On our first night in Portland we met two vegan girls at Potato Champion who, as natives, kindly discussed our planned vegan itinerary with us. It turned out that one of the girls, Jen (I believe), was a waitress at the new Blossoming Lotus restaurant in Irvington and she implored us to make it a point to visit. We promised to try.
Fast forward to our last evening in Portland. We had been pleasantly surprised by many restaurants that hadn't been recommended by anyone at all (some even discouraged), and grossly disappointed in quite a few that had been recommended highly and often. We had been too full for even a snack when we ducked into the Blossoming Lotus cafe in the Pearl, but on this evening we decided to go big or go home: heading to Blossoming Lotus Irvington for what we hoped would be a nice and enjoyable, no-nonsense dinner to cap off our trip.
For starters, the space was beautiful. Nothing too over the top: every touch from the color palate to the light fixtures was purposeful, delicate, and refined. The atmosphere immediately lent itself to a calming, relaxing, dinner environment.
We hadn't realize beforehand that they didn't have a liquor license yet (I believe they do serve beer and perhaps wine now), so we decided to try the non-alcoholic, basil mojito; it was unusual and fantastic.
Onto the meal. For starters, unlike other purported "fine" establishments in Portland, Blossoming Lotus actually served complimentary bread, olive oil & balsamic at the start! We already felt way ahead of the game and were confident that we were embarking upon a wonderful experience.
For appetizers we chose: The warm pesto and white bean dip: served with blue corn chips, this was a generous portion of a delicious spread that you'd never assume was vegan. Also, the roasted beet and curried cashew salad: a fresh and crunchy salad of greens, veggies, seeds, yummy cashews, and delicious spiralized beets. I rarely if ever order a salad out, but this one made it worth my while to have agreed to forfeit choosing another appetizer to share.
Every meal that was served to the surrounding tables looked incredible and we were anxious for our own meals to arrive so that we could see how they stacked up against what we had already seen. We were not disappointed. My BBQ Tempeh Platter was delicious: tender tempeh and sauteed onions smothered in a delicious barbecue sauce and served with a bowl of hearty bean chili and two giant pieces of corn bread. My companion ordered the Black Bean Quesadilla, a huge, hearty, and super packed 'dilla served with chips. We couldn't pick a favorite of the two, but we did agree that the steaming, multi-optioned stir-fry would have been each of our next choice if we had another evening to visit.
Dessert: When we arrived, the mini chalkboard listing the desserts of the day boasted creamsicle soft serve. My companion was thrilled, but since I abhor fruity desserts I was bummed. By the end of the meal, however, we were both too stuffed to even consider dessert (therein lies the problem of dining out away from home- no opportunity for leftovers). Happily, the atmosphere in the restaurant was so serene that the waitress welcomed us to stay as long as we wanted. Luckily, we stayed chatting long enough that I was able to make some room in my tummy for one of the delicious chais I'd seen ordered in multiples by every table. I was just about to place my order when something drew my attention to the chalkboard again, and it was now boasting chocolate hazelnut soft-serve! I asked the waitress to confirm that it wasn't a mirage, and she explained that the flavor had, in fact, changed during dinner. So, I did what any self-respecting vegan would do: I ordered both the chai and the ice cream. The soft-serve was creamy and dense; I definitely didn't need it after such a fulfilling and satisfying meal, but I was thrilled to have the opportunity to be enjoying the infamous Blossoming Lotus soft-serve in a respectable flavor offering.
Now for the chai. I don't know how best to approach this, so I'll just come right out and say it. BEST. CHAI. EVER. Hands down. I literally cannot order a chai ever again from anywhere else; it was that good. I ordered it hot because it was chilly on the evening I indulged, but I imagine that the iced version is just as delicious in warmer weather. The waitress told me that the recipe originated in their Kauai, Hawaii location, and would only divulge that coconut milk was involved (she may have even winked). BLPDX, I want you to know that such limited information is worthless to me; I am not that crafty! Please share the actual recipe with me and I promise to use it only for purposes of chai-ing myself into chai oblivion here on the east coast!
This meal was incredible from beginning to end: beautiful space, relaxed atmosphere, friendly & pleasant waitstaff, and a wide variety of quality, scrumptious food and drink options at very reasonable prices. They were very new when we visited, but that didn't prevent the entire staff from being 100% welcoming and accommodating. Oddly, however, not one vegan we met during our trip (besides Jen) recommended BL: more evidence of the Portland clique-ishness we had trouble deciphering. So, as an outsider to this puzzle I will simply recommend- adamantly- that if you are travelling to Portland I urge you not to miss a visit to Blossoming Lotus Irvington; totally terrific.
And Jen, we owe you a huge debt of gratitude; our experience (and meal!) was our favorite dinner of the trip and one of the few places we visited that prompted us to say, "There is nothing of this niche in New York and there should be!" Thank you again for the suggestion and sorry to have missed you, as you weren't in on the night we visited. We hope to return and see you then.