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Monday, April 10, 2017

Lunch at True Food Kitchen

Main dining area, True Food Kitchen
Fox Restaurant Concepts (Fox) is a consortium of close to 60 restaurants in 13 different states. Headquartered in Phoenix, AZ, Fox currently operates under 16 different banners. These include Culinary Dropout, The Arrogant Butcher, Flower Child and Dough Bird; names that are quirky but very much get your attention. In 2008 another restaurant banner was launched, True Food Kitchen. There are as of this writing 20 True Food Kitchens, one of them recently opening in Naples, FL.

True Food Kitchen (TFK) is a partnership with Andrew Weil, a physician who was instrumental in the development of integrative medicine. This is a gestalt approach to medicine incorporating not only biological and psychological aspects, but social and spiritual as well. Nutrition plays a big part in this. 

It has long been proposed that low grade inflammatory events in the body are progenitors of disease processes such as heart disease and diabetes, and there is good evidence for many of these claims. Nutrients in various foods have been found to have anti inflammatory properties per se, which has led some to advocate an anti inflammatory "diet". Some studies on this have been equivocal and therefore the concept as such, controversial. There is no doubt that good nutrition is a component of good health, and this is one of the concepts of TFK.

As you enter the restaurant there is a very large open dining space accentuated by many windows letting in lots of natural light. There is also quite ample outside dining space as well, should the weather warrant it. This restaurant also has somewhat of an open air kitchen. I have always felt that kitchens such as these help connect diners with their food if they can see the kitchen staff at work. After all, the Japanese have been successfully using this concept for many years with their Teppanyaki grills.

My dining companion (DC) and I dined here on the second day they were open. We tried a few of the menu items.

The first thing we sampled was the torched avocado from the vegetable offerings. It looked interesting, with "torched avocado", cucumber noodles, reconstituted dried Asian mushrooms, sesame, radish, sugar snap peas and ponzu sauce seasoned with tumeric. Ponzu sauce is sort of a soy sauce "spiked" with a citrus note. I thought the dish was a bit of a disconnect with the earthiness of the mushrooms and the citrus seeming to clash with one another. We then moved onto a couple of the entrees.

DC ordered the sustainable seabass with broccolini, sugar snap pea, roasted mushrooms, ancient grains and a umami sauce. The ancient grains at TFK are a mixture of farro, brown rice and quinoa. Umami is the 5th sense of taste, that of savory. The restaurant replicates this with a mixture of olive oil, apple cider vinegar and yeast flakes. We both thought the dish good, but there were better sea bass dishes to be had locally.

I am a fool for fish tacos, and what was served to us was wonderful. These were served properly on corn tortillas, with avocado, pickled onion, cilantro and Greek yogurt. A side of anasazi beans accompanied the dish. These were delicious, seasoned with cayenne pepper, cumin, pico de gallo and cotija cheese. The fish portions in this dish were significant, almost 3 oz. of sea bass per taco. Although fish tacos originated in the Baja region of Mexico, these fish tacos were some of the best I have had East of the Mississippi.

I felt the restaurant had much more to offer and wondered about the service especially with the corporate presence that day. Fortunately I was able to connect with one of the TFK corporate representatives. This individual most graciously offered to give DC and I the opportunity to sample more of the restaurant's offerings gratis.

Talking to our server before ordering on our second visit, we were told they received 40-50 hours of orientation; learning menu items and a team approach to service. This really showed not only with our server but with watching the service provided to other diners.

DC and I wanted to sample some of some of the restaurant's beverage offerings. We ordered the honey lemonade which was made from honey, lemon juice and an optional splash of cucumber juice. I tried the cherry chia limeade with lime juice, Amarena cherries and chia seeds. The lemonade had a bit of bitterness. Perhaps they did not peel their cucumbers before making juice from them. In contrast, the cherry chia lime aid was excellent, well flavored and very refreshing.

