Newport Beach isn’t far from me, yet, for some reason, I always feel like it’s more of a trek than going to Westminster. For that reason, it took me THIS long to try out True Food Kitchen, a restaurant I’d had my eye on for a while.
Holly of Seeking Delicious, Austin and I came here for lunch, and just as well it was Newport Restaurant Week and True Food Kitchen was the one restaurant I had said I was interested in trying out. The items on the Restaurant Week menu are selections off the regular menu so we opted to get a couple of those as well as order off the a la carte menu.
Our server Sasha was delightful and very accommodating as we took our time perusing the menu. Everything looked good and it was difficult to narrow it down to a meal for three.
We started by ordering a few of the drinks they had. Medicine Man ($6) consisted of olivello juice, pomegranate juice, cranberry juice, black tea, and soda water. Holly didn’t care for this drink, but luckily, I really liked it. I enjoyed the fruity balance with a touch of carbonation from the soda water.
Austin’s Honey Lemonade ($3) is a house lemonade blend sweetened with local honey. If you like honey, this is a great drink because you can really taste the distinctive nature of this particular honey.
The last drink, Hangover Rx ($5), is a combination of coconut water, orange juice and pineapple. Very appealing in every sense of the word, but a tad sweet for me as an accompaniment to lunch. Holly loved it and so it became her drink.
We ordered a bunch of things to share and the first thing to hit the table was Shrimp Dumplings ($11) with shiitake mushrooms, ginger and cilantro. As an Asian, I’m very particular when it comes to dumplings and these were actually pretty good. They were light yet still tasty.
Caramelized Onion Tart ($9) was a thin flatbread-like item with smoked garlic, black fig and gorgonzola. Its thinness reminded me of tarte flambee and we all liked this a lot. I thought it could’ve benefited from a few more figs though.
I had expected House Smoked Salmon ($12) with Greek yogurt and pita chips to be slices of salmon, but it was more of a dip with chopped up salmon mixed with a yogurt dressing. Salmon was nicely smoked with a good salty finish and the seasonings made it a very pleasing appetizer. I didn’t like the pita chips they were served with though.
Tuscan Kale Salad ($7) was not what I had in mind. I am used to the slightly wilted kale I get from The Veggie Grill, but the version here was raw with lemon, parmesan and bread crumb sprinkled on top. I find raw kale less flavorful than slightly wilted kale so for me, this dish was just so-so.
My least favorite item was Sashimi Tuna ($15) which incidentally, was a salad with avocado, cucumber, edamame and ginger. There were minuscule amounts of tuna — and just as well because it was tasteless — completely lost in the jungle of greens.
Panang Curry ($16), though not traditional at all, was quite good. Brown rice is layered on the bottom of the bowl with a concoction of chicken, potato, broccoli, ginger, carrot, lemongrass cooked in a coconut broth poured on top. There was just a bit too much coconut for my taste.
When we brought this up to Sasha she informed us that should we order this dish again, we can always tell them to go easy on the coconut milk and heavier on the spices. In fact, everything on the menu can be adapted and adjusted to your taste. All you have to do is ask!
Our last savory dish was Steak Tacos ($14) which surprisingly were rather good. Three small corn tortillas are topped with well-seasoned steak, cooked to perfection, very tender and juicy. They were topped with avocado, cotija cheese and a tomatillo salsa. I didn’t enjoy the accompanying Anasazi beans served in a separate bowl. I guess it needed a little more fat to give it flavor, but then that defeats the purpose of what True Food Kitchen stands for.
We didn’t really have any room left for dessert, but since two of our prix fixe came with one, we were presented with Flourless Chocolate Cake ($7), made with 72% cocoa — was definitely evident in the taste. The cake was rich and moist and not overly sweet. Vanilla ice cream, together with a very lovely caramel sauce completed this delightful dessert.
Unfortunately, Dairy Free Organic Chocolate Pudding ($6) with walnut and pistachio was not so pleasing. The pudding had a strange taste and we thought maybe carob was used in place of chocolate which might have contributed to its strange flavor. I wouldn’t order this again.
What can I say? The meal was really good, but it was the service which blew me away. I didn’t expect this level of professionalism and courtesy when the restaurant was jam packed and the servers had more than their share of tables to wait on. Sasha was just incredible, even offering us a glass of the ‘daily water’ at the end of the meal to cleanse our palate.
Here’s a tip. Ask what the daily water is when you sit down. We had the cucumber water and were told during the summer, they often do watermelon water. So if you weren’t planning on ordering a drink, why settle for just plain old boring H2O when you can ask for one of these complimentary flavored waters instead?
True Food Kitchen has definitely got its act together. Excellent service paired with wonderful food in a beautiful setting. As a customer, there is nothing more I can ask for!
True Food Kitchen
451 Newport Center Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660