Food for Thought
Keep Food Top of Mind With True Food Kitchen
Written By: Dionne Evans
Photographed By: Tara Simon
In San Diego, you won’t be hard pressed to find a restaurant to fit your diet. From vegetarian to gluten-free, this SoCal city has it all. Whether you’re a meat-lover, a vegan, or someone trying a juice cleanse or the Paleo diet, there’s a restaurant for you. What can be hard to find, though, is an eatery that offers choices—and tasty choices at that—for every diet. That’s what makes True Food Kitchen so special. The menu of the restaurant located in Fashion Valley Mall, and the nine other True Food Kitchens across the U.S., is extremely diverse, taking cues from different cuisines around the globe. What all the menu items do have in common, though, is that they all follow the guidelines of the Anti-Inflammatory Diet, created by Dr. Andrew Weil, who developed the restaurant in partnership with Fox Restaurant Concepts.
Founder, professor and director of the Arizona Center of Integrative Medicine and a best selling author, Dr. Weil restructured the food pyramid to lower the consumption of foods of animal origin and to emphasize the benefits of fresh vegetables, fruit and whole grains. It was this idea of the Anti-Inflammatory Diet that intrigued Chef Nathan Coulon, who used to specialize in French cuisine, enough to come work at True Food Kitchen as Executive Chef 5 years ago. “I really like the concept of the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. It’s the way of the future. It’s the way people need to eat. I like being able to serve great food to the masses using locally grown ingredients. People can usually only experience this level of dining in fine dining restaurants. We’ve been able to make this high-quality food with high-quality ingredients more accessible, ” Chef Coulon told me when I visited True Food Kitchen one Tuesday morning. “The basic idea of the Anti-Inflammatory Diet is eating more fruits and vegetables and less sugars, and a lot of people can make it fit into their diet.” Not only that, but the diet’s goal is all about reducing inflammation to reduce the risk of disease, which makes you feel that much better about eating at True Food Kitchen.
The diet, and the idea of eating fresh fruits and veggies, is very much a part of the theme of the restaurant. The small outside dining patio is accompanied by a quaint garden growing such things as borage, parsley, fennel and oregano. Upon entering, the first thing guests will see is the bar set to the right that showcases a large chalkboard, displaying the Anti-Inflammatory Diet Pyramid along with health-inspired quotes. An earthy vibe fills the space, with plants on each of the tables, shelves decorated with spice-filled jars, wicker baskets packed with fruit, and curtains decorated with a leafy pattern. Another theme of the restaurant is sustainability. The tables are made from reclaimed wood, the chairs from recycled Coca-Cola bottles, and the food is sourced locally and responsibly which is something Chef Coulon is proud of. “We use as many local producers as we can and participate in events supporting local fishermen and farmers, ” he said.
The restaurant offers dishes mostly made from locally grown ingredients at affordable prices. Salads and appetizers start as low as $4 and nothing on any of their menus (brunch, lunch, dinner, dessert) goes above $26. I was there to try the Moroccan Chicken, one of their many gluten-free options. The dish is made with chickpeas, figs, olives, spinach and a tasty chermoula sauce. The chicken is brined for 6-12 hours, tossed with salt, pepper and oil, and then roasted in the oven until the skin is nice and crispy. The skin was what I liked the most about the chicken, which was served in large portions. I really enjoyed the sauce as well, which had nice, clean flavors. The figs went surprisingly well with the spinach, which was delicious on its own. Like the rest of the menu options, this dish was made to order from scratch.
After tasting the Moroccan Chicken, I understood why the restaurant would be so busy just 30 minutes after opening on a Tuesday morning. By this time, there were people coming through the door nonstop, and the large indoor seating area as well as most of the outdoor dining area was halfway filled with hungry patrons. “One thing that is very different about the restaurant is that it’s located in a mall, ” Coulon tells me. “We have guests that come here from far away places just to eat here, and I think that shows a lot about how great our food is.”
True Food Kitchen’s menus change several times a year to accommodate seasonal fruits and vegetables, and each menu item sticks to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet principle. What’s great about the food, though, is that it doesn’t feel like diet food or that you’re giving something up. The meal I enjoyed at the San Diego True Food Kitchen was tasty and had flavor. An Alice Waters quote displayed on the bar’s chalkboard sums it up well: “Let things taste like what they are.”
True Food Kitchen
Fashion Valley Mall
7007 Friars Rd, #394
San Diego, CA 92108