Richardson has a lot to recommend it. Affordable housing, decent public schools, and a kaleidoscope of dining options. Newly opened Vitality House Cafe on Coit Road seemed like it would fit right in as a welcome health-food addition. We all know that the North Texan tolerance for mediocre dining is low; it’s sink or swim for new restaurants. Those with any staying power—even strip mall holes-in-the-wall—have menus that you tell your friends about.
Now, I’m all about the healthy eating. Really. No sarcasm here; just ask my long-suffering husband. I make my own salad dressing, stay away from saturated fats, eat at least three servings of fruit every day, and recently started churning out my own pasta. I tell you this not so that you’ll want to pelt me with tomatoes, but to say that I can attest, first hand, that healthy food can taste really effing great. The antithesis, however, is more prevalent: healthy eating that saddens and disappoints. Bites that, in the words of Harry Potter, make you feel like you’ll never be cheerful again.
jump for the lowdown…
I showed up at Vitality House for lunch yesterday really wanting to like it, expecting to heap on the praise. The interior is cheerful in a sherbet palette of orange and lime green. Loads of natural light, orange cloth napkins, and green dishes (smartly) from Ikea unite the color story. We ordered two appetizers: falafel bites and hummus, and two entrees: turkey meatloaf muffins and seared tuna over soba noodles.
While not a recipe I would try to replicate at home, the red pepper hummus was flavorful and smooth and was served with a sort of tzatziki and baked pita triangles. Healthiness in a pleasant outfit. I accept.
Unfortunately, our other appetizer was strikingly disappointing. Granted, it’s close to impossible to make tasty falafel without frying it, or using oil for that matter. This version—small bites that fell apart like sandy discs on the tongue—seemed to dispense with any lubricant whatsoever. We piled on the accompanying tzatziki to see if adding moisture would grease the wheels. It did, slightly. But as my officemate pointed out to me this morning, it is possible to create a tasty baked falafel that doesn’t fill you with ennui. This one, however, gets a thumbs-down. Note: Our waitress seemed truly surprised that we didn’t like them, which leads me to think either we got a bum batch or she’s never tried them herself.
By the time we got to the turkey meatloaf muffins (of which there was only one, not plural as the menu implied) and seared tuna over soba noodles, we were straddling a precarious split with one okay item and one disappointing one under our belts. Unfortunately, the entrees’ arrival tipped the scales in the wrong direction. In my family, we are big fans of turkey meatloaf. In fact, turkey is the only meat I’ve used to make my loaves for nearly a decade. But this turkey meatloaf, which we ordered on our server’s recommendation, tasted more like bread or filler than turkey. A similar healthiness quotient could have been reached by loading the mixture up with chopped carrots, onions, or mushrooms or topping it with a chunky, flavorful salsa instead of a thin tomato broth. Survey says: fail.
In the seared tuna over soba noodles, the cooking of the tuna was uneven, with some slices perfectly seared while others were overdone. I found the spice rub overly salty, but all in all the dish was palatable and appropriately healthy.
So, what does it all mean? Vitality House has yet to live up to its potential, or its promise of super-tasty health food. But don’t write them off yet. I believe in their principles, if not their execution. It’s clear that the ownership/chef couple Sandy and Chris Smith have the professional training and experience to work out a menu with a little more appeal. Let’s revisit in another month and see what’s changed.