|Photo from Flavor Trail Blog|
Upon the arrival of me and my friend and fellow blogger, Flavor Trail at the restaurant, the first thing we noticed were the planters of fresh herbs and vegetables at the front entrance. You can't get any more local than that, at least, for a limited number of ingredients.
The interior of the restaurant was large and airy with an open kitchen that was visible to all. I also appreciated the large pile of fruits and vegetables behind the counter right next to the juicer. That told me that my juice, if I chose to order any, was definitely going to be fresh.
Our meal started by ordering two non-alcoholic drinks, which were both refreshing. One was the Cucumber Refresher (Cucumber and Honey Lemonade) and the other was The Medicine Man (Olivello Juice, Pomegranate Juice, Cranberry Juice, Black Tea, Soda Water and Blueberries). One thing unique about The Medicine Man was the olivello juice. I didn't even know what that was until I asked our server.
It turns out that it's an extract from sea buckthorn berries and is actually quite high in antioxidants. My prior experience with sea buckthorn through my company is that it's an ingredient used primarily in skin care products or an oil that you can take internally in drop or capsule form. From the FAQs on the True Food Kitchen website, they're the only restaurant in the nation that uses the olivello juice in recipes.
As we were enjoying our drinks, the Monterey Bay Sardines with Salsa Verde and Grilled Lemons arrived. I've only had sardines previously out of a can in either a tomato sauce or olive oil. Usually, the sardines are fillets, so this was the first time I ever had whole sardines. For some reason, I thought they were smaller than what actually came on our plate. I did enjoy eating them, especially with the Salsa Verde, but I didn't enjoy picking the bones out.
Next came the Edamame Dumplings with Daikon Radish and White Truffle Oil, which I really enjoyed. The dumplings were light and delicate and the white truffle oil added just the right amount of woodsy notes without being overwhelming.
The one dish I wouldn't order again was the Chicken Sausage Pizza with Tomatoes, Fennel and Fontina Cheese. It was just downright tasteless and the crust was way too chewy. It's best to get your pizza fix elsewhere.
After the pizza, the Panang Curry with Shrimp, Potato, Broccoli, Ginger, Carrots and Mushroom in a Coconut Broth came our way. It was pretty tasty, if not that complex.
In between dishes, we also sampled a Banana Date Muffin. It was light, fluffy and moist, which was surprising. I've had date muffins before and they usually erred on the dry side, but this one was perfect.
What came next was my absolute favorite thing on the menu and it was the Local Vegetable Crudites with Tzatziki and Black Olive Dipping Sauces. When the dish landed on our table, it was almost too pretty to eat. I loved the rainbow colors of greens, oranges, reds, purples and more of the all the vegetables.
According to our server, everything came from the Santa Monica Farmer's Market and the plan is to change the vegetables according to what's in season. All the vegetables were so crunchy, juicy and flavorful that it was amazing to eat them, even more so with the sauces, especially the black olive one.
We also enjoyed a ceviche dish that was one of the specials of the day. I don't remember what kind of fish it was, but I liked how the slight tartness of the sauce paired with the grassy micro greens and spicy radishes.
I also had a bite of the Grassfed Bison Burger with Mushroom, Onions, Mayo and Parmesan on Flaxseed Bun and it was an unforgettable bite. The bison was juicy and meaty and this is one burger I'd definitely order on my own in the future.
Although I didn't try it, the King Salmon with Snap Peas, Purple Potatoes and Asparagus looked delicious.
When it came to the desserts, they were some of the best I've had in awhile. First, there was the Orange Olivello Sorbet with Fresh Berries. The olivello, as a reminder, is an extract from sea buckthorn. I could definitely taste the orange, but it was hard to identify the sea buckthorn, although I could taste some tangy notes.; Overall, this was an ice cream that just tasted "different", but I enjoyed every spoonful.
Our second dessert was the Almond Olive Oil Cake with Blackberries and Greek Yogurt. I've had my share of olive oil cakes, but this is by far, my favorite one. I think the addition of the almond added some nuttiness that I enjoyed and the Farmer's Market blackberries were tart and juicy.
The last dessert we tried was the Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream which was another home run. I'm not normally into "crisp" desserts, but this one was exceptional.
Overall, I really enjoyed my meal at True Food Kitchen. If following Dr. Weil's Anti-Flammatory Diet means eating this way, then sign me up. Of course, it would help if True Food Kitchen was in the Eastside and closer to me as opposed to being in Santa Monica. May I suggest a location in Pasadena? :)
To end, since one of the main themes of this restaurant is geared towards having menus based on seasonal ingredients, some of the dishes I wrote about may or may not be available right now. In fact, True Food Kitchen just announced a new fall menu which includes entree dishes like Red Chili Shrimp with Sesame Noodles, Choy Sum,and Roasted Chicken with Farro and desserts like Apple Crisp with Pecan Maple Ice Cream and Squash Pie with Coconut Whipped Cream.
So if you're looking for food that's good for you AND delicious, a visit to True Food Kitchen is certainly in order, sooner rather than later.
True Food Kitchen
395 Santa Monica Pl, Ste 172
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Look for free (!) valet parking at the Third St. entrance, right in front of the venue. ^