Berlu is one of Portland’s most unique restaurants. From the modernist space with flowy curtains to the elegant dishes presented on stark white plates, Berlu is a minimalist’s dream come true. What started as a tasting menu experience became a Vietnamese bakery, then a takeout only noodle shop during the pandemic — a pandemic pivot within a pivot. Now, Berlu has brought back its tasting menu dinners.
Berlu’s Vegan Tasting Menu
I was lucky enough to experience Berlu a couple times when the restaurant first opened, and it was made my list of favorite meals of 2019. Chef Vince Nguyen treats every ingredient in an incredibly artistic and thoughtful manner. I still remember my first experience at Berlu clearly, from the lace-like rice crackers to kick off the meal to the surprise of entering the Bowie wallpapered bathroom. Many of the dishes blur the lines between savory and sweet — think: strawberry with tofu puree and coriander, tomato and marigold carrot in delicate peach tea, summery zucchini slices meticulously arranged like fish scales in creamy broth with toasted lavender. Each dish makes you pause and contemplate the components individually and collectively.
Recently, I visited Berlu to celebrate a friend’s birthday. The menu has evolved over the past couple years to include more Vietnamese touches in the form of street foods such as banh trang nuong (Vietnamese rice paper pizza) and banh xeo (Vietnamese pancake). Of course, a meal at Berlu always comes with surprises, like an unexpected hint of heat in the snacks, the playful combination of golden beets and passion fruit, and mesmerizing noodles of cordycep mushroom. Instead of Billie Eilish, Berlu now plays Tame Impala’s Currents from start to finish; Vince says that album is extremely calming and playing it during the snack portion of the meal helps ease the nerves.
These photos are from Berlu’s early days. For my most recent dinner, check out this Instagram Reel.
Berlu is fully gluten-free and dairy-free. Vegan tasting menus available by request (specify when you make your reservation), and Berlu also offers plant based only evenings from time to time.