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Early Bird: True Food Kitchen in Newport Beach

Dr. Andrew Weil's new Fashion Island restaurant is a nice place to kick off your Jimmy Choos and get in an organic frame of mind. Try the Medicine Man 'antioxidant blast.'

August 09, 2010|By S. Irene Virbila, Los Angeles Times Restaurant Critic

You can't miss Dr. Andrew Weil's new restaurant, True Food Kitchen, at Fashion Island in Newport Beach. It's big and wedged right between Roy's and Fleming's, two of the biggest players in the high-end chain game. But True Food Kitchen purports to be something different: vegetarian-friendly and based on the bearded doctor's anti-inflammatory-diet food pyramid. Most of the produce is organic and local, I'm told, though it's not specifically labeled as such on the menu. (The wines, however, are labeled organic when that description applies.)

The Fashion Island locale is the second to roll out from Weil through Fox Restaurant Concepts. The first is in a fashion park in Phoenix.

As friends and I walked in last week, two beauties were standing on either side of the door holding up a menu next to white tubs on wheels filled with thoughtfully labeled culinary herbs. Laughter bubbled up from the huge side-slung patio, which held a fire pit and a fashionable living wall of plants.

Inside, the first thing you see is the enormous bar, with heaps of citrus piled in a bin at the very end. It makes you thirsty just looking at it, and sure enough, True Food Kitchen has the refreshments covered with natural drinks such as Red Moon (pink grapefruit, yuzu, agave and soda) and Medicine Man, an "antioxidant blast" of olivello juice, pomegranate juice, cranberry juice, black tea, soda water and muddled blueberry.

Olivello, you say? Ask your waiter, who will tell you it's an extract from sea buckthorn berries. Delicious. If this is Dr. Andy's idea of what's good for you, bring it on. The real cocktails pass muster — an extremely spicy bloody mary made with fresh vegetables and an acai mojito made from organic rum with muddled blueberry.

Uh-huh. Have your drink and feel virtuous too.

True Food is big, as in 300 seats, and the place takes no reservations. Guess it doesn't have to. Even at a few days old and with no Dr. Andy in sight, the place was busy, mostly women dutifully chewing chopped salad or the raw kale salad with Parmesan, while the guys tucked into pizza or pasta. There was even one large table of male jocks, baseball caps turned backward, checking out the place — or the beach bunnies, I don't know which.

Everything on the menu has symbols to indicate whether it's vegan, vegetarian or non-gluten. Basically, the food doesn't seem that different from that at most Mediterranean or California-Mediterranean places — a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Sashimi (in this case yellowtail), pizza with vegetable toppings (and you can bet the one with sausage is chicken sausage), pastas and stir-fries, vegetable sides. A rectangular caramelized onion tart with Gorgonzola and dried mission figs is pleasant. Ditto for the roasted eggplant pizza. Organic ricotta ravioli are good: Too bad they're under so many other ingredients. Wild ahi sliders mysteriously exhibit zero flavor despite the touted wasabi aioli, and steak tacos come with a salsa that's wimpy, to say the least. Stay away from the Asian dishes too, which tend to taste like hippie stir-fries from the '70s.

The wine list is very nice, and wines by the glass are reasonable enough. Add in those natural drinks and cocktails, and you've got a sparkling new venue to rest your Manolos and your shopping bags on a visit to Fashion Island.

irene.virbila@latimes.com

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