We heard once that Portland doesn’t have any good Chinese food. Fellow food enthusiasts, this, to our collective delight, is categorically untrue.
Dim sum devotees already flock to Wong’s King and Ocean City every weekend (be sure to take six of your closest friends), and everyone seems to know a solid neighborhood joint or two. We thought we’d pick some dishes that we love to eat when we’re getting Chinese—and places to get them.
These dishes can be found on a lot of Chinese menus across town. But we’re including our favorite places to order them, whether it’s for the freshness of product, the no-nonsense service, or, in one case, the ornate crystal chandeliers you’ll be gazing at while digesting a mountainous plate of clams.
Go forth and eat, and let us know your own favorite spots for Chinese in the comments below!
Fresh Dungeness Crab
Whatever authenticity means, in terms of regional Chinese food these days, the closest we’re going to get is having seafood plucked fresh from its aquarium and presented to you some minutes later, cooked and steaming on a giant platter. Try this at Chinese Delicacy in Mt. Scott-Arleta, a small, family-run place that offers Dungeness crab three ways—spicy’s recommended, but the ginger-cilantro option will appease those friends who are squeamish about chilies. You’ll want to bring a few friends, because these crabs aren’t small. Make sure you have some time ahead of you, too—it’s best enjoyed with a few rounds of Tsingtao beer and a forgiving attitude toward bits of flying crab shell.
Don’t miss the giant prawns clambering around in a tank just above the Dungeness, either. Just ask the hostess how she recommends the translucent pink beauties should be prepared, and dive in while they’re still in season.
Chinese Delicacy, 6411 SE 82nd Avenue, 503.775.2598
Clams Hong Kong Style
Hong Kong style has come to mean anything that involves a spicy element, but Gold Garden in Mill Park partners it with a nutty one here. The chili-and-crushed-peanut clam dish comes recommended by the affable server. You might as well have them cook up one of their live lobsters the same way, too, although the restaurant has plenty of other options for that particular meat in its tome of a menu. Back to those clams: it’s solid fare if you find yourself on that stretch of 122nd, but half the fun is the opulent setting, with ornate decorations and crystal chandeliers competing for your attention with a flat-screen TV broadcasting the Chinese version of “American Idol.”
Gold Garden, 1818 SE 122nd Avenue, 503.777.3399
Orange is probably more commonly served with duck on Chinese menus, but Lucky Strike in Richmond, temple of chili-heavy Szechuan cuisine, hits this non-spicy dish out of the park. It features fat slices of mandarin in a jammy orange sauce with chunks of chicken, all dusted with dark chocolate shavings, which tempers the fruity sweetness with a bitter one.
If that sounds a bit like dessert for dinner, well, why not take the inversion all the way? You can order your savory, spicy element in a cocktail here. Their house specialty involves cilantro, chili-infused vodka, lime, and a coconut crème finish. To the trepidatious, trust us, you won’t regret ordering one. And word to the wise: Phuket is not pronounced phonetically.
Lucky Strike, 3862 SE Hawthorne Blvd, 503.206.8292
Sometimes, a craving for Chinese just calls for a bowl of noodles. You lovers of shrimp lo mein probably have your go-to Chinese neighborhood spot already. But if you want to try something new and completely accessible, Shandong in Hollywood is your place. This is the mecca of Westernized Chinese food, the dining room a sea of baseball hats and ruddy smiles. The servers obligingly hand out forks and knives in addition to heavy-duty scissors that are absolutely necessary to even begin eating your enormous bowl of fresh house-made noodles, which you’ll be informed are “over 3 feet long” before cutting.
You’ll be told to try the noodles with chicken and barbecue sauce—popular here—or with fermented black bean sauce, noted as being more challenging to appreciate. Both are on the sweeter side, but the tang of the latter, served with fresh cucumber, has more depth of flavor. Choose wisely, because whatever you order will be sitting undepleted in your fridge for a few days. This is, after all, a place where Chinese to-go boxes materialize with the check. The servers know you won’t even be close to cleaning your plate.
Shandong Restaurant, 3724 NE Broadway, 503.287.0331
House Stir-Fry / Any Stir-Fry / You’ll Probably Be Getting a Side of Rice With This
Easy, right? This one is so easy, because this is king of basic American-Chinese food. Takeout joints do this the best, so head straight to Chin’s Kitchen in Hollywood, one of the oldest Chinese restaurants in the neighborhood. No one here has to choose among beef, chicken, or shrimp, because their house stir-fry comes with all three, thrown in with a generous helping of baby carrots, ginger, and a variety of nondescript vegetables. The adventurous among you will want to try their soup buffet, facing a bar where each seat comes with its own hotpot. Roll by at night for the full effect of their historic neon sign.
Old Town-Chinatown's Golden Horse is another unfussy alternative, though the service is attentive and formal—you’ll be greeted with the requisite pot of tea and bowl of hot-and-sour soup, and the server might suggest a fresh pea shoot stir-fry from the Chinese specials board. Have them throw in some beef and you’ll be left to your conversation—and your perfectly satisfying lunch—until you ask for your bill.
If you’re feeling like something more refined, the stir-fry at Seres in the Pearl District is a delicate thing. There’s a crunchy freshness to the organic, locally sourced vegetables, which come lightly sautéed with garlic. We hear it’s a smart move to add their fresh tofu to this one.
Chin's Kitchen, 4132 NE Broadway, 503.281.1203; Golden Horse, 238 NW 4th Avenue, 503.228.1688; Seres Restaurant and Bar, 1105 NW Lovejoy, 503.222.7327
The Pork Bao Bun
Personally, we like to take the pared-down route with this classic snack, and head straight to An Dong Market, an Asian grocery store in South Tabor. A dollar and some change will get you a softball-sized steamed bun, at whose center you’ll find sausage, mushroom, and half a hard-boiled egg next to the requisite pork. Getting there is a pleasure, too, thanks to the thick, pillowy dough’s satisfying dry sweetness.
Wong’s King in Montavilla has a sumptuous, freshly steamed version of this, so don’t miss the bao cart as it rolls by during dim sum there. And try the six-bao appetizer at Chinese Delicacy, where they’re more like soup dumplings without the soup—and some of most flavorful little pork dumplings in town.
An Dong Market, 5441 SE Powell Blvd, 503.774.6527; Wong's King, 8733 SE Division, 503.788.8883
Soju Cocktail (With a Side of Mongolian Lamb)
Sometimes, craving Chinese means craving a Korean rice liquor served with muddled cucumber in cocktail form, and enjoying it in a beautiful, sleek, air-conditioned restaurant that marries Portland’s organic-food ethos with traditional Chinese cooking on a quiet corner in the Pearl.
Enter Seres and its happy-hour menu, which offers such elevated nibbles as a juicy Mongolian lamb and salt-and-pepper calamari. Rest assured that someone’s paying attention to where the meat comes from, and a few of those Ty-Chi drinks in, decide you’ll be back for the crispy-skinned, much-lauded Peking duck the next day—they only serve them with 24 hours advance notice.
Seres Restaurant and Bar, 1105 NW Lovejoy, 503.222.7327