I love roasted vegetables; charred cauliflower was ordered. It was flavored with harissa tahini, Medjool dates, pistachio, dill and mint. The dill and mint provided a very unusual flavor combination that I had not experienced before. On the whole, this vegetable offering was quite good. We also sampled from the salad menu and the Mediterranean quinoa salad looked interesting. Romaine lettuce was topped with quinoa, seedless cucumber, Kalamata olives, sweet Peppadew peppers, cherry tomatos, pole beans, feta cheese, almond and finished with an oregano vinaigrette. I thought it was very good but not being a "salad person", DC didn't care for it. It's all a matter of taste sometimes.

The pizzas at TFK looked good, so we ordered the wild mushroom pizza. This 12 or 14 inch pizza came with roasted mushrooms which looked like Crimini and/or Shiitake, asparagus, roasted garlic and a mozzarella/taleggio cheese mixture. Taleggio is sort of an Italian Brie cheese, very creamy and buttery. With a moderately thin, light crust the pizza was close to perfection and delicious. A must order again item. A turkey burger was ordered from the sandwich selections. It was served with butter lettuce, smashed avocado, tomato, smoked Gouda cheese and a jalapeno remoulade, or sort of a spicy mayonnaise-based sauce. The dish was served with cubed sweet potato roasted with olive oil and onions and/or a kale salad with sea salt, chili pepper, garlic and a lemon vinaigrette. Although made with breast meat, the burger was unusually moist with the inclusion of the skin at grinding. With the avocado, remoulade and the smokiness of the cheese, this sandwich was excellent and one of the best turkey burgers I have ever had. I thought the kale salad ok in addition to the roasted sweet potatoes. The sandwich was so good however, the side dishes were easy to overlook.

We were then treated to tasting portions of each of their desert items. A flourless chocolate cake was served with caramel, vegan vanilla ice cream a cocoa nibs. Interestingly, the ice cream was made from coconut milk.

We were also served a slice of their vegan, gluten free key lime pie. How can this be you may ask? The crust is made from ground almonds, gluten free flower and cinnamon. The filling consists of key lime juice, coconut water and cornstarch and is topped with a mixture of whipped coconut cream, vanilla bean paste, sugar and lime zest. Surprisingly, it was very good and one of the better pieces of key lime pie I have ever had.

A duo of Sea Buckthorn fruit sorbet with cherries and another scoop of vegan vanilla followed. Sea Buckthorn is a shrub that produces an orange fruit that is very astringent and sour. This is prevented by frosting the fruit and adding sugar making the fruit a perfect candidate for sorbet. The berries (fruit) of this plant are also nutritionally dense and have purported medicinal properties.

Their vegan flan followed, with coconut, chia seeds and caramel sauce. The texture was different from the traditional and the dessert on the whole, good.

I happened to have a decibel meter on my phone for an unrelated reason, but decided to check it out. At the peak of the lunch crowd, the ambient noise level approached 95 dB. This was rather high, but did not interfere with conversation between DC and I as we were at a small table for two. If you want a quite, intimate dining venue for perhaps date night, this restaurant may not be for you. However, I felt the ambient noise level in the restaurant complemented the large open dining space and the natural lighting in the restaurant.

On the whole the food at TFK was good to excellent with a number of standouts. I think the concept of this restaurant very much has it's finger on the zeitgeist of the contemporary food scene, and should do extremely well. The restaurant also changes it's offerings seasonally, a perfect excuse to go back in Summer, Fall and Winter.

It's a wrap for another post on Forks.



True Food Kitchen
Waterside Shops
5375 Tamiami Tr. STE. 15
Naples, FL 34108
(239)431-4580
True Food Kitchen-Naples Website 

All major credit cards accepted; kid's meals available; valet parking through Waterside Shops
 
Honey lemonade and cherry chia limeade

 
Torched avocado


Grilled fish tacos
 
Sustainable seabass

Charred cauliflower
Mediterranean quinoa salad


Wild mushroom pizza
Turkey burger
Sea buckthorn sorbet and vegan vanilla ice cream
Flourless chocolate cake
Coconut and chia seed flan


 
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