Empire Chinese Kitchen in Portland
My husband and I brought a couple of friends to the recently opened Empire Chinese Kitchen this past Sunday. I'm happy to say that our experience was quite excellent. It's not a good idea going in believing you are about to have the traditional Dim Sum experience. I would advise that you enter the restaurant understanding that there is a Dim Sum influence. But the space is nice. It's spacious, and the ceilings are high so it's family friendly if you want to bring children - which several other tables had, including our own. We were immediately brought tea, which was cool, so immediately replaced with hot. We shared the following: Wonton Noodle Soup (broth was light and flavorful, the wontons were fresh and buxom. I asked for hot anything and they brough me some wonderful hot sauces that I could put on everything); Empire Egg Roll (very big, beautifully fried, literally no oily mess, and the contents were generous and fresh. It came with a Dijon Mustard sauce which was super yummy); Peking Duck Buns (a true hit. The buns were so light and almost airy. I typically do not order bun dim sum dishes because they are typically huge and heavy. Not so, here. Manageable and measured well against the duck filling); Lobster Dumplings (disappointing. I couldn't tell there was lobster in the dumplings. It was more of a mash which probably included lobster. I would rather have had small bite size pieces of lobster, but to be fair, usually dumplings are a mash of the ingredients); Sticky Rice Pocket (one of my fave dishes. I HEART sticky rice and this was really good The filling was really awesome and flavorful. I recommend ordering this one as a must dish); and the Chinatown Roast Pork (Oh my! Super yummy. So yummy, that we ordered another dish. It sounds unexciting, but believe me, the flavors ARE exciting).
The service was friendly and competent. They made sure we didn't leave without our fortune cookies - what a tragedy that would have been. I hope this place makes it. Make sure you go and visit. I now need to go down to Boston though as it's caused a major traditional Dim Sum craving.
I've been a few times mostly during the first few weeks of opening. There were some minor service glitches which I'll write off to being new. I thought some of the dumplings needed work but there are some dishes that I really like a lot. The duck buns were delicious. The Peking roast pork was another winner. Nothing close to that sweet, probably carcinogenic, red pasty sauce I've unfortunately become accustomed to in Chinese restaurants. The teriyaki chicken is also great. I half expected to be drinking water all night from salt but this dish was subtle with thick chunks of chicken which goes a long way to keeping it from drying out. My wife loves the green beans, in fact this is the only Chinese restaurant I've been able to get her to return to for a second time.
Don't expect Chinatown type dim sum and you won't be disappointed. If you come in expecting greasy, sticky, same old Americanized Chinese then you'll be very disappointed - for the better.