Friday, February 10, 2012

Restaurant Review: Green Elephant, Portland, Maine

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Last weekend, we took a trip up to Portland, Maine, for a mini-getaway. Located about two hours north of Boston, Portland is filled with artsy shops, amazing used book stores and cozy restaurants. One of my favorite restaurants to go to is Green Elephant Bistro, which offers a menu that is exclusively vegetarian/vegan, featuring a variety of vegetables, noodles and mock meats delivered with an Asian-style look and feel. 

We visit the Green Elephant a few times a year, and it always proves to be an amazing experience each time we go. From the moment we walk through the doors, which reveal a sparse but warm decor, we've always been greeted by a friendly waiter or waitress, who has calmly guided us to one of their cozy, fresh-flower adorned tables. Polite, knowledgeable and flawless service is always accompanied by food that is either piping hot or crisp and cold—and always perfectly fresh. Here is a sampling of some of our favorite things from their lunch and dinner menus:

crispy wonton stuffed with soy cheese and spinach, served with a sweet chili sauce (vegan) $6

These wontons are served piping hot, fresh from the fryer. I love to rip them apart, exposing the steaming spinach and soy cheese center, and drenching it in the generous supply of sweet chili sauce. This sauce features a perfect balance of spicy and sweet, and is the perfect compliment to the fried wonton.

   green collard leaves wrap with mango and herbs, served with a tamarind dipping sauce (vegan) $8

The flavors in this simple raw wrap are amazing. Cooked collards are fantastic, but raw collards offer a completely new dimension in taste and texture. Inside each of the fabulously crisp collard leaves is a perfectly balanced blend of fresh mango, thinly sliced carrots, fresh mint, cilantro and red cabbage. Every flavor and component here is well-thought out, beautifully simple and presented in an artful way. Served with a simple tart tamarind sauce, this appetizer is a must-try.

king oyster mushroom tempura with scallions, salt and pepper (dinner item only, vegan) $8

All foods fried make a voice in my head go weeeeeeee!! I love this appetizer because I can tell whoever created and makes this has that same voice too. The batter on these mushrooms is perfectly seasoned and fried, and biting into them provides a perfect ratio of crunchy batter to soft and succulent king oyster mushroom pieces inside. Served with a delicate ponzu sauce, this is my favorite appetizer IN THE WHOLE WORLD.

spicy green leaves salad with spicy bean curd dressing, crispy tofu, topped with crispy rice noodles (vegan) $6

I don't want to make a very stereotypical vegan statement here, but this salad is amazing. Super-fresh and packed with tons of crisp carrots, tomatoes, tofu and noodles, it's the perfect dinner to enjoy after gorging on multiple appetizers. I love it that Green Elephant isn't stingy with any of their sauces, which allows for a liberal drenching over every inch of a dish.

chocolate-orange cheesecake (vegan) $7

  I don't remember what this dessert was called, but the taste was unforgettable. Decadent and rich chocolate is mingled here with a hint of orange zest that instantly melts in your mouth. Served with chocolate-covered fresh orange wedges on the side, this is a joyful, elegant and refreshing way to end your experience at Green Elephant. Desserts are rotated often at the restaurant, so you never exactly know what you are going to get.

fried doughnut holes with coconut ice cream (vegan) $8

Warm, fried doughnut holes. Next to slightly melty coconut ice cream. Sprinkled with nuts. I can't even compose a proper sentence in the presence of all this. Go to Green Elephant. Get this.

So there you have it. Whether or not you are vegan, Green Elephant will amaze you.
The food here reflects a unique passion for and deep understanding of vegan components, which is translated expertly into every aspect of its menu. I love seeing vegan establishments doing so well and Green Elephant is no exception—this place has always been packed with happy people every time we've stopped by. Support this great vegan establishment, get an amazing experience in return ... everybody wins!


  1. *ahem* No one came to pick me!

  2. *slaps forehead* A good reason to visit Portland again very soon! ; )


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