother and I felt compelled to go back for a second dose the following Saturday – when we finally figured out exactly how to order from now until we fall in love with another dish on the menu.
The herb hummus is a must – a substantial plate to counter the lightness of the salads – and full orders of both the kale and quinoa tabbouleh are essential, as well. A half order of each just isn’t enough to split, and because the two dishes compliment each other so well, it’s only natural that they be ordered in tandem. Any additional items on the table only complicate matters – and create too much havoc on the individual plates.
Finally, the Red Moon “natural refreshment” with pink grapefruit juice, yuzu, agave, and soda water ($4) is imperative for the optimal True Food Kitchen “ladies who lunch” experience. It adds just the right amount of festivity to the occasion and only enhances the spa-like feel of the restaurant.
The only mystery yet to be solved is what to order for dessert. Rumor has it that the Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp with Dairy-Free Pistachio Ice Cream ($7) and the Flourless Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream and Caramel ($7) are hot commodities. Especially if the pistachio ice cream is subbed in for the vanilla that comes with the chocolate cake.
My mom and I will gladly investigate these claims the next time we go.
Which, according to our very unspontaneous schedule of eating, could very will be this coming Saturday.
True Food Kitchen
451 Newport Center Dr.
Newport Beach, CA 92660