Saturday, October 30, 2010

On a Related Topic...

There are two reasons that I run. One is to get outside and stay in shape. The other is to fight the ever expanding waistline. This post on on the reason for the latter.

I live close to a major shopping center here in Orange County California – Fashion Island in Newport Beach*. Business student should study Fashion Island as a case study in market niche segmentation. In a time where the trend was to be a mega indoor mall, Fashion Island has been able to improve it’s place in the pecking order of malls in OC by becoming a high end specialty mall focused on atmosphere. It’s not out of the question to walk into a jewelry store and see $25,000 watches and $200,000 diamonds on display. The designers also took advantage of our outstanding weather to architect a wonderful outdoor shopping space – using courtyards, fountains, and koi ponds to make Fashion Island more of a destination than a shopping mall.  Bottom line is that Fashion Island is often the place that hip spots and marketing experiments take place before being institutionalized and put in other malls around the country.

One of those is taking place these days at a restaurant called True Food Kitchen. To be honest, I had seen the signs for the restaurant, but wasn’t really planning on setting foot in the place since it took the location of one of my favorite old seafood restaurants (Blue Coral). But after reading Madison’s blog yesterday, and with my kids planning on being home for dinner**, my wife and I decided to try it out.

The first good sign was the lack of parking as we rolled up a little after 5PM. We found a spot and walked in to a bright and airy expanse. Minimalist design was accented with touches of bamboo and soothing colors. A great place to sit around and catch up with friends and family.


Since this was our first time, our server gave us the rundown on the place. True Food Kitchen is a new concept restaurant based on Dr. Andrew Weill’s Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid. There are two locations – the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix and here in Fashion Island. The  Fresh vegetables. No butter. Tuscan olive oil. Purified water. See what I mean about marketing experiments?

The sounds, sights, and story were compelling. But in my mind, the real litmus test is, that’s right, the food.

We started with an order of Shrimp Dumplings:


The dumplings were served in a soy based sauce and garnished with steamed celery and bok choy. Normally I’m not much of a shrimp fan. I find the little crustaceans bland and boring. But, these were different. The dumplings were freshly diced shrimp and ginger in a delicate wrapper steamed perfectly. Yum.

Next up was a salad. I chose the kale salad:


What can I say? As close to collard greens as you can get here on the West Coast. They had a light and nutty flavor and were garnished with parmesan cheese and bread crumbs and dressed lightly with lemon juice. Absolutely wonderful texture and flavors. Just like eating healthy potato chips. (My wife and son had the summer chopped salad. I sampled a bit. I ‘m choosing that the next time…)

Then to finish out the night – main course. I love thai food, especially curries. So for me, selection was a no brainer – a Panang Curry. I special ordered with tofu instead of the on menu item with chicken. Of course the kitchen was easily able to satisfy my request:


One word – scrumptious. Just enough of a kick to satisfy my spicy side, just enough sweet to satisfy my sweet tooth. The richness of the coconut juice was balanced perfectly by the crunchiness of the vegetables. Everything was cooked to perfection.

There was only one problem with last night – by the time I finished my main course, I had no room for dessert! Dang! I was eyeing the flourless chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream….

Bottom line – this place will give some of our other health food themed restaurants around here a run for their money. Unlike a couple of others (Veggie Grill, Native Foods) the menu is not exclusively vegan/vegetarian, but there vegan/vegetarian selections on the menu. Where True Food wind hands down though is in the atmosphere department. We were there for almost an hour and a half and thoroughly enjoyed every moment and every bite.  The only downside is cost (dinner of rabbit food for 3 – shared appetizer, salad, main course, non-alcoholic drinks – ran $64).  If you are in the Newport Beach area and are looking for delicious, healthy food in a great setting, stop by True Food Kitchen in Fashion Island. We’ll be back!

* Trivia alert: Fashion Island is located on the spot of the first Boy Scout Jamboree held in 1953.

* Trivia alert #2: For us OC’ers (or for anyone who drives in OC) - that same event is the source of the name for Jamboree Avenue – one of the major north/south routes in Orange County.

** We *thought* we were going to have the whole family. Daughter and youngest son were last minute cancellations. Look at what they missed!


  1. Cool will have to check this out. I had no idea about the origins of Jamboree Rd either. My guess is that in '53 that was still pretty wild in/down there.

  2. That place looks great! Will have to try it!

  3. First let me wipe off my drool. Seriously,while reading your post the salivation went into hyper drive! Your curry sounds amazing!

  4. Wow- they have a location in my neck of the woods! I'll have to give them a visit. Thanks for the review!

  5. You Californians have it all!!

    The few times I've been in Newport Beach, I ate at Wahoo' we have about 20 here in Denver, but Noooo, we had to eat at the one along the water. Cool place, though. And feel free to pick up one of those diamonds at Fashion Island and throw my way :). We tend to trek over to Balboa Island and buy the knock-off $10 designer sunglasses. ha!

  6. You don't think they might come to southern Mississippi? I bet we are too hick for them... Nice review though!

  7. wow- yum! along the lines of jennifer's comment - they'd need to offer some sort of "healthy" fried item to survive here in the south east ;)

    looks and sounds good though - and sounds like they'd be easy to work around allergies too.

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  9. hmmmm Thai!

    You really can't go wrong with it!

  10. Looks like an interesting restaurant Glenn. It's a bit of a drive or we might just try it out! Have a great week!

  11. I should not have read this on an empty stomach. Everything looks so delicious. (And never knew where Jamboree got it's name ... wow.)