Monday, July 24, 2006

Taste test: Tender are my Greens

ahi nicoise salad
Tender Greens
in Culver City is hopping on a warm Friday night. The line snakes out the door as potential diners walk up and exclaim "Who knew!" or "Let's just go to Honey's Fried Chicken, instead." There's babies and strollers a-plenty, young couples and a remarkable amount of golden-aged gents in Hawaiian shirts and shorts. In short, most of the Westside has decided that this is the perfect night to grab a salad at Tender Greens on newly-bustling Culver Blvd. By about 8:30, I'm starting to get faint when it's finally my turn to order an ahi tuna nicoise salad. Now, don't even get me started about how no self-respecting French chef would put seared raw ahi on a nicoise. But no matter, I'm pretty forgiving about my tuna.
The Tender Greens concept is quite streamlined -- you look at a board at the front of the line and order either a large salad, or some chicken/steak/ahi either in a sandwich or as a hot plate. There's also good soft drinks and beer and wine, and some cupcakes and other baked goods. A row of assemblers stands ready to throw the ingredients of your salad in a bowl and toss them with dressing, then deliver them to the cash register where you pick them up and find a table.
The room is clean and modern, the patio is pleasant, the beer selection is decent -- unfortunately I can't say the same about the salad, which should theoretically be the main attraction. Since they're pretty pungent little buggers, I'm not sure how you leach all the flavor out of a Nicoise olive, but somehow they did it. The ahi is equally tasteless -- I could swear the Ralph's sushi bar manages to infuse their fish with more flavor. The hard-boiled quail egg is a darling touch, but for $9 and self-service, just give me a friggin' normal-sized egg in my salad. The uncut salad greens are unwieldy to eat. Like the olives, the string beans also seem to have been resting in a flavor-sapping potion all day long. They're as limp and tired as I was before being fortified with protein. There is some dressing, I guess, but its taste is also undistinguishable.
Verdict: I know some people have liked their food here -- maybe they ordered different dishes. Although it's a good concept, I think it's just tough for food put together in an assembly-line fashion to really have distinctive flavors. If Tender Greens was close to my office, I would be happy to try a few other things on the menu, but chances are the next time I find myself in Culver City, I'll try Honey's Kettle instead.
Tender Greens
9523 Culver Blvd.
Culver City
(310) 842-8300


triplecreme said...

May I suggest the next time you are in Culver City to avoid Honey's greasy Kettle Chicken and try Wilson instead.

sns7000 said...

Having eaten at Tendergreens a few times I would say that there are a couple of kinks to be worked out but the food is not one of them in my book. I have eaten their Cobb Salad, The Ahi Tuna Salad and the Hanger Steak Sandwich. All Have been excellent.
The forementioned kinks relate to the way that diners orders are taken and prepared, Tendedrgreens concept is not clear to many patrons causing some confusion and therefore slowing the process down. It doesn't seem to be keeping the crowds away though.
I expect that in a very short time all will be working smoothly.
Regarding the tastelessness of your salad, I find that many of the items that you mentioned are nearly always tastless to me, that seems to be the purpose of the dressing. The olives I don't understand, my impression is that Tendergreeens uses higher quality ingredients than most places that I'm aware of so the olives should be tasty....
I also have enjoyed the chicken and catfish at Honey's. They too have a few kinks in their process.
I wish they offered combos with their other side dishes. Fried chicken and french fries are one too many fried things, I'd rather have the chicken and cole slaw or something else. If Honey's is busy it will take about a half hour to get your meal after waiting in line for 10 minutes to place your order.
They do very good fried chicken in my opinion.