By Lili Barsha
Food can be scary these days, With all the Frankenfish, tumorized BP shrimp (BP no longer standing for Blue Plate), Mad Cow, arsenic in the OJ, andgenetically modified crops, it’s getting more and more difficult to trust what we buy from the grocer, let alone what we’re served in restaurants.
True Food Kitchen in Santa Monica is one place that’s trending in the right direction. The concept is simple—pure, fresh, sustainable, locally sourced whole foods that conform to the seasons as well as the tastes of the region. The theme of the menu, which serves lunch and dinner, is “globally inspired cuisine,” with an emphasis on the Mediterranean and Asia. There are meat as well as vegetarian and vegan options, but everything falls within the True Food model, based upon Dr. Andrew Weil’s widely acclaimed Anti-inflammatory Diet & Food Pyramid. And since Santa Monica is on the cutting edge of not only California, but of all things bright, sunny, and healthy, the place is refreshingly packed.
Located in the newly renovated mall at One Santa Monica Place, the space is exceptionally large and airy. Because they do such a brisk business, you don’t feel like a whole-foods freak eating there. You will be surround by like-minded individuals aplenty, from hippie-types to savvy business execs, in a space big enough to accommodate both the 99 and the 1 percent. True Food Kitchen started in Arizona (see, they’re not all bad), with locations in Phoenix and Scottsdale, and there is a TFK in Newport Beach at Fashion Island.
My date and I each started with an irresistible elixir: a Kale Aid Cooler for me, made from kale, apple, cucumber, celery, lemon and ginger; and a Green Arnie, made with Matcha green tea and honey, for him. It was touted as a hangover remedy, which he didn’t need, but it sounded too good not to try. The elixirs left our palates feeling cleansed and refreshed, so we moved on to an appetizer of Edamame Dumplings. Blended with daikon radishes, soymilk and almond butter, the edamame filling took on a soft, creamy texture, reminiscent of butternut squash ravioli—delicious! There is a hint of truffle oil that rounds out and deepens the flavor, with little kicks provided by the radish sprouts that garnish the dish. This is truly inspired cooking that left us planning a return devoted solely to appetizers.
For entrées, I had a vegan Banh Mi Wrap, and my partner ordered Steak Tacos with simmered Pinto Beans. Surprisingly, the wrap outdid the tacos in both girth and delicacy. It contained tasty marinated/grilled tofu, julienned carrots, crisp romaine lettuce, avocado, cilantro, and a savory cashew butter and miso sauce, all wrapped in a whole-wheat tortilla—very good with plenty to share. The Steak Tacos, made with char-grilled, marinated flank steak, house-made tomatillo sauce and pickled onions on mini corn tortillas, reminded me of taco stand fare, and were just as addictive. A side dish of Sweet Potato Hash also included grilled cubes of orange and caramelized onions, and a sparkling green Kale Salad, dressed with a smooth, tart lemon dressing, was, my friend exclaimed, “Just like eating spring.”
For dessert we had half ’n’ half lattés and shared a bowl of warm Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp à la mode that is my idea of perfection. The crisp is a brown sugar and whole oats crumble atop a brilliant red, tart filling with whole berries and nice chunks of rhubarb. Not too sweet, not too tangy, but just right with a scoop of vanilla-flecked ice cream melting on top.
For those living outside the People’s Republic of Santa Monica, never fear, a True Foods Kitchen is coming to you soon. Plans are afoot to open several new Trues, one in San Diego in June and another in Denver this September. It’s nice to know there are more places that cater to renewing one’s trust in food. I arrived a natural skeptic and left a True believer.
395 Santa Monica Place, Ste. 172, Santa Monica 90401, 310.593.8300. www.truefoodkitchen.com
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