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Chinese in Southern Maine?

Does anyone know of a really good Chinese restaurant in or around Portland?

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  1. No. Lotus in Falmouth sucks least, followed by Chia Sen in Scarborough.

    1 Reply
    1. re: the_MU

      Lotus is the best in the Portland/Falmouth area and very accommodating. I can't believe someone would say they suck.....

    2. I really disagree re: Lotus. The owners are from Taiwan and if you know the Chinese names for the dishes you like they will make them authentically if they have the ingredients. I asked for snow pea shoots (dou miao) but they didn't have them. They did offer me off menu a great Chinese fish dish, fried carp (dou ban yu) but we wanted other dishes - we had an excellent chicken with peanuts (gong bao ji ding) - and didn't want to wait the 20 minutes for the preparation of the dish.

      I work in NYC's Manhattan Chinatown, live in Brooklyn and also own a home in Portland. If your expectations are Jing Fong dim sum or Joe's Shanghai, yes Lotus will disappoint; however, if you tell the owners what you like and know the Chinese names for those dishes you will be more than satisfied.

      5 Replies
      1. re: StevensAve

        Hi, StevensAve. I think we actually agree re Lotus. It's definitely my first choice in the Portland area. The owners are very nice, they always ask after my son, the food there is generally much better than other Chinese places in town. We sometimes take the inlaws there when they come visit. However, takeout from there often disappoints with typical oversauced goo and clumsy prep, and, as you note, they don't compare to Joe's Shanghai, Ollie's, or even (I'm a former Brooklynite myself) Red Hot Szechuan, i.e., it's not actually, by most standards, "good".

        Would I call it a destination? Only if you never get to Boston or NYC or even Philly.

        1. re: StevensAve

          I tried Lotus a few months ago based on a recommendation in this forum and was -very- disappointed. It just wasn't any good at all. I think I ordered something like a garlic chicken dish and have a strong unpleasant memory of watery, gooeystewey chicken colored an odd pinkish hue.

          I have been an enthusiastic Chinese diner ever since living in NYC in 1974 during the Szechuan revolution there, and cook Chinese food quite a bit. I DON'T speak Mandarin or Cantonese or anything like that. If knowledge of "Chinese" is required to obtain a decent meal in a restaurant that's too high a hurdle. Unfair.

          I learned about Fortune Garden here at the same time I learned about Lotus. Not bad at all for high quality westernized Chinese fare. Mostly take out: no beer or wine, only two or three tables. It's at 1435 Forest Ave. in Portland.

          1. re: Dual

            I agree with you about Fortune Garden. The menu's basic. It's really a take out place.But hey - the $6 lunch is almost enough for two!

            1. re: Dual

              Good stuff I've had at Lotus: eggplant in garlic sauce: is indeed pinkish and very sweet, but satisfying in a junky way. Hot & sour seafood soup: impressive. Generous with the seafood, flavorful, and festively decorated with bits of stiffly whipped egg white. The vegetarian house special with the veggies three ways is pretty good, if not anything to write home about. Fond of their scallion pancakes and veggie dumplings, but those are pretty hard to screw up.

              Only tried Fortune Garden once. There was a 45 minute wait for takeout on a weeknight. I can't remember anything about the food except the use of canned button mushrooms.

              Believe it or not, I've found some decently executed food at the Super Buffet in South Portland, including salt & pepper squid, a few dimsum type items (I love the fried sesame balls with bean paste -- previously frozen, I'm sure), sauteed baby bok choi, etc.

              Also a promising lead regarding a place in Auburn called Panda Garden -- I've tried it once, at the (sigh) lunch buffet, and signs noted that the veggies in several of the available items came from the owners' garden. Really nice, crisply battered eggplant sauteed with mixed veggies (I'm an eggplant fan -- can you tell?) I invite others to check it out and see if it's as good as one might hope.

              1. re: the_MU

                Just following up after a year or so. Panda Garden in Auburn is okay if you're in Auburn, very friendly staff. Not worth a special trip though.

