And now for something "truly" unique. True Food Kitchen is a hip restaurant that's also family friendly and features genuinely healthy food, which is both delicious and contemporary in style. This is as far from an old-fashioned "health food" restaurant as you could imagine; beginning with the space, a large handsomely appointed, high-ceilinged dining room and an equally large outdoor dining patio, both done in a sleek style with glass, wood and stainless steel. Dominating one end of the outdoor area is a dramatic, long, narrow fire pit surrounded by comfortable couches and low tables, which seems to be the place to "hang" for the trendsetters. In the center of the main dining room is an attractive island with an eating counter on both sides and a bar in the center, where they concoct natural beverages like Andy's elixir with olivello juice, agave nectar and soda water, as well as "healthy" cocktails like acai mojitos or pomegranate martinis.
"Andy" is wellness guru Andrew Weil and he has teamed up with Sam Fox of Fox Restaurant Concepts to create this up-to-the-minute concept, serving food that happens to be good for you and for the environment. The menu created by Chef Michael Stebner uses locally grown organic produce whenever possible, plus wild-caught seafood, natural chicken and beef, healthy fats and minimal dairy. Most pasta is made from brown or white rice. Pizzas and pita breads are made with organic flour, spelt and flax seed.
Sitting outside on the cozy patio admiring the living wall of plants at one end, noting the generous space between tables, we were greeted by Stacy, our most accommodating and helpful server who graciously answered our barrage of questions relating to the menu. She recommended the raw fish of the day, hamachi, for a starter. The narrow plate had a row of small, razor-thin slices of sashimi that were topped with equally thin rounds of radish, then sprinkled with radish sprouts and tiny cubes of jicama, all bathed in a spectacular, sweet yuzu emulsion. However the very fresh fish, which would usually be the star of the show, played a supporting roll to the nuanced ensemble of other ingredients — simply delicious. We only wished there were a little more of it.
The pizza, on the other hand, was served in a good-sized portion and was easy to share. We chose the wild mushroom with roasted garlic and Tuscan kale. Although the thin and crispy crust is purported to include spelt and flax seed, their taste was not apparent. It was not the kind of crust where you want to eat the naked edges, but the topping was quite tasty. The gooey, cheesy flavor was a combination of mozzarella, fontina and Parmesan but it was the earthy, chewy mushrooms that gave the pizza its character. Surprising, was the garlicky chopped kale. This is not the kale you despised as a kid. It's called lacinato, black or Tuscan; it's sweet, mild and tender enough to eat raw, adding texture and subtle flavor to the pie. We liked it a lot and so did the 8-year-old boy at the next table who was also yumming it up.
Kale popped up again as pesto sauce for luscious, plump, almost obese, ricotta ravioli. Scattered about the plate were maitake mushrooms, peppers and corn. The bright green pesto, however, was a little bland and we missed the flavor of basil.
A delicate umamai sauce made from dashi, mushroom stock, tamari and rice wine vinegar, definitely lifted the very mild tasting Wild Pacific halibut out of the doldrums.
We found the lemon olive oil cake to be quite pleasant, especially with the accompanying strawberries and Greek yogurt but the vegan chocolate pudding is, in a word, skippable.
The well-deserved popularity of this new restaurant means that there will be crowds and a wait, as they don't take reservations for a party of fewer than eight.
IF YOU GO
• WHAT: True Food Kitchen (949) 644-2400 truefoodkitchen.com
• WHERE: 451 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach
• WHEN: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Saturday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. (brunch until 3 p.m.)
Sunday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (brunch until 3 p.m.)
Appetizers: $6to $11
Pizza/Sandwiches: $10 to $13
Entrées: $11 to $24
Desserts: $6 to $7
Bottles: $24 to $90
By the glass: $6 to $18.50
Corkage Fee: $15