Tender Greens opened its first OC outlet this weekend at the Irvine Spectrum. For those of you who have not tried the L.A. or San Diego branches, here's a quick "Taste Test" review.
In a word: good.
In nine words: better than I thought a salad-centric restaurant could be.
What surprised me most wasn't actually the salads, but everything else that wasn't a "tender green." The shredded chicken in the Chinese chicken salad didn't actually have the texture of burlap that I expected; instead it was moist as if it had just been stripped from a freshly roasted hen.
The Cowboy Cookies are excellent--an amalgam of oatmeal and chocolate chip that easily bests Doubletree's. The cobbler was served heated with a granulated-sugar encrusted dome that crumbled into its ramekin of apples sliced with care.
The fried chicken in the fried chicken salad seems to be battered in-house. In the $11 salad, there were two boneless planks, one white meat, the other dark, both inexplicably juicy, delicate, despite being kept under heat lamps.
But perhaps the best thing I had were the mashed potatoes that were the side on a "hot plate" of grilled albacore tuna. I asked one of the workers how they made it and he went into a near three-minute soliloquy on how they boiled the potatoes just to the point of tenderness, salting the water, taste-testing, pouring out the excess liquid before adding cream, butter and creme fraiche.
And there's this: they serve agua frescas. Only one flavor per night, but still, they were legitimate and as surprisingly refreshing as the whole entire outfit turned out to be.
31 Fortune Drive (across from the movie theatre) Irvine, CA 92618, 949 679-9135; www.tendergreensfood.com/locations/irvine/