                Just re-visited the South Portland Super Buffet, and confirmed my impression that the food there has no reason at all to be as good as it is. Last weekend at lunchtime, next to the baby bok choi and inevitable string beans, there was sauteed chayote with garlic and scallion that just blew me away. Plus salt and pepper shrimp, whole, with heads on. Plus, next to the baked salmon and mashed potatoes, there was nicely done steamed catfish with scallion and ginger. (Can you tell I'm a seafood fan?) Also really nice chicken with BBQ sauce, hacked up w/skin and bones Chinese style, well charred and fragrant with hoisin. And they still had my beloved sesame/red bean balls.

                This may sound like faint praise, but this is way better than any similar restaurant in the state (the ones in Lewiston/Auburn with the exception of Panda Garden are uniformly awful), and better than any similar restaurant I've been to in OTHER states (not that I've been to that many, but it beats my mom's favorite buffet in Boynton Beach by a lot :) ). I invite folks to try it and see if I'm wrong.

          2. I don't know if it's still there, but we used to like Imperial China in South Portland.
            Anyone remember the old Hu Shang in the Old Port?

            3 Replies
            1. re: mollydingle

              Hu Shang was the best! They had a dish called Exotic Chicken that was so delish! I also liked the Sizzling Rice Soup. I think the owner went to jail or something... I miss Hu Shang!

              1. re: majik

                Here's the real story. I worked as a carpenter/painter at both Hu Shang restaurants in the early 80s, the one in the Old Port and the one on Brown Street. Kenny Ng went to jail for income tax evasion (employing Chinese relatives without papers and paying them under the table). Kenny's brother, Henry (also 1/2 owner) escaped prosecution by testifying against Kenny.

                During the building of the Exchange Street restaurant, Kenny approached several banks for funds and was summarily turned down. He flew to Hong Kong and returned with a half-million in bank checks. After the restaurants were wildly successful, the bankers were kicking themselves, as were local venture capitalists.

                Kenny was "funny as hell". A great guy and fa abulous "front man" for the restaurant. Henry handled the kitchen. Every few days, Kenny would rush into the partially-completed restaurant and proclaim, "I have a new color scream!!!" (meaning color scheme).

                It was Kenny's brilliance and personality that made the restaurants successful.
                Historically, the first Hu Shang was in a hole-in-the-wall on Congress Street across from the State Theater. Prior to that, there was a very good Chinese restaurant there called 456. I askes what "456" meant and was told by the owner "Chinese lucky numbers".

              2. re: mollydingle

                Man, it was so great and I miss it so much! Nothing has come close to taking its place!

              3. The best Chinese was at the original Hu Shang accross from the State Theater, when it was a XXX movie house. Sadly, there is only the disappointment of Chinese/American to be found in So. Maine. Real Chinese(what you have to travel to Boston for) is a huge hole, I wish someone in this area would fill.

                1 Reply
                1. re: joss2

                  The original Hu Shang did serve the best Szechuan style Chinese food that I have ever had. The Hu Shang and State Theater both bring back fond memories (pre-gentrification Portland). Friday night Rocky Horror Picture show at the State followed by drunken debauchery at the Free Street Pub wouldn't be accepted in this day and age.

                2. China Rose in Freeport has above average food (for Maine). I have at least found it to be consistent.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: HDinCentralME

                    I agree and the lunch buffet isnt bad and is an economical choice when shopping the outlets.

                    1. re: HDinCentralME

                      I agree - we've always been pleased with lunch here. How's the sushi upstairs?

                      1. re: HDinCentralME

                        We like China Rose, and I'll state my NY credentials right here. My aunt, who lived most of her life in NYC, likes to go to China Rose when she visits in Maine. Good food, nice family ownership, occasionally inconsistent, but good most of the time.

                      2. We really don't have great Chinese food in southern Maine...I have to agree that the best I've found is at Lotus in Falmouth.

                        1. Most of the Chinese restaurants in midcoast Maine are DISMAL! Does anyone have any suggestions for somewhere decent... or do I have to wait to go to Boston's Chinatown?

