Restaurant: Hartwell's

Earlier this summer, I had learned of a restaurant in Milwaukie where the owners were a couple with one being an omnivore and the other a vegan. The menu for the restuarant, which features new American cuisine, is split, with almost half of the offerings vegan fare. We checked it out last night and our drive to Milwaukie was pleasantly rewarded with comfortable ambience; friendly and attentive service; and wonderful food.

My partner and I split an appetizer of mushroom streudel that was delicious. Great earthy flavors wrapped in crispy phylo dough layers and served with a creamy sauce on the side. I sampled my partner's lasagne entree (large enough for two) and was happy to find a great-tasting tomato sauce. My own entree, a special for the night of orange glazed tempeh with veggies, was awesome -- a tempered take on the vegan orange chicken I dream of and a much more sophisticated execution than my own orange tempeh I made last week.

Our friend tried two appetizers: a miso soup that she said was surprisingly (in a good way) on the sweet side and incorporated an unusual seaweed that she thought was more typically used in desserts. She also ordered a beet salad with grilled figs, gorgonzola cheese and a few other things I didn't catch. It looked awesome and she remarked how much better this was than the typical beet salad on other restaurants' menus. Overall, she (an omni) was impressed.

Before our meal began, we were also treated to a tidbit from the chef -- a little slice of cucumber with micro greens (yum) and bread (slightly thick and doughy) with olive oil.

For dessert, we shared a carafe of french press coffee and a huge slice of chocolate layer cake. While the crumb of the cake was a tad tough to me (everyone else loved it), I did think the frosting was first rate, and the slice was plenty large for three of us to share.

Overall, the food was excellent. Although located in Milwaukie, the prices were downtown Portland, so even though I would go back without hesitation, we probably have to reserve it for a special occasion, or go for lunch instead of dinner.

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