A word like "seasonal" when it comes to a new Portland restaurant barely even stokes a reaction anymore; it's all but a given. But the recently opened Harvest at the Bindery literally has an agrarian theme, complete with old iron farm equipment mounted to the rustic wood interior. Their work is about the yearly cycle of sowing and reaping, an intense focus on the stunning array of food that grows in the ground.
Does that mean it's vegan? Yes, it does. But it's about as far as can be from the world of tofu scrambles and gooey processed fake cheeses as can be. There's not much on the menu that looks like it's trying to ape animal proteins. It's more about being pro-vegetable than anti-meat and dairy. They sub out spaghetti squash for noodles in a carbonara dish, for instance, because they want to, not because they have to.
I showed up after a long day of work ravenous, and half-worried that a menu that was 99% vegetable was going to leave me hungry. As a result, my dining partner and I nearly over-ordered—meaning we were able to finish it (because we're card-carrying members of the Clean Plate Club) but we basically had to roll ourselves out. Among the dishes we ventured were the cornbread, served with a rich, delicious soft nut spread that's like "butter who?" The Southern influences on the menu—tamales and "pulled trumpet mushroom BBQ—are the result of a chef, Sean Sigmon, who became a vegetarian as a young man, but not before cutting his teeth learning how to cook at his family's BBQ restaurants in North Carolina. There are a ton of grilled vegetables on hand, and the best way to approach the menu is by taking advantage of the fact that many items come in small and large sizes. Three sides and a salad plus a shared entree (all of the main dishes are full size) was more than enough for two, and if you're worried about it, a heartier small plate of the rosemary potato cake (made with a delicate pickled turnip-based cream) acts as insurance.
This is health food in the sense that (outside of sauce-making and other in-kitchen manipulations) it's untampered with—grains make most of their appearances in whole form, and much of the menu is gluten free—but it doesn't shy away from indulgence. Sigmon and owner Jon Steuer (who you may recognize from the band Soda Pop Kids or his run as a child actor on shows like Star Trek: Next Generation and Grace Under Fire) clearly know how to wield the power of nut fat and the umami blast of miso. I left feeling not only sated, but even like I'd overindulged.
Harvest at the Bindery, 3101 NE Sandy, harvestatthebindery.com, dinner Tues-Sat, plus a goodly selection of regional beer, wines, and cocktails