UPDATE : 11/17/2008: Nutshell has closed.
UPDATE: As of early September 2008, Nutshell has gone from an all vegan menu to a vegetarian tapas restaurant. Please see their new menu online, here. The Stumptown Vegans have yet to visit.
Date: August 12, 2007
Times Visited: 2
Plate-licking-good is how I would describe Nutshell. Or maybe it’s, can’t-get-it-out-of-my-mind. This new vegan restaurant (minus the wines) is what Portland needed in it’s collection of vegan restaurant – gourmet vegan food.
You start with your choice of breads for $2, choice of olive oils and salts. Yes, there were “s”s on the end of those words. You know you’re dealing with foodies when they go beyond salt tasting salty, to salt sometimes tasting salty with a bit of smokiness or salty and earthy. If you’ve ever been curious about different oils and salts, this is the place to try them for about 50 cents each. Or you can try their 20 year old vinegar.
Many soups and salads are offered as starters. Some catering to the raw foodists like the pureed salad shot for $1. Lettuce, lemon, onion and lots of flavor blended until smooth and served in a shot glass. It’s not a soup for everyone, but definitely keeps your attention.
The unique entrees are reasonably priced at $11, 9 and 8 dollars. Choose from: Jamaican BBQ Orange Saffron Glazed Burdock, Raw Lasagna, Warm Yukon Gold Potato Pancakes, Nigerian Akars, red wine risotto, Israeli Couscous, Spaghetti with Truffles. They also serve sandwiches, and smaller meals like beans and rice and corn fritters.
Every time I would look at the menu it seemed a new item appeared- so much to choose from. My top picks would be are the Israeli Couscous with black cardamom, mint, parsley and a daily vegetable, or the Raw Lasagna with pine nut ricotta, pistachio pesto, sun dried tomato sauce and many marinated vegetables with beautiful heirloom tomatoes. But I hate to ignore the cassoulet and pasta! It’s hard to play favorites with Nutshell food.
The Raw Lasagna is stacked tall and flavorful, beyond the sauces, with the mushrooms, summer squash, tomatoes and eggplant. The couscous is creamy and smooth with a perfect amount of mint to bring out the other flavors of the dish but not steal the show.
You won’t find tofu, tempeh or fake meats and cheeses around Nutshell. This place is vegan with whole grains and vegetables – like the old days, or so our grandparents would say if they were vegan.
The most unflattering vegan item on the menu is the burdock root because it is served in one piece. It’s the only thing that makes it look like vegans eat sticks and leaves.
The dessert menu will leave your omni friends with the truth about how much better vegan baked goods are from non-vegan. Blackberry cobbler, Jamaican pudding, empanada, chocolate porter cake and maple chocolate tart. The slice of the tart may seem small but one bite and you’ll have wondered if you put an entire chocolate bar in your mouth. The chocolate cake is so moist, rich and thick you’ll be asking to marry the baker.
Vegan food from all around the world is enough to make anyone happy. The only thing that might be a shocker is the price. It’s easy for a single person to dish out $30 with a drink, salad, entree and dessert. Be sure to bring cash to avoid the on-site ATM fee. Visit Nutshell, hang out in their cool, lofty space, peer at the chefs while they prepare you the most gourmet vegan food you’ve ever had in Portland and dream of never leaving. Large groups beware, though they have a waiting list, they do not formally accept reservations. Your group of 10+ may have to wait over an hour, eyeing the empty back of the restaurant, wishing it was filled with a few more tables.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Address: 3808 N Williams Ave (503) 292-2627
Hours:Open daily at 5pm.