Thursday, January 8, 2009
Mini-Review: True Food Kitchen
Speaking of clockwork, every Sam Fox enterprise I've ever been to operates with the lash-induced precision of a Korean animation studio. True Food, Sam Fox's latest restaurant and partnership with holistic healer/professional beard/popular bear fan fiction subject Andrew Weil, is no different. Even though the place has the decor of a laid back San Francisco juice bar, from its warm green and yellow paint scheme to the plain tunics worn by the wait staff, True Food is all business. It's tucked away in the Biltmore mall in Phoenix, where the Coffee Plantation used to be. When we arrived, we were immediately seated, and a friendly server explained True Food's mission and the menu. Interested parties can read the website for more info on Weil's eating philosophy; in short, True Food stresses local-grown produce, sustainably raised cattle and fish rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, and other good stuff.
We began with smoothies freshly prepared by our server. I chose the T-Eight, a cocktail of tomato, celery, ginger, cucumber, golden beet, apple, carrot, and parsley ($6), and added a shot of organic vodka for $3. My companion ordered the Ginger Nojito: mint, ginger, lime, honey lemonade, and soda water for $4. I preferred the T-Eight slightly more, but both tasted light and went down easy. We ordered the herb hummus with pita bread and Greek salad ($8) as an appetizer; I selected the salmon sandwich ($14) as my main course, and my companion selected the steak tacos with anasazi beans ($14, $5).
The hummus was zippy and fresh. Made several times daily, along with the pita bread, it is a house favorite -- and with good reason. The cucumbers and tomatoes in the salad were equally tangy and delightful. Our server pointed out that the dish would be vegan if the feta cheese were removed, and that it is a favorite of "raw" diners. To that point, the entire menu is very friendly to vegans, vegetarians, gluten-free eaters, and people with allergies. Each menu item is marked according to its suitability for various eaters, and the kitchen is happy to make substitutions.
With little pause, our main courses arrived. The salmon sandwich was served open-faced with shiso, lime, avocado, and cilantro aioli, and a side of sweet potato hash. Cooked to perfection, the salmon yielded gently under my fork, and was perfectly moist and juicy. The sweet potato hash was a Platonic side dish: perfectly prepared, not too sweet, not too memorable, and above all else it did not distract me from the main course. My companion reported (and I confirmed) that the steak tacos were similarly juicy, although I found them a touch too salty. Although she enjoyed the tacos, she felt they were "a little too Chipotle" (which I take to mean they were too conventional for her tastes). The beans were quite well-done, if perhaps a touch soggy. Up to this point, I was surprised that so-called health food could be this tasty.
For dessert, we tried the orange olivello sorbet. Olivello juice, derived from sea buckthorn berries, is a powerful anti-oxidant. True Food claims to be the only restaurant in the country that provides this juice and features it prominently in several dishes. We found the dish powerfully sweet, more than I typically enjoy. This dish, like all the others, was excellently prepared and served promptly.
I greatly enjoyed my meal at True Food Kitchen, and I'm happy to know there's another restaurant I can take my vegan friends to without reservation.