                          1. There is a new restaurant in Wells on Route One called "East". We went when it opened a few months ago and did not care for the food, but I have read some great reviews on other places. They have Chinese, Japanese and Thai. THe restaurant itself is absolutely beautiful.Anyone been???

                            1. If you don't mind meandering 30 minutes from Portland, Chinatown Restaurant in Topsham has really delicious Chinese. The food is flavorful without being greasy and the service is friendly. The lunch specials are the best deal. You get a big plate of food with an entree, an appetizer and fried rice for less than $8. For those of you who have a penchant for more authentic Chinese, they have really good Beef Chow Fun. The chef used to cook in Chinatown NYC, for those of you who pine for the real stuff. The General's Chicken is really popular, as is the Lo Mein are good choices for classic Americanized Chinese. Definitely worth trying, many customers have raved about how the food reminded them of what they can get in the "real Chinatown."

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: espresjso

                                Why the dearth of good Chinese in southern Maine? Sichuan Gourmet in Billerica MA has some of the best Szechuan cuisine in New England, and it's 90 minutes away. http://www.laosichuan.com/en/menu.php...

                              2. Four years later I do have to report:
                                We had lunch yesterday at Lotus in Falmouth, ME. Had the Hot and Sour Soup with Seafood (shrimp, scallops, lobster) for two and shared a spicy tuna roll. Both very good.. Of course, the soup would have been better without canned mushrooms and a bit spicier, but, hey, I'll take it when I can. Especially impressed since it was lunch,

                                1. Try Saigon on Forest Ave. They have Chinese dishes as well as Vietnamese. Very good. Nice people. But don't forget, it's still Maine Chinese food. Not like Chinatown, unfortunately! I remember Hu Shang. I think 456 came after Hu Shang, btw, in that same Congress St. location. Didn't it?

                                  1. "Good Chinese" in Maine is an oxymoron. There is NONE.
                                    PLEASE, somebody prove me wrong!!! Open a new place that cares about ingredients, preparation and presentation. Not just ooey-gooey oily sauces covering overly breaded deep-fried-yet somehow-still-soggy crap. Sigh.

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: josiahbabcock

                                      Oddly enough i have found really good Thai though. Not sure why but seems like lots of Thai places have been opening. The one we go to is in Damariscotta and called "Best Thai"

                                      1. re: hargau

                                        It's not odd that there is good Thai since there are SO many southeast asian immigrants in the Portland area. Granted, it took them many years to serve their own food (Vietnamese), and I am not an expert, so not sure how big the diff. is between Thai and Viet, but there are good versions of both here in Portland. I like Saigon because they are SO nice.

                                        As for Chinese, fugettaboutit (says this NYer). Nothing since Hu Shang (and 456 came AFTER Hu Shang, not before, I think), EXCEPT Tao in Brunswick, which is transcendant. If they open one in Portland, I will be in heaven. I heard today that Imperial China has gone way downhill. As for Lotus, my Chinese friends really liked it, but maybe they got the good stuff, because I don't think it's too good. Cannot believe the buffet place in SoPo is good! That's good news.
                                        PS. I have not tried Empire Chinese yet. But mostly, if I want good Asian food, I go to Pen Mei Miyake!

                                      2. re: josiahbabcock

                                        Empire opened a few months ago on Congress St in Portland and I think they do a good enough job to actually lay claim to being a legit Chinese option. Small menu but very good choices. Went the other day after about a 6 week break and there was improvement on what was already a good product. Not a General Tso or crab Rangoon in sight.

                                        1. re: bobbert

                                          I have reservations for Dim Sum at Tao in Brunswick. My expectations are super high. I know I won't be disappointed.

                                          1. re: nyawira

                                            Tao is terrific - only been once but still think of that meal - and I am psyched that they will be adding a 2nd restaurant in Portland in the space currently occupied by the West End Deli - maybe spring time.

                                        2. re: josiahbabcock

                                          Just come to Vermont and eat at Single Pebble in Burlington! (I know, I know, not helping...) ;)