Portland, Oregon – Vitality Bistro Food & Spirits

Restaurant: Vitality Bistro
Cuisine: American/International/Eclectic/Fusion
Last visited: August 18, 2011
Location: Woodburn, Oregon (Woodburn)
Address: 1475 Mt Hood Ave
Price Range: $10-20

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 3
Service: 4
Ambiance: 2
Overall: 3
Additional comments:

  • Located inside Wellspring Centre
  • Hidden location
  • Innovative menu
  • Healthy options
  • Focus on local ingredients
  • Very casual
  • Vegetarian friendly
  • Family friendly
  • Kids eat free for dinner
  • Patio seating
  • Beer/Wine list/pairings
  • Breakfast/lunch/dinner/happy hour
  • Dine In/Take out
  • Monday–Friday 7am–8pm
  • Saturday 8am–8pm
  • Happy Hour Monday–Saturday 3–6pm

**Recommendations: White Truffle Baked Parmesan Fries, Mac and Cheese, Berry Cobbler

As if the food scene in Portland wasn’t random enough already, I decided to continue the theme with a random restaurant choice. Not only was I outside of Portland, but I was located in the very small town of Woodburn. Okay, so I didn’t come here just for this restaurant, but I was in the area for some tax free outlet shopping and by the time I finished, it was dinner time! The dining options in the area were very limited, but I wasn’t going to settle for Papa Murphy’s. So I researched something a bit more original and the “hottest” restaurant around seemed to be Vitality Bistro.

The website looked modern, the menu sounded sophisticated and actually quite innovative at times, so it really did spark my interest and I was excited to check it out. It’s kind of known as a hidden gem in the area, and it was so hidden that I missed it the first time around. I didn’t know it was located inside the Wellspring Centre, as there’s no mention of that on the website. It was only upon arrival that I realized that Vitality Bistro was actually the cafeteria at The Wellspring Medical Centre.

Hmmm… so it was the restaurant choice for Wellspring heart participants. I definitely had mixed feelings about the discovery. Part of me thought I could be in for a nice surprise, and the other half of me thought “hospital food”. However I did my research, I was confident in my choice, and there wasn’t a plan B.

The menu didn’t suit the ambiance or location at all. But it was random I guess. Sure there were some healthy options, but the offerings were gourmet, eclectic and experimental with occasional comfort food. It’s certainly not your typical “hospital cafeteria”. It’s mainly due to the fact that it houses an executive chef and you can tell he’s passionate about what he does. There was effort and creativity in the food, and it’s impressive for the area and ambiance, but otherwise that was kind of about it for me.

On the table:

Complimentary Bread & Butter

  • It started off great! I wasn’t expecting the free bread and butter to be that enjoyable.
  • It was pieces of crunchy, yet soft Ciabatta bread and slices of crispy nutty sesame seed bread hot off the grill.
  • I was surprised they took the effort of actually grilling the bread rather than taking buns out of a bag.
  • It may sound regular, but that sesame bread is noticeable good here.

Seared Avocado Cake3.5/6

  • Peach salsa & chipotle carrot purée $5
  • Kudos for the creativity and trying something new. The cakes didn’t look great, but the colourful salsa helped.
  • Being from Vancouver, BC I’m used to crab cakes with mango and avocado, so this seemed somewhat comparable.
  • They were very soft and creamy cakes and not crispy, but I wish it had been for some textural contrast.
  • The avocado cakes were mixed with either potatoes or spongy bread and they came across as potato cakes with cubes of avocado.
  • There was also black beans mixed into the cakes so it was almost a bit Mexican, but less rich than a pan seared guacamole.
  • The peach salsa was fresh, sweet and tangy with lime, red bell pepper and red onions and they woke up the flavours of the cake.
  • The chipotle carrot puree was sweet, smoky and spicy and I’ve never had that before, so I actually enjoyed it. It was new.
  • All together there were a lot of flavours going on, but it worked. I could have used a stronger avocado presence given the name of the item, but it was pretty good!

**White Truffle Baked Parmesan Fries4.5/6

  • Crushed red pepper, parsley & monastery mustard aioli $5 (Used to be $4)
  • The portion is huge and it’s cheap and dangerously addicting!
  • They’re actually very memorable fries and would be considered fantastic anywhere.
  • They were crunchy and very crispy thin cut fries, but they weren’t overcooked.
  • It was already well seasoned and then it got a bit too salty with the added parm on top, but the parm didn’t stick onto the fries.
  • It was also sprinkled with red chili flakes for some spice, so there was lots of flavour already.
  • The aioli had a nice kick of Dijon, but I couldn’t taste the truffle anywhere.
  • This definitely didn’t seem like “heart-friendly” material, but I would still recommend ordering these if your health can handle it.

**Mac and Cheese4/6

  • Parmesan & garlic herb crumb topping $9.50 (Add chicken 2, salmon 3, or shrimp 4)
  • I loved the crispy gratin topping of parmesan cheese and bread crumbs and it was really flavourful. It was almost like they used garlic croutons for the crumbs.
  • The mac and cheese actually tasted like alfredo sauce with some onions, melted white cheddar cheese and possibly parmesan.
  • The sauce was creamy and cheesy, but not too rich or heavy and the noodles were cooked al dente which was a pleasant surprise.
  • Not one of the best mac and cheese, but a solid choice that wasn’t disappointing.
  • Again not heart friendly, but if your heart can handle it… indulge while you can.

