True Food Kitchen

Shiitake hits a fan: Wild-mushroom pizza

Shiitake hits a fan: Wild-mushroom pizza

Forsaking bacon: TLT (tempeh, lettuce, and tomatoes), with kale and sweet potatoes

Forsaking bacon: TLT (tempeh, lettuce, and tomatoes), with kale and sweet potatoes

Better with butter: Edamame dumplings

Better with butter: Edamame dumplings

Custard's last stand: Dairy-free chocolate pudding

Custard’s last stand: Dairy-free chocolate pudding

Mesquite bites: Banana chocolate tart

Mesquite bites: Banana chocolate tart

Although True Food Kitchen (395 Santa Monica Place) denies it is a health food restaurant, this claim is, well, not entirely truthful. As the website explains, the menu is based on “Dr. Andrew Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid,” so don’t go there expecting a lot of fat, white flour, or sugar (approved sweeteners include honey and agave). Regular readers of this blog know of our perennial skepticism toward such establishments, but True Food Kitchen does a better-than-average job within the parameters of the genre. We began with the edamame dumplings, the only dish on the menu with butter and cream (as we learned, to our delight, after we ordered it). The dairy fills out and gives a rich texture to the white-truffle-oil-laced pureed-edamame filling of the dumplings, which float in a savory bath and are topped with whole beans and daikon radish sprouts. For an entrée, we had an excellent wild-mushroom pizza, featuring slivers of shiitake and other fungal delights with garlic and Taleggio cheese on a crisp, thin crust (nothing contrived here; Taleggio and mushrooms are a classic combination). We also liked Andy’s Favorite “TLT,” featuring tempeh strips tamed of their natural bitterness and imbued with the right salty and smoky notes in place of that meat product we would rather not think about. The sandwich came with the standard tomato slices and mayonnaise, plus avocado, on toasted whole-grain bread, along with a pair of sides: a peppery sweet-potato hash and a raw salad of shredded kale tossed with a kicky balsamic vinaigrette and a bit of Parmesan, for a great combination of sweet, sour, and spicy. Of our two desserts, we preferred the banana chocolate tart, featuring a crust made of mesquite flour topped with warm slices of bananas, cream, and Brazil nuts, but we also liked the custardy vegan chocolate pudding, nicely complemented by toasted pistachios and walnuts and a sprig of mint. The only part of the meal that disheartened us was our nonalcoholic drinks (wine and cocktails are also available). Both the Hangover Rx, with coconut water, orange juice, and pineapple, and the Medicine Man, with olivello, pomegranate, cranberry, blueberry, and black tea, tasted like nothing so much as Vitamin Water. Still, that was only a blip in an otherwise pleasant dining experience enhanced by the stylish, industrial-chic decor and the superb service. We may not always like health food restaurants, but, truth be told, this place won us over.

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