From garden to plate, discover local restaurants that work hard to remind us that eating the rainbow is good for us.
By Darice Sebring
In health-conscious Newport Beach, you’ll find that most local restaurants offer veggie-forward dishes. And now, these innovative plant-based creations are making their way to the center of the plate.
Local chefs are diving into the assortment of seasonal vegetables available by visiting local farms or farmers markets, collaborating and experimenting with their teams to create exciting new dishes while finding innovative ways to layer the flavors. Read on to explore the vibrant world of veggies and remember how good they are for your health.
Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens
The cauliflower steak with chimichurri sauce at Farmhouse at Roger’s Gardens has become a fan favorite, as it has a divine flavor. The sweet cauliflower from Tamai Family Farms in Oxnard is thickly sliced, seasoned with salt and pepper, grilled, then roasted in the oven and served with a savory chimichurri sauce and topped with pine nuts. The sauce—made with garlic, shallots, jalapeno, sage, rosemary, thyme, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper—is colorful, fragrant and perfectly complements the vegetable. Adding sliced avocado on top can be a nice touch; salmon, chicken, steak or shrimp can also be added. According to chef-owner Rich Mead, the dish was inspired by the eatery’s atmosphere. “A restaurant is an experience where you create a community,” he says. “You can see how important it is for people to get together, have a meal and a conversation.” The cauliflower then evolved with collective ideas from the staff, as Mead took new ideas from his team into account while experimenting during the creative process. (949-640-1415; rogersgardens.com)
Sol Mexican Cocina
Whether it’s Tuesday or any other day of the week, everyone loves tacos—and a certain signature option at Sol Mexican Cocina is perfect for those looking to stick with veggies. The spice-roasted butternut squash taco is a wonderful introduction to fall, with a blend of paprika and cumin used to season the squash. The vegetable is then roasted and nestled into warm corn tortillas before being topped with black beans, avocado, cheese and crispy onions. The finishing touch? A house-made roasted green chile salsa, which adds a smoky flavor to the dish. “It’s a unique taco,” says chef Christian Salazar. The eatery has a number of other vegetable-centric tacos as well, including poblano, mushroom and corn; sweet potato and black bean; and spicy popcorn cauliflower varieties. (949-675-9800; solcocina.com)
Lido Bottle Works
The seasonal vegetables at Lido Bottle Works will get you excited about eating healthy. As one of the restaurant’s best-selling dishes, you will find the presentation is a show-stopper—full of color that speaks to the heart of every season. This beautifully displayed, all-vegan dish of marinated, roasted, cooked, grilled and pickled ingredients arrives in a wreath formation atop a wooden board. A decadent, freshly made pistachio butter lies beneath a gorgeous bounty of both red and golden beets, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, purple broccoli, cauliflower and turnips. The final touch is a sprinkling of fennel frond, white pomegranates, almonds and sea salt, which makes it more like a salad than a simple plate of vegetables. While this is a vegan dish, guests can also add protein if they desire. (949-529-2784; lidobottleworks.com)
While Justin Haefler, executive chef at Gracias Madre, is not vegan himself, he rekindled his love affair with cooking by exploring new dishes for the plant-based restaurant. Haefler embraced the venture with open arms, bringing a 16-year background in crafting Mexican cuisine to the table, and stepped into the world of vegan cooking; he immediately felt an enormous hug back. One of his favorite menu items on the lunch menu is the mango broccoli taco, which contains a surprising blend of ingredients. The broccoli is either battered in rice flour and fried crispy, or roasted with olive oil, garlic and salt. It’s then layered atop a corn tortilla with cabbage, dressed in mango-habanero sauce and topped with mango salsa, pickled onion and a sprinkling of microcilantro. It’s a bright, vibrant dish that can take you outside your comfort zone and allow you to experience a parade of flavors—plus, it’s just a great taco. (949-386-8100; graciasmadre.co)
True Food Kitchen
Tangy teriyaki and nutty quinoa come together with an array of fresh veggies in a bowl available at Fashion Island’s True Food Kitchen. The restaurant delivers a delicious blend of quinoa, broccoli, rainbow carrots, green beans, bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, snap peas and Asian herbs, all stir-fried in a teriyaki sauce atop brown rice in the teriyaki quinoa bowl. The sauce is an irresistible mixture of sweet and salty, full of flavor from pineapple, Fuji apples, ginger, green onion, orange juice and tamari—the perfect complement to this textured entree. “I love this dish, because it has more vegetables than any of the other entrees or bowls,” says Matthew Padilla, the brand’s culinary innovation chef. “It has a full 7 ounces of fresh vegetables, and the substitution of quinoa in place of the classic rice with teriyaki makes this dish an icon for the food we try to create at True Food Kitchen—wholesome, healthy, nutrient-packed and delicious.” (949-644-2400; truefoodkitchen.com)