Catherine An (right) of the Tiato Market Garden Cafe. (Merv Hecht editor@smdp.com)

Catherine An (right) of the Tiato Market Garden Cafe. (Merv Hecht editor@smdp.com)

Tiato, pronounced tea-ah-tow, owned and operated by Catherine An, is a restaurant-bar garden and venue space. Many of Tiato’s menu items have been chosen to honor her mother’s philosophy that “one should eat what tastes good and healthy,” while equally honoring her philosophy that sometimes it’s OK to indulge yourself, too.

Tiato’s owner is one of three daughters of chef Helene An, named “The Mother of Fusion” by San Jose Mercury News. Helene An is best known for her work at the Crustacean restaurants in San Francisco and Beverly Hills.

Together, Catherine and her mother have developed a simple menu with the idea that great tasting food should be equally combined with health benefits that offer variety, quality and balance, the same philosophy that I hold.

Located on the ground floor of the MTV/Lionsgate building at 2700 Colorado Ave., the retail market and grab-‘n-go coffee and juice bar leads into an open dining area, further spilling out onto one of the largest outdoor dining spaces in Santa Monica. The entire space was designed by Catherine, mirroring the menu and restaurant’s philosophy of raw, natural products. The patio area, bursting with fresh herbs and citrus, is only one of three beautiful venue spaces offered by the restaurant.

I visited Tiato on a rare rainy day in Santa Monica, but sat by the large picture windows, enjoying the vibrant colors from the outdoor garden. As I do at all new restaurants that I try, I asked the waiter for his menu recommendations and the restaurant’s signature dishes. With passionate and detailed descriptions, I was convinced the only option for me on this day was the pho. Described on the menu as chicken or beef, rice noodles, herbs, and homemade chicken broth, it sounded like a perfect rainy-day lunch meal and a possible new gluten-free option for my patients with celiac disease.  Since I’m always looking for ways to add vegetables with my meals, I chose the herbs and bean sprouts option.

With the culinary pedigree of the owners and the beautiful décor, I sat back ready to enjoy a lovely lunch. The service was quick and friendly.  I was presented with two plates and one bowl. One plate contained a small dish of a brown sauce, sliced jalapeno peppers, and a lime wedge. The second plate flowed over with a generous amount of bean sprouts and what looked like the top of a basil plant — stem and all. The almost translucent rice noodles were punctuated with about half a dozen slices of lean beef in a clear chicken stock.

I was instructed to add the sauce and ingredients to create my own taste.  Not knowing how the dish should taste or what amounts to use, I carefully tore up the basil leaves and slowly added the sauces and sprouts to the bowl. I was disappointed. The broth was bland, the meat tasteless, and the texture and color of the sprouts overpowered the delicate rice noodles.

I would not recommend this dish, even to my gluten-free patients. I left feeling dissatisfied. The better option was the chicken salad ordered by my lunch companion. It was fresh, colorful, and much more flavorful. I’m not giving up on Tiato, yet. I’ll try them again, maybe for the seasonal Sunday brunch. The atmosphere is refreshing, the prices are reasonable, and the potential is there.

 

 

If you go

Tiato Kitchen Bar + Venue:

2700 Colorado Ave. #190

Santa Monica, Calif.

90404

(310) 866-5228

www.tiato.com

 

 

Lori Salerno, M.S., R.D.N, C.P.T. is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified personal trainer who provides medical nutrition therapy to groups and individuals in Santa Monica and recipe and menu analysis for restaurants nationwide. To learn more visit www.eatwelldailynutrition.com.