True Food Kitchen — The New Face of Healthy
Perhaps it’s only appropriate that the new True Food Kitchen, which opened this week in the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, is steps from SoulCycle and a Peloton indoor cycling bike showroom. What’s more, there’s even an art piece on the main wall that depicts a cyclist.
After all, this casual restaurant chain, which has 14 locations around the country and will debut a second Bay Area location in Walnut Creek at Broadway Plaza on Oct. 18, is all about a healthful lifestyle.
In fact, founder Sam Fox of Fox Restaurant Concepts, established True Food Kitchen with Dr. Andrew Weil, a physicianm noted guru of holistic health and alternative medicine, and proponent of the anti-inflammatory diet. That diet emphasizes whole grains, extra virgin olive oil, omega-3 fatty acid fish such as salmon and sardines, and plenty of fruits and vegetables. It cautions against too much saturated fat and animal protein, and recommends tea over coffee, and red wine of any other alcohol.
To that end, the restaurant offers a wide selection of gluten-free, organic, vegetarian, and vegan options. Â
But that’s not to say the food is austere by any means. Or hippy-dippy.
In fact, I was surprised at how robustly flavorful it was was when I had a chance to try the Palo Alto location when I was invited to a preview dinner a few days before its opening. I was also struck by the restaurant’s size. It’s quite large with a bustling open kitchen and a front wall of soaring windows. It has the feel of a country marketplace with its floor-to-ceiling wood accents, bright yellow chairs, and prominent display of fresh fruits and veggies neatly arrayed in wire bins.
There’s a large bar that mixes up original cocktails featuring gin, tequila and vodka. The restaurant publicist conceded those might not necessarily be anti-inflammatory. But they certainly taste delightful. And my Apple Ginger Mule ($12), a blend of juiced apple, honey, fig-infused vodka and lime certainly tasted light, bright, and full of fresh zingy ginger, which is indeed an anti-inflammatory agent.
I was expecting an order-at-the-counter kind of place, but True Food Kitchen has full table service. So don’t expect cheap fast-casual prices, but more moderate ones where the starters run from $8 to $13, the sandwiches are $13 to $17, and the entrees are $14 to $25.
We started with the wild-caught albacore tataki ($13). I appreciated that the restaurant used albacore rather than the more ubiquitous ahi. It’s a leaner tuna, but the slices were seared only on the edges, leaving the interiors raw and luscious. A citrusy ponzu sauce was spooned over, thin slices of jalapeno sprinkled on for bursts of quick heat, and avocado cream squirted on for a little buttery richness. The fish was impeccable. I could happily eat two orders myself as an entree.
The pizza was a surprising delight. Four are offered. We chose the house-made chicken sausage one ($14) accented by organic tomato, roasted fennel and scamorza, an Italian cow’s milk cheese that’s like a stronger tasting mozzarella. The individual-sized pizza arrived plenty blistered on the edges, just as I like. The airy yet chewy-crisp crust is made of spelt and flax, giving it a real depth that lets it stand on its own. The toppings had just the right balance of saltiness and fruity sweetness, too.
Scottish steelhead “salmon” ($24) is really a trout that has the same coloring and texture as salmon, but a less expensive per pound price tag. It was seared well, leaving the flesh still nicely medium-rare. The good-sized fillet was garnished with an herbacious green cilantro-pumpkin seed pesto. It rested on a bed of smoked onion farro that was nutty tasting and slightly creamy, along with roasted golden beets tossed with sauteed arugula.
My husband’s grass-fed steak tacos ($19) brought two tortillas, each filled amply with small cubes of the flavorful, toothsome beef, avocado, Greek yogurt, pickled onions and Cotija cheese. The cup of brothy, brown Anasazi beans that came with the tacos had a hit of spiciness and such deep, earthy flavors that my husband raved about it. And he’s not one to normally get excited about beans. His only complaint? He wished the tacos each had two tortillas rather than just one to make them easier to eat, as the single tortilla treatment tore easily under the weight and wetness of the filling.
For dessert, I did not have to get talked into the flourless chocolate cake ($7). Served on a pool of caramel sauce, a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of crunchy cocoa nibs, it’s vegetarian and gluten-free. It tastes decadent nevertheless, and is sure to satisfy even the most discerning chocoholic.
Now, I did have to get swayed into ordering the chia seed pudding ($7). If the publicist had not extolled its deliciousness to me before I sat down, I never would have considered ordering it. I mean, chia, for dessert? Come on.
Whipped to a creamy thickness with plenty of banana and crowned with a generous amount of big toasted, crunchy coconut shards, it was a pudding that I found myself enjoying spoonful after spoonful after spoonful. It was far more indulgent tasting than I thought it would be, kind of like a very thick, sweeter smoothie bowl.
This is not necessarily low-cal diet food. But it is food made with good ingredients and good intentions with plenty to like.