Sunday, May 11, 2008
TRUEBEN: Tempeh Reuben at Proper Eats
From the menu: $7.50. Marinated baked tempeh, Dave's Killer Bread, caramelized onions, local kraut, vegan sauce, with a side salad.
I was nearly as excited to try the reuben at Proper Eats in St. John's as I was to revisit the Red and Black reuben last month. If the Red and Black's wasn't the best, in my mind this was probably the reuben to top it. Part of what influenced this was that I'd read somewhere that the reuben at Proper Eats incorporated some kind of pesto aioli, which, though it's far from traditional, seems kind of exciting. Ultimately, I thought the tempeh reuben at Proper Eats had a lot in common with the Red and Black, with a bit of unique spin which I appreciated, but which wasn't quite enough to make it rise to the top.
Like the Red and Black and Veganopolis, Proper Eats feels like a luxury because everything is vegan (though there was one dairy item on the Proper Eats menu...they let you add Tillamook cheese to their burrito for an extra charge). Proper Eats also has raw entrees, which appear similar but not identical to those offered at Blossoming Lotus in Northwest Portland. I'd like to go back some day and try a Mexican-inspired dish -- they had raw fajitas as well as some great sounding nachos and burritos. They did also have a few specials on the board that looked tempting, but were significantly more expensive than the standard menu items. I appreciated the fact they had four good microbrews on tap. If you do go, check their website or call to see if it's some kind of event night, especially if you are going with a large group. I've heard it can be kind of awkward to arrive on Mondays, when they show movies, and they also have a set up for live music. If that's not your thing, checking in advance is probably a good idea. All and all, I found the restaurant, a spacious room in back (the front of the place is a grocery and deli), mellow and peaceful, despite the fact that it was "parade day" in St. John's.
As for the sandwich, it arrived with a small, yet picturesque salad that seemed to include field greens, beets, black sesame seeds and even tiny squares of nori. They have various delicious sounding dressings on the menu; we were served the maple balsamic, which was pretty good. The sandwich was somewhat warm, the bread obviously toasted, but it seemed like at least one of the ingredients, probably the kraut, had come straight from the fridge, so the sandwich was a little inconsistent temperature wise. I didn't find it incredibly off-putting, but B. said he would have preferred the entire sandwich be a room temperature rather than have cold pockets.
The sauce was very similar to the Red and Black's, great flavor and pretty authentic tasting according to my hazy memories. The consistency was a bit runnier, making it more dressing-like, which was good in my book. The slice of tempeh was very mildly seasoned -- more flavorful than the Vita Cafe's, but barely detectable. Otherwise it was good, even a little juicy. And being mildly seasoned meant it wasn't too salty, and it didn't dominate the sandwich. The caramelized onions were a nice touch, but sort of stole the show from the kraut. The kraut almost seemed like a seasoning rather than a component of the sandwich. It added a tartness but was pretty hidden in the onions. This was also a complaint of B.'s. He felt all you could really taste was the onions, tempeh and sauce, and he would have liked a greater variety of flavors. Like past sandwiches, we yearned for more sauerkraut. If and when we return to Proper Eats, we'll probably take the opportunity to try one of their other intriguing menu items, but I would recommend the tempeh reuben to fans of reubens -- it's worth trying at least once, I think.
4 out of 5
A little hippie gem in North Portland. Somewhat lackadasical service, but our food came fast. Good beer, almost %100 vegan menu. Do your grocery shopping in the front room. Tempeh reuben, $7.50, comes with small side salad.