MISSION VALLEY. I am not a shopper. I can go months without visiting the mall. I especially avoid eating at the mall. Until now. True Food Kitchen has moved into the Fashion Valley Mall – next to Bloomingdales, across the street from the Cheesecake Factory – and it offers delicious and creative vegan dishes.
Even the menu is thoughtful, listing a “v” next to every vegan option. Although True Food Kitchen has separate menus for lunch and dinner, the vegan options are the same for both meals and include:
- Miso Soup
- Shiitake and Tofu Lettuce Cups
- Winter Ingredient Salad (currently in season)
- Andy’s Favorite “TLT” Sandwich
- Organic Tomato and Roasted Kale Pizza
- Teriyaki Brown Rice Bowl (with delicious tofu)
- Note: the brunch menu has all of those vegan options plus a Tofu Scramble Wrap.
My new favorite item is the Winter Ingredient Salad, which has roasted cauliflower, brussel sprouts, squash, mulberries, and pomegranate seeds topped with a horseradish vinaigrette. Somehow, the flavors hum in perfect harmony. Normally, I don’t even like cauliflower, so I would suggest trying it even if you are not usually a fan of one of the ingredients.
Also, True Food Kitchen offers a vegan sandwich called Andy’s “TLT,” which combines tempeh, lettuce, tomato, avocado, and vegenaise between slices of whole grain bread. But the sides overshadow the sandwich. You choose between a side of sweet potato hash and kale salad, but I highly recommend that you request half and half (at no extra charge).
The main vegan entrée is the Teriyaki Brown Rice Bowl with tofu, vegetables, avocado, and a teriyaki sauce. Its simplicity allows the quality of the ingredients to shine. It was my first meal at True Food Kitchen, and it never disappoints.
Vegan food is not the only reason to visit the restaurant. A significant portion of the menu is dedicated to “Natural Refreshments,” a collection of creative non-alcoholic drinks. My favorite is the Kale Aid which is a blend of kale, apple, cucumber, celery, and lemon juices, infused with ginger. It is best to ignore the prices – call it a special occasion.
Finally, True Food wraps its food in a fun dining experience. At the front door, an enthusiastic host – equipped with the latest glowing tablet – welcomes you and inquires as to indoor vs. outdoor seating. The inside features high ceilings, plants, and a vibrant decor. And the restaurant has an open kitchen, so you can observe the frenetic chaos of the food being made, prepped, and rushed to the tables. The outdoor seating area is also great option, especially when the San Diego weather hits its stride or you want to eat with your dog!
True Food Kitchen has become very popular. Although the restaurant is very large – seating perhaps several hundred – there is often a wait list. Upon arrival, the hosts’ busy fingers type your name into their tablets, and you are released to walk around the mall or shop. Your phone will receive a text message five minutes before your table is ready. As an alternative to waiting, eating at the bar and the fire pit is on a “first come, first serve” basis. For the sports fans, large screen televisions hover above the bar, which offers a wide variety of wine, cocktails, and beers.
According to the True Food Kitchen website, the restaurant’s concept is to “take popular trends in cuisine and pair them with healthy living.” If only more restaurants would join the cause.
Fashion Valley Mall
7007 Friars Rd, Ste 394
San Diego, CA 92108