Kale & Clover in Scottsdale Does Health Food Right

When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).

Restaurant: Kale & Clover Location: 20511 N. Hayden Road Open: About three weeks Eats: Health food Price: $15-$20/person

Sitting on the patio at Kale & Clover in Scottsdale with a plastic glass full of Arizona-made wine can feel almost as comfortable as sitting at home. With strings of lights floating overhead and plush outdoor furniture to sink into, this latest spot from local restaurateur German Osio (Local Bistro, Central Bistro, SumoMaya) is both a stylish dining destination and an unpretentious place to enjoy a leisurely meal.

The food here, according to the restaurant's tagline, is "mindful." But the word doesn't just refer to the fact that the menu focuses on healthy, mostly vegetarian eats. We were happy to find that each of the dishes we tried on our visit were also carefully prepared and most important, easy to enjoy.

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Thanks to a selection of pressed juices, salads, and healthy takes on Asian dishes, Kale & Clover fits in perfectly with the growing number of healthy-food type restaurants that have cropped up around town. Diners can just as easily enjoy their food to go, as they can in the dining room, which is decorated in bright white and accented with "natural" touches -- think, faux grass and mini potted succulents.

Service is eager, maybe even overly so, but the staff may settle as time goes on.

There are health food classics such as hummus and raw veggies with dip; the former, dubbed "Super Seed Hummus," comes crowned with chia and sunflower seeds, as well as a drizzle of olive oil. The toppings add a nice texture and richness to otherwise standard issue hummus, but the rainbow of raw vegetables you get for dipping turn this into a surprisingly substantial starter.

Salads appeal to current dining trends, with two of six including kale and one taking Asian inspiration. And at $10 each they're not a bad buy, though the addition of protein (none come with any included) will cost you at least $5 more.

The namesake Kale & Kale blends kale, of course, with apples, celery, almonds, golden raisins, and clover sprouts. Though the sherry-agave vinaigrette was quite nice, too-thick pieces of celery tended to over power the other flavors when you stumbled upon one in a bite.

For vegetarians and omnivores alike, the zucchini panini is sure to be a hit. Tender marinated red peppers layered with zucchini, tomato, basil, garlic, cheese, and pesto create a medley that tastes garden-fresh. Crunchy ciabatta bread a nice contrast of textures.

But the surprise hit on the menu might be the Faux Pho. Considering how bastardized Asian noodle soups have been lately, we were glad to find this bowl takes creative liberty without going too far.

There's not much of the rich, slightly spicy broth to be had, but what there is you'll want to eat. And the bowl is loaded with a flavorful abundance of noodles, basil, jalapeños, mushrooms, bean sprouts, and more. As you sip your way through the dish, you'll find the broth gets hotter and hotter as the jalapenos concentrate their flavor in less and less liquid. It's nice, provided to you don't mind the heat.

In a north Scottsdale shopping complex filled with blow dry bars and upscale boutiques, Kale & Clover blends in perfectly. Both the food and space are meant to make you feel good. They succeed.

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