St. Louis Style Pork Ribs1.5/6

  • Peach barbeque sauce $14/22. All entrées served with your choice of two chef prepared sides.
  • I ordered the half which was huge.
  • It’s not a BBQ house. I know that. I wasn’t expecting BBQ house quality ribs, but these ones just didn’t cut it.
  • The ribs were very chewy and dry and stuck on the bone.
  • When ribs fall off the bone it’s likely because they were boiled first, and although these weren’t, the meat just didn’t come off the bone at all.
  • It was a tangy vinegar based sauce with almost an equal amount of acidity coming form the tomatoes.
  • It wouldn’t say it was sweet, which is quite typical of St. Louis style barbeque sauce. There was a nice chipotle kick in the sauce too, but overall the ribs needed some help.
  • Greek Salad3/6
    • This was one of the feature sides of the day.
    • It was what it was, but I liked the cherry tomatoes instead of regular tomatoes.
    • I could have used more Feta and olives, but the ingredients were fresh.

  • Chipotle Black Beans3.5/6
    • This was one of the featured sides of the day.
    • This was my favourite side.
    • It was smokey and sweet from some maple and a bit tangy from the tomato with a nice mild heat of chipotle.
    • There could have been some molasses as well and overall I really enjoyed these.
    • I know they look average, but they tasted good!

Coconut Seared Tuna1/6

  • Thai peanut sauce $16 All entrées served with your choice of two chef prepared sides.
  • I don’t know what happened with this tuna, but I question the quality of the product. It didn’t seem sashimi grade at all.
  • The tuna was so tough that it cut like chicken. I’ve never had ahi tuna like this, if it was even ahi (yellowfin) tuna, which I doubt.
  • It had a bright pink inside and was served nice and rare, but it was really chewy, which is very unusual for tuna.
  • The Thai peanut sauce was the redeeming factor and it tasted almost like sesame salad dressing, but it was good.
  • I have no idea where the coconut aspect was because I didn’t get any of that. It would have made for a nice crust I assume, but on tuna I question the execution.
  • Coconut and panko crusted prawns work great, but a tuna steak is a challenging protein to make that happen with.
  • Roast Tomatoes & Mushrooms4/6
    • This was one of the featured sides of the day.
    • It was what it was, and it was good!
    • The vegetables were fresh, juicy and tender, herby and well seasoned.

  • Sundried Tomato Salad2/6
    • This just tasted like a standard pasta salad at a picnic.
    • It was a mayo heavy and a bit cheesy.
    • It was salty with bits of bacon and then salty, sharp and tangy with capers and sundried tomatoes.
    • It was a Southern style pasta salad with Mediterranean influence, so it was unusual, but it tasted quite ordinary.

Peach Blueberry Cobbler - 3.5/6

  • $5
  • This was the dessert of the day and it was actually quite good, but could have been easily better.
  • It was hot from the oven and served with whipped cream, which had melted. The server was going to re-do it at the table, but I didn’t need it.
  • Personally, I prefer my cobblers with ice cream over whipped cream. I prefer any hot desert with ice cream over whipped cream though.

  • A cobbler is a pile of fruit with a batter poured over top before baking.
  • There was a decent amount of local blueberries and diced local peaches, but I was hoping for the peaches to be more whole and cut into wedges.
  • I just wanted the fruit aspect to be more substantial and it was about 70% bread or biscuit batter. It was almost bordering a bread pudding.
  • The biscuit batter was delicious though! It was super creamy, moist, soft, spongy and stewed and my spoon just sunk into it.
  • It was almost half baked so it was incredibly melt in your mouth tender and not too sweet.

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5 Comments

  • Bow says:

    Ouch ! How can one ruin ribs ? !!!…I guess if ya boil them, but why ? Ribs are easy to make and dependent on a good sauce, can taste terrific or good; but if they’re too dry ? ugh ! European cooking often full cooked tuna(Brits invented the “seared” rare tuna) but it’s never so tough that you must cut it like a cooked chicken breast. Kuodos to Wellspring for trying to better than cafeteria food, however good ethnic food is also healthy, and better tasting…Asian, Turkish, Italian,Latin American, the list goes on.
    From Cucina Povera: Melt some butter, add a drop of Xtra Virgin, brown some sage leaves(20 grams or more)…pour over cooked Gnocchi, serve with some grated cheese. Delicious, simple and healthy.

  • Mijune says:

    @Bow – Actually I find ribs really easy to ruin… wrong temperature and being slightly off with timing… to boil or not to boil… it’s a tough thing, but I guess experience is key.

    Yeah the ahi tuna.. I’m not sure what happened there. Yes! I agree.. it is definitely better than “cafeteria food”. Thanks for your tips again bow!

  • Linda says:

    wow that tuna looks horrible! it definitely looks like raw chicken or some other meat product.. but a fish?! and supposedly sashimi grade too?! o dearie

    i thought the bread at the beginning was waffles or something.. i love that it was ciabatta though… nomnomnom

    the fries look great and i’m super surprised that they served them here at a heart healthy establishment.. truffle oil on anything tastes great!

  • Mijune says:

    @Linda – yeah the fries caught me off guard too, but I assume it was in “healthy oil”… at least I hope. I’m with you on truffle oil lol… I drizzle it over popcorn at home :)

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