Respond to Review of Natural Selection
Review: Add another great food experience to Portland's growing number of top-flight vegan/vegetarian restaurants with serious chefs proving that plant-based foods can be beautiful, delicious and fully satisfying for anyone--veg or non-veg--who cares about eating well. Natural Selection, open for about six months, is a small, European-style place with an open kitchen where you can watch Chef Aaron Woo and his small team of cohorts turning out the evening's fare. The menu consists of a four-course, fixed-price meal at $35, and is limited to a choice from two offerings for each course. Each selection is labeled as to whether it's vegan, vegetarian and/or gluten-free. As the menu is short, diners do best by putting aside preconceptions of what they want to eat, and place their trust in the talents of Chef Woo. Wines and wine pairings are also available, and you can order any of the courses a la carte. After we ordered our meal, the friendly server brought us each an "amuse-gueule," French for a single hors d'oeuvre that serves to put you in the right frame of mind for dinner. This offering probably varies from day to day according to the chef's imagination and what he has on hand. Our "taste-teaser" was a single endive leaf with an English pea puree, a fava bean, red pepper curl and two tiny flower petals. I moved on to the first course, a perfectly seasoned Sweet Corn and Saffron Soup ($10 a la carte) with a crispy sweet corn timbale. Then came a generously sized Baby Beets and Cress Salad ($10 a la carte) with red, pink and yellow beets, yellow carrots, fava beans, and a variety of the fresh greens that grow abundantly in the Northwest--delicious. My main course, Artichoke and Porcini Stew ($16 a la carte) surrounded a flavorful wild rice cake dressed with almonds and carrot sauce. An unanticipated palate-cleansing grapefruit granita came next, and it was just the thing, though I had no desire to remove the flavors of what had gone before. Dessert, a Fresh Berry Crumble ($8 a la carte), showcased the Oregon harvest of raspberries, blueberries, and pear with a sublime frozen vanilla cream made with coconut milk. The presentation suggested a particularly elegant graffiti painting complete with cubed blueberry jellies as tiny pedestals for the randomly scattered berries. We figured this was the chef's way of keeping us smiling all the way to the end of our meal. If so, he succeeded.