I framed the menu. Delectable in a cute setting - vegan (and gluten free options for my wife).
I framed the menu. Delectable in a cute setting - vegan (and gluten free options for my wife).
On a weekend in Portland, I sought out the best vegan dining experience, and was hugely impressed with the whole experience of dining at Natural Selection – the flavorful regional fare, the welcoming waitstaff, and the cozy ambiance. When I travel, I try the gourmet vegan restaurants in every city I visit, surprisingly Natural Selection in Portland was by far the best meal I’ve had.
Since we were two, we opted for the “chef’s table” which you cannot book online, but can by reserve by phoning the restaurant directly. This table for two is set apart from the regular dining area, with a better view of the chef and prep cooks doing their orchestrated dance behind the counter. Walking thru the main restaurant at the end of the evening, I realized the “chef’s table” was a lot quieter and more private, and gave us more personal space than the main seating, so I was lucky we had that experience.
As one carnivore and one vegan, we opted for the fixed price 4-course meal, and were surprised to receive 7 plates and tastes during the 2 and a half hours we enjoyed there. The menu was about half vegan by default, and the waitstaff offered to put the cheese on the side of the non-vegan dishes so the vegan could taste them, and the carnivore could get the full effect of the flavors. The wine pairing was divine – a thoughtful selection to compliment the flavors of the dishes.
I’ll definitely be back! I look forward to my next trip to Portland and I’ll book the “chef’s table” again and relish trying their 4-course meal again during another season.
I’ve uploaded the menu from April and 9 photos of the courses we had, into the Photos section on HappyCow.
Whenever I travel, I seek out vegetarian restaurants, and Portland was no exception. To my surprise, Natural Selection proved to be the BEST veg restaurant I have been to in the U.S. Better than Candle 79, and better than Millenium. It is small and intimate, with an open kitchen, and an atmosphere that highlights the passion for excellent food. The food is simply outstanding. I know of no other restaurant (veg or not) that achieves such perfection in every single course in the aspects of flavor, texture, temperature, and presentation. Kudos all around. I hope to be back!
This is a low-key establishment that specializes in gourmet vegetarian fare. I was excited to try this place and well anticipated to be blown away, but ended up slightly underwhelmed. Both my partner and I had the prix-fixe four course meal because that seemed to be the way to go. Each course had two options, and we simply ordered both so we could get a taste of everything.
The food was exquisite and overall good, with individual dishes ranging from middling to excellent. The highlight of the meal was my first course—chilled almond & apricot soup with fennel, orange, coconut, and vanilla. It was packed with flavors; the texture was rich and creamy without being heavy. Absolutely divine. After starting on such a high note, I was sorely disappointed by the following mustard greens salad. It were oversalted and too wilted. The dressing was weak, and the fixings—melons, grapes, olives, and radish—didn’t really add much to the dish. Luckily, the next two courses took a turn for the better. My main—black rice & parsnip arancini with squash pasta—was actually quite delicious. My partner also enjoyed his harissa couscous; I had a spoonful of it and thought it was a bit plain and boring. For dessert, mine was cardamom roasted peach with blackberry, almonds, and apricot sorbet. The presentation was lovely; each item was meticulously arranged on the plate adorned with cute little flowers. It was the kind of dessert that screamed summer and made for a refreshing end to our meal.
I liked that everything here was made of natural, plant-based ingredients (all but two dishes were vegan), and that the food was light and fresh tasting. We left pleasantly full, although I did notice a lack of protein and wish for more beans. My main problem with this place was the cold service. Our server was very aloof throughout. She never asked if we had any questions about the menu before taking our orders. Nor did she once check on us. All she did was bring the food out, tell us what it was, then off she went. So hipster cool that she couldn’t be bothered to even fake a smile. We were dropping $50+ per head and should deserve more than that. Seriously, any busser would have more of a personality than she did.
In a city teeming with amazing vegan options, I probably wouldn’t make a point to come here. The food itself wasn’t too shabby, but I have had better and more creative. Price and portions were fair. Food alone would be a 3 to 4; the subpar service made me round it down to a 3.
I dined here with 3 omni guys, I am vegan. All of us enjoyed an amazing four course meal with yummy cocktails. Amazing inventive food, impeccable first class service, great attention to detail, beautifully presented and a fabulous atmosphere. You MUST spend an evening here. On par with Millenium in San Francisco! Fantastic place for a romantic dinner or special occasion. I cannot wait to dine here again!!!
Note: The menu is pre-fixe.
We reserved the two-seat chef’s table to celebrate our 33rd anniversary. We were welcomed by the cheerful hostess and quickly shown our table, which had a direct view into the busy kitchen. Our server soon followed to take our drink orders, which arrived quickly. A four-course fixed-price dinner is $40, or each item can be ordered a la carte. My husband I chose the vegan four-course dinner. First, we were deliciously surprised with a sample of fresh cantaloupe soup. Our first course was a summer squash & apple soup with parsnip, fennel, peppers and chive oil. A delicious crunchy “island” floated in the soup. The chef then surprised us with a special bruschetta that we had watched him make and wondered what dish it was. The crunch of the toasted bread worked wonderfully with the topping. Next came an heirloom tomato salad with cucumber, basil, citrus, watercress and melon. The flavors were distinct yet melted together. The entrée was a chickpea ratatouille with summer squash, fennel and coconut lentils (lentils soaked coconut juice). We finished with a blueberry & peach crumble that included apples, cornmeal and mint cream. It was a delectable ending to a beautiful meal. Who would have thought that watching people cook could be so interesting? But, it was. We spent nearly two hours watching the chefs chopping, blending, cooking and preparing each dish. We saw the drinks being stirred, the desserts being prepared, and the dishes being washed. In fact, we talked with all but one of the employees at some point in the evening. Everyone was happy and pleasant, and the chefs even explained a couple of the dishes to us as they presented them.
While in town for work, I visited this restaurant with a friend who is a self-described "militant omnivore". We both thoroughly enjoyed the meal. The flavors were delicious and the attention to detail in the food and presentation was delightful. The staff were friendly and answered a handful of questions we had about the ingredients and preparation. Definitely go for the fixed price menu, they also bring a few items not listed. We were seated at the small table for two facing the kitchen, which I recommend if you are curious to see what's going on behind the scenes.
Food is fresh, well prepared, service is great. I have dined at many vegan restaurants in this country, this one rates in the top 3.
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.
This is a great place for a special occasion dinner. The room is open and inviting, with an open kitchen so you can watch as they prepare the food. Knowledgeable and attentive service made for a great dining experience.
Food was very refined and elegant. There are a limited number of choices on the menu (which is not a bad thing) but just know that before you go in. They serve items a la carte or as a four course dinner, which is by far the way to go. It is the best value, and offers the best overall dining experience. We were served an amuse bouche to start and a palate cleanser after dinner as well.
This place is pricey, and the portions are modest, but that is typical of a fine dining restaurant. Go here if you want a unique, refined, and inventive meal, not if you want a heap of comfort food to stuff you to the gills.
Go here if you want 1) fabulous, personalized service, 2) all vegetarian and vegan food, 3) many gluten-free options, 4) knowledgeable staff, 5) a fantastic night out with beautifully set tables, a lovely ambiance, and delicious food.
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Last updated: 2015/04/06
Added by: Guest