Santa Monica Place’s newest restaurant, True Food Kitchen, opened this week on the mall’s ground floor.
What’s different about True Food Kitchen is that one of its owners is Dr. Andrew Weil, the bearded, Harvard-educated health guru and long-time wellness advocate. Weil told the Mirror this is his first restaurant project.
“I’ve always thought there’s a huge potential for restaurants to change people’s eating habits. I’m on the road a lot so I eat out often, but at most restaurants I go to, I think I can make better food at home,” Weil said. “People want to eat out; sometimes they have to eat out. I want to bring together the world of restaurant dining and good nutrition and I saw this as a chance to do that.”
The menu follows the doctor’s anti-inflammation food pyramid, which is based in fruits and vegetables and includes whole grains, proteins, and healthy fats. “Chronic inflammation is the root cause of chronic disease; if you contain inflammation, you’re reducing your risk of diseases and increasing health,” Weil said. He said he oversees the food served at the restaurant to make sure it’s consistent with his nutritional philosophy.
But don’t expect to find wheat germ and alfalfa sprouts on plates here. “We’re not serving grassy, boring health food; it has to taste good, otherwise we won’t put it on the menu,” said Executive Chef Michael Stebner. “So much of restaurant food is so ridiculously bad for you. We offer a sensible way to eat good food, and I think we’re delivering something people have wanted for a long time.”
Stebner and Weil collaborated on the menu, which has something comforting for everyone – starters, sandwiches, salads, pizzas, entrees, and desserts. “We don’t preach anything here – I think we have food that anyone would find appealing,” Weil said.
Try the almond-cap mushroom pizza ($13), made with spring garlic, tallegio cheese, and immunity-boosting mushrooms. The raw fish appetizer ($12) is a fine contrast of textures, colors and flavors: thinly sliced yellowtail drizzled with a vinaigrette and topped with the raw green crunch of slivered snow peas and peppery daikon sprouts. Other good options are the pillowy fava bean and ricotta ravioli ($15) with shaved artichoke, tat soi greens and Meyer lemons, a king salmon entree ($24) in season, and the obligatory kale salad ($8). For dessert, ice creams and sorbets ($3) are made in house.
Health food diehards might enjoy Weil’s signature immunity soup ($7) made with anti-oxidant astragalus root and shiitake mushrooms, and Andy’s favorite TLT sandwich ($11), a composition of tempeh, lettuce, tomato, avocado, and mayo on whole grain bread. Andy’s elixir is a fizzy drink spiked with tart, anti-inflammatory olivello juice from Italy. The umami sauce is made with nutritious yeast flakes. Vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free dishes are so indicated on the menu.
This is the fourth branch of True Food Kitchen, an Arizona export from Fox Restaurant Concepts, a company with 31 restaurants in its portfolio. The company is planning further expansion with this concept.
Inside the cavernous restaurant it’s airy and noisy, with high, exposed ceilings and plenty of light coming through the glass wall facing Second Street. There’s an open kitchen and prep area, a full bar with specialty cocktails and a California-centric wine list, an indoor community table, and outdoor seating. True Food Kitchen isn’t a destination for an intimate dinner and conversation, but a place where people could eat well and feel virtuously healthy afterward, if only until their next meal.
True Food Kitchen, 395 Santa Monica Place (along Second Street), 310.593.8300, truefoodkitchen.com. Starters ($7 to $12), salads ($8 to $15), sandwiches ($11 to $16), pizzas ($11 to $13), entrees ($13 to $25), desserts ($3 to $7), breakfast items, weekends only from 10 a.m. ($3 to $10).