The newest True Food Kitchen restaurant, started by Dr. Andrew Weil, officially opens today Wednesday, June 14th in Bethesda, MD. I had the pleasure of not only interviewing Dr. Weil but being among the first few to try many dishes prior to the grand opening.

Dr. Andrew Weil has been at the forefront of integrative health and medicine throughout his career. As an educator and author, he continues to educate others on his passion to practice natural and preventative medicine to support overall health. His teaching also includes eating a clean diet rich in natural foods.

In order to maintain good health, your diet must be consistently clean. Dr. Weil has always loved to cook so it was a natural progression to transition in the restaurateur direction. In 2008, he and restaurateur Sam Fox of Fox Restaurant Concepts began to discuss Dr. Weil’s dream for a healthy restaurant chain.

Dr. Weil said the biggest challenge in the beginning when he and Sam were in discussion of True Food Kitchen concept was their vastly different diet. Sam loves burgers and thought Dr. Weil only ate hippie food, so there was some initial conflict. Dr. Weil originally didn’t want to have meat on the menu but Sam said they should offer meat as an option to appeal to everyone.

“Sam thought health food would not sell. I think he thought I meant tofu and sprouts. So I cooked for his wife and the wheels began to turn in his head. A space opened in Phoenix, but he was very skeptical about the concept. We opened the first True Food Kitchen about nine years ago just as the economy tanked. Everyone thought we were crazy but from the moment the first restaurant opened its door is was wildly successful,” Dr. Weil said.

After Interviewing Dr. Weil, I was more excited to try the food knowing how much heart he put into creating a healthy menu. I personally do not drink soda and prefer water, smoothies or veggie drinks. Instead of sodas and juices, True Food Kitchen offers Refreshers & Teas. I started with their Kale Aid made with kale, ginger, apple, celery and cucumber. One of my favorite combinations I make at home. The drink was well-balanced and truly refreshing. I later ordered the Hangover Rx with pineapple, orange, honey and coconut water.

For my appetizer, I was immediately drawn to the Torched Avocado salad. The avocado was delicately placed atop zucchini noodles with mushrooms, snap peas, watermelon radishes, sesame then drizzled with a savory yuzu ponzu sauce. Each bite tantalized my palate leaving me wanting more.

During my interview with Dr. Weil I learned that many of the dishes on the menu are his own personal recipes. The menu appeals to everyone from meat eaters, vegetarians to vegans and includes gluten-free options.

“We let the ingredients really shine through. The food looks beautiful and it sells itself since it’s incredibly flavorful. The fact that it is healthy is there, and many say they feel good after they eat here,” Dr. Weil shared about his dishes.

I chose the Wild Caught Albacore Tataki dish for my second course made with albacore tuna, jalapeño, and toasted sesame seeds then drizzled with the yuzu ponzu sauce. One of my all-time favorite seafood dishes is seared tuna and I love trying different variations. The beautiful plating presentation was once more Michelin-worthy. The dollops of avocado cream sauce balanced the subtle heat from the thinly sliced jalapeños.

Because of the incredible variety of dishes on the menu made it more challenging to decide on each course. I settled on the Scottish Steelhead for my entrée. Steelhead is a unique trout species whose taste and texture is a cross between salmon and trout. They bare similarities to the Atlantic salmon variety. Fun fact, Steelhead do not die after first spawning and go on to spawn more than once in their lifetime.

My eyes widened yet again when my server set the steelhead dish in front of me at the sight of yet another artistically plated dish. The lightly grilled pinkish fish rested on smoked onion faro, arugula, orange roasted beets and a cilantro pumpkin seed pesto. For added texture those darling little pepitas were sprinkled on top. The beets were roasted to perfection with a texture that reminded me more of a fruit. The zesty cilantro pumpkin seed pesto complimented the dish as a whole.

If I were splitting the Key Lime Pie with a date I would ask for extra coconut whipped cream so he and I would not argue over who took the bigger spoonful. For health reasons, I normally say “Hold the whipped stuff!” Or simply scrap it off but this vegan whipped cream was a pleasant surprise. Lime zest and ground vanilla bean were also mixed in with the cream. At the end of my meal I was informed that I was their very first customer at this location.

The restaurant has been such a national success that Dr. Weil has been asked to open locations in Japan, China, Abu Dhabi and London as well as cities throughout the United States. There is no doubt that this restaurant chain will be appreciated globally. Allowing diners to experience the best in both good taste and good nutrition is a refreshing alternative to other styles of dining. Rest assured that ordering off the menu; your health and palate both are in good hands.

True food grows out of the soil and is cared for by the sun. It is raw like taking a bite of a juicy ruby red organic strawberry. It is not processed or manufactured in a man-made plant. True food is healing, nurturing, and delicious. True Food Kitchen proves that healthy food can be both beautifully presented at a restaurant level and delightful on the palate.

Written by Lisa M. Comento