Completing the Circle
By Brock Daniels, PQ Monthly
In the bustling world of instant gratification, fast food, and rapidly mutating technology, eating fulfills our primal instinct to suppress hunger, but how often are we aware of what we put in our bodies? Feeding ourselves can coincide with nourishing our souls. Mind, body, and spirit — complete well-being starts with conscious eating, and an understanding of a bigger picture.
Inspired by spiritual leader Supreme Master Ching Hai, Tran M.P. and her conscious crew at Sweet Lemon Vegan Bistro in Bethany Village understand compassionate living. Offering creative Eastern fusion dishes, Tran, a 20-year vegan, takes eating this way to another level.
“I am humbled and honored to serve my community,” Tran explains. “It is not about not eating animal products. It is completely about finding ways to serve my community to share our love.”
Every week Sweet Lemon donates time and food to organizations in need.
“It completes the circle,” Tran says. “I was looking for a restaurant that served vegan food, and when I had trouble finding one, I started my own. Portland has been good to us, so it is now our turn to return the favor.”
Nobility, compassion, honor, and love … foundations for higher living. Mix in some passion for good food, and you find Sweet Lemon Vegan Bistro.
Jumping Princess ($8) is a required dish for any foodie new to the vegan scene. Using yam flour and soy protein, Tran transforms dough into little handcrafted faux shrimp so real in texture anyone would be fooled. Baked to crispy perfection, the golden tidbits are sautéed with sweet onion and red bell peppers, and piled high on green crisp lettuce. Tomato-infused rice sprinkled with fresh ground black pepper escort the dish to completion. Sweet, fresh, and simple — the glory is in the attention to detail.
Dancing Drumsticks ($5) are the highlight of the menu, and an extraordinary replacement for a bony chicken wing. Roasted meatless drumsticks are caressed with aromatics, soy, sesame, ginger, and love. Formed around lemongrass shoots, the “meat” absorbs the fresh flavor of the lemongrass internally. Tender as you bite down, the flavors are balanced and concentrated — a true vegan miracle.
Sweet Lemon Vegan Bistro is a family affair. With a passion for baking, Tran’s sister took her hobby of baking to the next level, and shares her masterpieces with her guests. Some cooked and some raw, there are treats for any type of vegan. Tran had us try their Coconut Cake ($5), and I am completely amazed at the quality and flavor of this animal-free indulgence. Layers of chartreuse coconut cake stand proudly supported by rich, creamy, sweet, blonde filling. Soft, rich, tender, and moist, this dessert holds its place in line with some of the top desserts ever. A fantastic way to end a beautiful meal, or as I prefer, a great way to begin your feast!
Making a decision on the name of the restaurant was not an easy task for Tran. It was important that the name reflect their intention to not only serve good food, but to serve their fellow people. They settled on Sweet Lemon, she says, “because with the right touch even the sourest things in life turn sweet!”
PQ Picks Vegan & Vegetarian in Your Neighborhood:
Sweet Lemon Vegan Bistro
4888 NW Bethany Blvd, Suite K6, Portland
1713 NE 15th Ave., Portland
4768 SE Division St., Portland
Bombay Chaat House
804 SW 12th & Yamhill, Portland
800 NE Tenney Rd, Suite 104, Vancouver, Wash.
Brock Daniels, a Pacific Northwest native, has studied wine, culinary arts, gastronomy, and loves researching new food. Brock has written a self-published cookbook titled “Our Year in the Kitchen.” Reach him at [email protected].