portobello vegan trattoria- a review

12 Mar

Yes, I know, Italian. Not low carb. But actually not too high carb. And besides, you have to let yourself indulge a little or else you go crazy being too strict.

Portobello officially opened in Portland a couple of months ago and for a multitude of reasons Jim and I had not yet made it there, so we set a date with a friend to tantalize our taste buds last Saturday night. I knew that the chef, Aaron Adams, is amazing so I went with an empty stomach to fill. A few years ago Junior’s Diner was doing the vegan dinner club nights that Aaron cooked for, so if you attended any of those, that should give you an idea of what is in store at Portobello.

Portland has been in desperate need of a nice-but-not-too-nice restaurant, one where you could go on a real date, but not feel under dressed in your best jeans. Portobello definitely offers that with nice ambiance, excellent music (two songs by my favorite musician who nobody knows rotated through, which earned extra points for coolness) and of course the quality of the food was out of this world.

Portobello is served with family-style eating in mind, but not crazy Buca de Beppo family style, more realistic family style. We’re talking real Italian food, not just a bunch of variations on carbs with pasty tomato sauce slapped on top like most Americanized Italian food, real artful cuisine to savor. There are appetizers, veggie side dishes and main courses. There were three of us, so we opted to get a bunch of small main dishes and a side of garlicky broccolini.

Garlicky Broccolini

Garlicky Broccolini

The broccolini was good, crisp and garlicky. I am a broccolini fiend, if I could afford to eat it daily, I would be the broccolini equivalent of Diann.

My first pick was the Truffled Portobello Cannelloni.

Truffled Portobello Cannelloni

Truffled Portobello Cannelloni

OMG. Two herbed crepes stuffed with roasted portobello and shallots with truffle essence. Each bite was un petit mort of the mouth (yes, I know that’s French). The crepe was so delicious on its own that I could have eaten a plate of those, but paired with the fragrant, portobello filling, it was absolute heaven.


This is the “Spaghetti and Meatball”, in quotes because by traditional standards, it is neither. The noodles are zucchini in a tomato-basil sauce with a giant faux-meatball on top. I seem to have hit-or-miss luck with places and their veggie noodles, but this was an absolute hit and I have no idea what was in that meatball, but it was amazing!

Herbed Potato Gnocchi with Pesto

Herbed Potato Gnocchi with Pesto

These herbed gnocchi took the meal over-the-top. Served with caramelized fennel, broccolini, tomatoes and basil-hazelnut pesto, they were the most tender, herbed little bites of perfection I have ever tasted. I have a soft spot for gnocchi, I’m not going to lie, but these were really phenomenal.

Roast Pumpkin Cappellacci

Roast Pumpkin Cappellacci

While my heart struggled back and forth between the Portobello Cannelloni and the Herbed Gnocchi, the silent star in it’s own right was the simple looking Roast Pumpkin Cappellacci. The pregnantly stuffed pasta was topped with an incredible cashew cream sauce, fresh sage and hazelnuts and left us all battling over the last piece. It had such complex flavors and tasted like a high class comfort food.

Of course, there is dessert.

Apple Tart

Apple Tart

Apple Tart. Delicious, the crust was perfect and the apples had just the right texture. No complaints whatsoever, but it was a little overshadowed by it’s counterparts.

Chocolate Tart

Chocolate Tart

This little guy had my friend and I nearly sword fighting with our forks. The most flaky and buttery crust I have ever tasted in my life, filled with a rich chocolate, mixed with nuts, and topped with a sprinkling of coarse salt and a hint of freshly chopped rosemary. Unbelievably good, and I am one who is leery of herbs in sweets, but whoa.



The winner of the night, though, was the tiramisu! Vegan freaking tiramisu! I have had vegan tiramisu in the past and it’s been okay, but this was sublime. The marscapone cream was better than any marscapone I can ever remember tasting. I sat there trying to analyze it with my expert palette and it had me stumped. It was amazing. The texture, the flavor, all three of us where ooing and ahing while we devoured it.

The other great thing about Portobello- the price. It’s super reasonable (we ate all of that food, which had 3 people with good appetites stuffed to the gills for less than $41!), you are supporting an awesome chef and it’s vegan Italian! What are you waiting for? I’m so excited that there are options on the menu so that Jim and I can go and eat an amazing meal that is fairly low carb and not completely break our diet… at least not until dessert. 🙂

They share space with Cellar Door Coffee Roasters in SE. Portobello- 2001 SE 11th Ave, at 11th and Harrison, open Wednesday through Saturday, 5:30 to 10:30.


7 Responses to “portobello vegan trattoria- a review”

  1. Sandy March 12, 2009 at 8:28 pm #

    I had such a lovely night with the both of you! I agree with your blog–just a wonderful, superb, tastalicious restaurant! Yeah for vegan pasta dishes and tiramasu!

  2. Vegetation March 12, 2009 at 9:25 pm #

    Oh that all looks sensational! I am so terribly jealous of such deliciousness! And I too am a broccolini fiend. I’m embarrassed to say that despite watching our pennies, it’s the one vegetable that we do eat almost every day….mmmmm.

    • krispycheks March 15, 2009 at 8:24 am #

      Oh, I just love it, too. I think it completely kicks regular broccoli’s butt. I didn’t even know if existed until about a year ago and now they sell it everywhere in the States.

  3. DJ Karma March 12, 2009 at 10:05 pm #

    Tell them to PLEASE open one of those in Davis, CA!! My eyes are bugging out – wish I had the recipes to all of that!

  4. jumbleberryjam March 13, 2009 at 5:22 am #

    OMG! That is SO at the top of my list when we get home. In fact, we may just have to drive through just so we can go (hmm…what to do with the kidlet? oh, well. we’ll figure it out). Thanks for a amazing review (and that chocolate tart is MINE)

  5. Bethany April 19, 2009 at 12:22 pm #

    I’m having Portland envy. must get in car and drive…


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