“I was at Fashion Island yesterday, and walked past R+D Kitchen. Have you dined there yet?” I asked Stasha
“R+D Kitchen? No. What’s R+D?”
“Ridiculous Desserts,” I said with a straight face.
Stasha stared at me until I broke down and laughed.
“Ok, it stands for Research and Development. That’s what they do. They develop new recipes—“
“Like a test kitchen?” She interjected.
“Exactly. Although, having dined there several times, I do know they have a few favorites that are always on the menu.”
“They’re open for lunch, and they have a patio,” I said, continuing to list R+D’s attributes. “And…they just added kale to their signature chicken and spinach salad.”
“Now you’re talking my language,” said Stasha. “Let’s go.”
We met up with R+D manager Anne-Marie Barr just before lunchtime so we could learn more about R+D’s background and philosophy while we sampled some menu items. Here are some highlights of the conversation.
Us: Tell us a little about R&D Kitchen’s menu.
Barr: It’s classic American cuisine but we put our own spin on it. We’ve taken some classic American dishes and made them a little more exciting by doing something different to them. We’ve been here for nearly eight years and have really become a popular restaurant in the community. We have a strong following that come here three to five times a week and enjoy dining here for lunch and dinner.
Is this the only R+D location?
We’re part of the Hillstone Restaurant Group, a privately owned company that has different concepts throughout the country. Some of our other OC restaurants are Bandera in Corona del Mar, Gulf Stream in Newport Beach, and Houston’s in Irvine.
R+D stands for Research and Development. Tell us about that concept.
When we opened this restaurant our name was Café R&D and they changed the name two years ago to R+D Kitchen, which does stand for research and development. It was the first of this type of concept for the restaurant group. Many of the items on our menu are not on any other menu in our restaurants. We are constantly evolving and ever-changing. We do keep a lot of the items on the menu, but we are constantly testing the recipes and changing with the times and season. We’ll take things away, revamp them, and bring them back. We are focused on providing great food, great service, and a great atmosphere. Those are the key things that we strive to keep at a very high standard on a daily basis.
Do you source your food locally?
We actually order everything fresh every single day because we make everything fresh every single day. We don’t have a freezer, so we can’t freeze anything. Every day we have food deliveries coming into this building—from the amazing produce we source from local farms all over southern California, to exotic fish from all over the world. We stand by the quality of our product. That’s really the foundation of what we’re doing in the kitchen in terms of making food.
Tell us a little bit about your menu, and why these particular recipes?
This particular restaurant is meant to be a little more casual or café style. A lot of the items are sophisticated yet have a certain amount of American flair. Some of our more popular items are definitely the French dip sandwich, and the Reuben sandwich is fantastic. Our cheeseburger is also very popular. The R+D Chicken and Spinach salad has quite a following.
You’ve added kale to that salad?
That’s correct. Traditionally, its been spinach and mixed greens, but kale is now in season. The addition of our “West of Paris” roasted chicken makes it one of our most popular items.
What is “West of Paris” roasted chicken?
We prepare all of our chicken in-house on the rotisserie every day, including the chicken breast that goes into the salads. Our kitchen is a very open environment—you can see everything that’s going on. We’re very proud of our kitchen. We have very high standards. It’s very clean and we love to display that.
Tell us about the interior, the décor.
It’s meant to be an inviting and warm space. We put a lot of time and effort into selecting the artwork. We like to promote and display lesser-known artists as well as familiar name artists. All of the wood that’s used throughout the restaurant is very beautiful and brings warmth to the space. We care a lot about the lighting and the sound in here—the music is tested, too. We put a lot of attention on the little things. Its very important for us to provide the right ambiance for the whole experience to come together.
For more information, visit http://www.hillstone.com/#/restaurants/cafeRandD/.