Reviews written by dirtandskirts
Registered on Nov 11 07
If I could recommend only one veg restaurant in Paris, this would be it. When I lived in Villennes (half hour west of Paris), I went here nearly every weekend -- for my stomach and my soul. Marie-Cécile, the incredibly warm proprietress, is the only constant person there (though there is sometimes someone else helping out in addition to or instead of her). She speaks great English, but won't force you to if you'd rather speak French (immediately wins points from me, esp. in Paris). The whole experience is rather like eating in someone's kitchen, in the best possible way.
The place is a hole in the wall, bursting with character but with very limited seating, and will often change hours depending on the season or lack of food or lack of people. ALWAYS call before going if you are intent on eating there -- it's sometimes closed when it's scheduled to be open (often closed on Mondays and Sunday night), and sometimes open when it's scheduled to be closed (the hours on the door are generally not-quite-correct). Weekend nights (and sometimes weekday nights) can get crowded, but there is a marvelous ambiance and conviviality that's often at its best at these times. Call ahead and you'll rarely have a problem.
The menu is strangely laid out; do your best and/or ask questions. There are sometimes salads (never all the ones listed), often hummus, and always a vegan plate and a vegetarian plate. (This is the extent of the non-dessert food, although sometimes there is soup or homemade seitan or some other special; they are a small place and prefer to do fewer things better.) The two plates are largely the same, with a few differences. They consist of a bunch of little piles of different things -- some raw, some cooked, maybe a vegetable tart -- and something on bread (goat cheese or vegetable pâté), though the exact composition depends on the season and whims. It is some of the most satisfying and nourishing food I've ever had (I LOVE having lots of different things, for one), and she puts some kind of magic salt on it that is stellar.
I highly recommend the apple crumble, too, especially if it's fresh or warmed up -- it is vegan, it does not taste like punishment for eating/being vegan, and it's fantastic. Other desserts make appearances, but the crumble is the most constant.
I'm still in love with the Bye & Bye, well over a year after first visiting. My experience with the food is narrowly focused (given that I don't do spicy all that well), but I adore the meatball sub, and lately I've been hooked on the grilled cheeze as well. When the brussels sprouts are done well, they are out of this world.
There's a new high roof over the patio out back (I am deeply fond of the patio, although I do miss the sky a little), and heaters have come along with it. Even in the winter, now, except on truly cold nights, it can be a wonderful place to go and have a conversation while you eat and/or drink, without getting overwhelmed by loud music and the indoor crowds.
Bartenders here are, nearly without exception, proactively awesome (if I'm being entirely frank, there is one who I rarely see, but pointedly avoid). They know their stuff, they are stars of service, and I have had several inventive (non-Floor Punch) non-alcoholic drinks that blew me away (along with all the alcohol I've consumed here). Some of the gimlets I've had here have been practically magical experiences.
Note also that their 4-7 happy hour can be a fascinating shift in demographics, along with the normal happy hour fare.
HTT has largely redone their menu as of last month (I believe) -- there is now a "classic" menu and a "vegan" one. An entire vegan menu at a non-vegetarian restaurant?! I've only seen that one other time, and was similarly chuffed.
Never had the mac n cheeze that others rave or don't rave about -- I usually stick to the scrambles (not tofu-heavy, and not steeped in turmeric -- I am generally quite suspicious of vegan scrambles, but I love theirs). When they're good, they're insanely awesome (out-of-town friends talk longingly of them), and when they're off, they're still pretty solid. A side of tots and vegan gravy is awesome snacking/sharing food, and I've had good luck with portobello sandwiches from the old-menu days. The service is reliable, knowledgeable, and generally quite friendly (or at least attentively aloof).
Plus they make their own freaking vegan corn dogs. Which are served on a bed of tater tots. Health food this is not, but delicious it is for sure.
Smoking note: if you're in the bar, you may well get steeped in it, but if you stick to the restaurant side you'll either mostly or entirely avoid it.
It's like cafeteria food, only it's organic and all-vegan, and pricy. Serious points for the organics, serious points for the vegan, but my tastebuds and my wallet, they doth protest too much. I haven't been since I was way more poor, but in this town, there is really just no reason for me to come back again. The people who work here seem to be total sweethearts, though.
They do have a great salad bar (I am, unfortunately, not really a salad girl), and I did really like the cashew-yogurt I tried from a friend's plate (and I can only imagine that their other similar products might be as successful), but I tend to lobby hard for other places when eating with friends.
Despite Portland's reputation as a vegan haven, we're in dire straits when it comes to vegan restaurants. Vegan cafés? Sure. Food carts? Yes indeed. Restaurants that have great vegan options (or nearly-vegan restaurants with That One Milky Thing)? Absolutely. But as far as somewhere you can go for an actual restaurant meal, with actual table service and everything, where you could close your eyes and point and still get something vegan, you'd be hard-pressed.
And yet here we have Portobello, sauntering onto the scene with plenty of anticipation and high hopes already in play. This is often a recipe for disappointment, but I am positively in love with this place. Could it make its mark just by being the only viable Portland vegan restaurant I can think of (okay, now there's BL's new location as well)? It sure could, but it's a sweet and cozy space, classy without being pretentious, and the food stands on its own as Good Food -- no "well, for vegan food" required. Every dish has its own individual flavor, and if ingredients could talk, every plate would be ready to have a different conversation with you. I have taken a smattering of non-vegetarians here to rave reviews. (Did I love getting to have my birthday dinner at Portobello, a place that excites and delights me and is vegan? Do you even need to ask?)
It's a treat to watch the menu change as the year goes by, even if it will inevitably take something you love away for a while. My first time here, I ate with a friend and split an appetizer (probably the best olive oil and possibly the best focaccia I've had), a side of garlicky green beans, and four little plates -- plus the pannacotta. I had my reservations about the saltimboca, but it ended up being arguably my favorite dish that we tried. The whole meal, though, was like a beautiful adventure, and quite kind on the wallet for how much we got. I am always easily persuadable to return.
Trying to eat here on a weekend without a reservation is generally the work of fools. You might get lucky, but call ahead; we've called at 5:00 for 7:00 and had no problem, but they ended up being closed to walk-ins that night.
Original review from January 18th, now updated a bit. Note they also have beer and wine as of May.
I think I could eat the Pad Kee Mao for the rest of my life. And I don't know quite how they make their peanut sauce, but it is heavenly. Plus, the place is an insane deal. I can get out of there for $6, including tip, and I have a drink (which will be refilled constantly if I stick around and want more), an amazing salad roll with aforementioned peanut sauce, and a vast mess of delicious noodles (and I usually end up with leftovers, unless I am starving and want to be so full I can't move).
They use no fish sauce, ever (hooray), and are pretty awesome about vegan stuff (tons of their stuff is vegan just by choosing tofu; a few dishes have egg). You can get the Thai iced tea with soymilk (from Ota!).
If you see yourself coming here more than once or twice, it is worth it to tip and be your sweet smiling self. They will remember you, and you will get treated extra-well (and you might end up with random gifts of food or beverage from time to time). But even if you're just stopping by, you will always get good food, and hot tea while you wait if it's cold out.
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