Green Elephant – For when you’re already feeling just a little too meaty

Who would have ever thought that I’d go to a vegetarian restaurant? I mean, I’ve eaten vegetarian foods before, like rice, and peas, and…grass. But usually that’s not my entire meal. I always throw some chicken or fish in there and make a meaty concoction. Occasionally, I make myself a hamburger or have some pork fried rice from a restaurant of some sort. This night was different though.

After lots of suggestions over the years that there was a great restaurant in Portland that I was missing out on that just happened to not serve any meat, I had to try Green Elephant Vegetarian Bistro. I found some friends that said they loved it and would be happy to go with us, so I knew the time was right to try a new place.

When we arrived, there was about a 20 minute wait for a table. They don’t take reservations, but they do give you a buzzer that alerts you when your table is ready. It works at many of the other businesses that are nearby so you can step out for a little while if you so choose. We got there first and were waiting for our friends, but once they showed up, we didn’t have to wait much longer before we were seated.

The restaurant was very nice inside, being somewhat plain, but with an earthy feel to it. It was definitely what you might expect from a vegetarian joint – no frills, calm, inviting. The waitress made sure that we were watered and gave us a couple minutes before coming back for our drink orders. I ordered a Thai beer since the cuisine is “Asian-influenced” and I wanted to keep the theme for the evening.

We were informed of the specials that night when we received our drinks. I couldn’t believe how quickly the waitress rattled off the list of vegetables in them. When I asked her if she had memorized those all that night, she informed me that they were “cold-weather” specials and it’s been cold since November, so she’s been telling everyone about them since then.

Soon, we placed our appetizer orders for the table which included vegetable dumplings, edamame, and green leaves wrap with mango and herbs. The appetizers were all very well done. In my opinion – which is what you get here on my blog – the dumplings tasted like they had pork in them. They were great even though the “meat” was vegetarian soy. The edamame was as you’d expect and very good. The leaf wraps were delicious, and while they were more of a summertime food to me, they tasted fresh and had just the right amount of sweet and herbal flavors which combined to really make them stand out from something a bit more basic.

Entrees came, like everything else, in a timely manner. Everyone at the table ordered different items. I had the steamed assorted vegetables with peanut sauce. My wife had one of the curry dishes. Everyone loved their food. My vegetables tasted very fresh and the peanut sauce was the best I’ve ever had. The problem with some peanut sauces is that they are just too weak and taste somewhat watery- not at the Green Elephant. And what was extra great, as the waitress pointed out, was that they were a little too generous with it. I got plenty of peanut sauce and I liked it. It also went perfectly with the jasmine brown rice that comes with the meal.

While the entrees were relatively filling considering that they have no meat, we did get desserts. A cookie sundae with chai sorbet and a plate of coconut sorbet with fried banana balls (my name for them, not theirs) graced the table. I didn’t eat the sundae, but the coconut sorbet and banana plate was delicious and, like all the food we had, combined flavors that went together very well.

The meal was at least as good as I expected and probably better. The service was outstanding, and the beer and wine selection was solid. We all left happy and full. My first vegetarian restaurant experience was a resounding success. By the time all was said and done, we spent just over $30 per person, but that included drink, appetizers, entrée, and dessert. I can’t say I had anything there I didn’t like, and I would be happy to try even more of their food in the future.

I would give this meal two green thumbs up. If you’re in the mood for something different and usually a meat eater, venture out and try a meal without meat. It doesn’t preclude you from having a steak in the future.

Stay hungry.

Feel free to email me at peterpeterportlandeater@yahoo.com with any thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, or otherwise helpful info or feel free to post your thoughts below.

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