Monday, January 9, 2012

Blossoming Lotus: Restaurant Review

In 2002, the Blossoming Lotus opened in the Portland Pearl District and became a bustling vegan restaurant inside of Yoga in the Pearl.  They were my healthy food alternative to the meat-heavy, rich dishes that often passed my lips, thanks to my connection to talented chefs throughout the city. But even though I ate there often, I became habitual about ordering certain dishes. For a long time, I thought about reviewing the restaurant for Eating Friendly, but I felt that my limited knowledge of its menu was unworthy of an article.

Since then, I have tried a number of tasty dishes at the Blossoming Lotus, which is now located on NW 15th Avenue, just north of Broadway Blvd and right behind Pete’s Coffee. The dishes at a recent lunch date are the subject of this article. (I finally remembered to bring my camera and take notes.)  I hope you enjoy looking at the pictures as much as I enjoyed eating the food.

Live Nachos
For our appetizer, we ordered the Live Nachos, which are described on the menu as "spiced tomato & walnut chips, zucchini tahini nacho cheese and ground pecan chorizo topped with onion, tomato, cilantro, scallion, cashew sour cream and avocado ranch served with a lime wedge." 

The "chips" were crispy and light with a hint of chili spice. They had an interesting texture that was fun to crunch. The toppings were a combination of tangy, creamy, nutty, sweet, and spicy (but not too spicy for sensitive types), making for a richness that was satisfying yet light. While they were similar to nachos in some way, they were also unique. This is a gluten-free, soy-free, live/raw appetizer that is absolutely delicious and interesting in flavor and in texture. I can see this working as easily in summer as it does in winter, because its components are light and refreshing, but also hearty and rich.

Live Falafel Wrap
For lunch, I ordered the Live Falafel Wrap, a gluten-free, soy-free, live/raw dish that is described on the menu as "walnut & brazil nut falafel, tahini-cilantro pate, cucumber, onion and fresh tomato, wrapped in a leafy green, served with cashew sour cream."

I expected the leafy greens (which looked like raw chard) to be bitter and stringy, but to my surprise, they were tender and not bitter at all. In fact, the main sensation was a refreshing crunch; the leafy greens, the cucumbers, and the walnut and brazil nut falafel were crunchy and light. The tahini-cilantro pate was a nice accompaniment similar to hummus, but also unique in that it was more dense, making it easier to hold the wrap together. This dish is very refreshing and delicious, with nutty, herbal, vegetal flavors and a hint of cumin and other Mediterranean spices. I would have liked the walnut and brazil nut falafel to have more cumin and other flavors that make it more like original falafel, but still, this was a very delicious meal. 

Remember to order extra napkins with this dish. It tends to fall apart while you eat it.

Southwest Bowl
The Southwest Bowl is one of my favorites. I couldn't leave the restaurant without sharing it with my date. It is a gluten and soy-free dish with "brown rice, spicy butternut & black bean chili and steamed greens topped with avocado ranch, roasted red pepper sour cream, scallions, and cilantro." This hearty meal offers the best of all possibilities: greens, legumes, grains, and exciting accompaniments. The kale is steamed until tender and served over the chili, which is spicy/sweet. Everything is served separately but together, stacked if you will, into the bowl, so that you can mix and match your combinations. This is definitely a wintery dish, but I've eaten it in warmer months with satisfaction. While I love the large portion of kale, I wish they would chop it up a little more so that it is easier to mix with the other ingredients. I recommend ordering avocado slices to go on top. If you are a light eater, like myself, you can get at least two meals out of the Southwest Bowl. 

Live Fudge
I'm not sure what ingredients go into the live fudge, but it is like a large chocolate truffle with flavors of coconut, cinnamon, and salt. It's served cold, but it melts into a creamy confection while inside the mouth.  They are usually encrusted with walnuts. I can't stop myself from eating one whenever I go into the restaurant, even if I order food to go.

I don't believe that the Blossoming Lotus is a dedicated gluten-free facility. They are vegan, however, so no animal products here. That doesn't keep the chef, Wes Hannah, recently voted sexiest chef in Portland, from creating fabulous, healthy cuisine that satisfies all kinds of diets, especially for those of us with sensitive digestive systems. 

Blossoming Lotus is a busy restaurant, so expect a bit of a wait. And don't be surprised if the service is a little slow. If no one greets you at the door, write your name on the waiting list, so that you get a table before the people who come in after you. If they know about the waiting list, they will write their name before yours, sometimes knowing full-well that you haven't written your name down. If you order something from the bar (fresh juice, cocktail, wine, beer) remember to check on the order if it takes very long. The bar is sometimes ignored by the busy staff. The more complicated the drink, the longer it will likely take.

Take care, my friends, and enjoy Eating Friendly.