Portland’s top destination for high-end vegan food just got bigger. As vegan and vegetarian dining continues to grow in popularity, Farm Spirit, the animal-product-free tasting counter formerly squeezed into a matchbox-sized space on SE Morrison, just moved into its roomier spot on SE Belmont, and everything feels larger: plates of mushroom ravioli and grilled celeraic, served at big tables with plenty of elbow room, surrounded by massive plant-based art installations and tall windows.
Chef Aaron Adams likes it that way. He’s substantially grown his staff and amped up the size of dishes, with larger entrees between his smattering of bite-sized snacks and surprises. “Sometimes, I just want to eat something,” he says. “When you hand me one bite of something and it’s gone? Gimme a break.”
Adams is a personality, big and boisterous, which feels like quite the juxtaposition from the restaurant’s tiny flowers of vegetables and minimalist plating. He doesn’t like to call Farm Spirit “fine dining;” rather, it’s “fancy.” When he’s feeling a little more flowery, he describes his food as “the transition of the natural product into something more refined.” The echoes of that message appear throughout the new restaurant’s design, from the white oak tables and bar to the tangle wood and moss mounted on the wall.
Plants appear on the plate, of course, almost completely transformed — barley nixtamalized into tortillas for abalone mushroom tacos, beets condensed into droplets on a black-and-white cracker, “potato salad” eons away from anything found at a picnic or potluck. Dinner begins with a beverage and a series of snacks, before transitioning into five main courses, interspersed with the occasional surprise snack. That’s followed by a few tiny desserts — bonbons, apples, cookies, and candy.
Farm Spirit opened in 2015, the first of its kind: a vegan tasting menu restaurant, sourcing almost all of its products from within a 105-mile radius. It became a national destination for vegan diners, a place with the pomp and circumstance of something “fancy.” “I think it’s pretty fair to say that plant-based cooking is growing exponentially. You could go to Carl’s Jr. and get a vegan burger now. I think there’s plenty of room for what we’re doing as well,” Adams says. “I’m following my own personal ethical compass. I’m just way more interested in cooking plants.”
He’s not the only one. His staff is packed with big-deal talent from around town, with alumni from Castagna, Ataula, and Park Kitchen — Even the surfer-bro star chef from Paiche, Jose Luis de Cossio, is working front-of-house at Farm Spirit. “We really fucking like people. It’s not an act; I love serving people,” Adams says. “We’re all on the same page here. Our job is service, and we’re trying our damnedest to make people feel like we’re happy to have them there.”
Farm Spirit started service at 1403 SE Belmont Street January 17. Tickets are available on Tock.