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Dim sum in Portland

the carts
Dim Sum
Dim sum is a Chinese light meal or brunch served with Chinese tea. It is eaten some time from morning to early afternoon with family or friends. Dim sum consists of a wide spectrum of choices, from sweet to salty. It has combinations of meat, vegetables, seafood, and fruit. The various items are usually served in a small steamer basket or on a small plate, depending on the type of dim sum. /wiki/Dim_sum

Dim sum is the Chinese variant of small plates. You get little morsels that you share with your table. The theory is that you sit back, drink some tea, nibble, and relax. In such small packages, you can try something new.

There are great places to eat dim sum. However, if you're looking for really good dim sum, it's not in Portland. There's good dim sum here, to be sure—but for great, you need to go 6 hours north, or 12 hours south.

So here is an attempt to hit the high spots. I haven't yet been to Lum Yuen, and I've heard it's good. But there's a variety of options, depending upon what you're up for.

Fong Chong

301 NW 4th Ave (at Everett)
(503) 228-6868
get there via trimet
find a bike route

Fong Chong EntranceThis is not the best dim sum on the west coast, or even in Portland. But there is something so refreshing about dim summing in the giant bus station like room at Fong Chong. Invariably cheerful ladies wheel carts around, and will describe what's on them—to me, it always sounds like shu mai, but it's almost always good too, and you aren't gambling so much to find out. If the young guy comes around with the barbecued pork, be sure to get some—it's great, and a huge portion for $6. Holidays feature specials like lobster pie with ranch sauce (so wrong, and so good) and curry pie. It's best to bring a crowd, both so you get to use the lazy susan technology, and so you can try more things. It goes without saying: there's no use of going to dim sum if you keep kosher or are vegetarian. But for a holiday meal, can you beat $12 a person anywhere else?

filled under dim sum in Portland, Restaurants downtown
November 24, 2005 | Permalink

House of Louie

331 NW Davis St
(503) 228-9898
get there via trimet
find a bike route

Tremendously baroque Chinese, specializing in elaborate jello-based desserts.

filled under dim sum in Portland, Restaurants downtown
January 2, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Jin Wah Seafood Restaurant

4021 SW 117th Ave, Suite E, Beaverton (in the Canyon Place Shopping Center)
(503) 641-2852
get there via trimet
find a bike route

Jin Wah
dim sum at Jin Wah
I had heard good things about Jin Wah from the Guilty Carnivore. At least three times a year, at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, I eat dim sum, and I have to admit, I was less than enchanted about my old "favorites".

I knew Fong Chong had changed hands since last winter, which might be good, but might also be bad. And I hadn't heard from anyone who had been there lately.

We had had an impressive dim sum at Wong's King, but I hated the fact that if we didn't want to wait, we'd have to be there early (and even then, we'd wait), and I hated the fact that some carts never came near us. Last easter, we had a large party, and about a third of the group showed up late, which seemed to displease our servers. So was that why we were repeatedly only offered congee? Just kidding, but there were lots of carts that never made it near us. It was good, but still.

So when GC has said that he had liked Jin Wah, I was excited. I looked at the Portland Food Archives, and on dim sum crawls, Jin Wah had also been favorably reviewed. Okay!

Which wasn't to say there wasn't resistance. They're in Beaverton, after all.

So, on Christmas day, we arrive, are promptly seated, given hot tea and water, and then the choices begin. You can order off the menu, or off the carts, or both. A cart with hot savory items was at our table immediately, with a huge variety of things: chickens feet, shu mai, beef balls, sticky rice, fried rice, shrimp noodle, and many more things that were just a blur of pork, shrimp and mushrooms.

And so we had just got there, and we already had a lazy susan full of things to nosh. Hurrah!

And that's only the beginning of the good news. Everything that we had, save the BBQ pork, was as good or better than we had had elsewhere. My partner grumbled that he didn't like the sauce on the chicken legs as well as at Wongs King, and I'll be honest, I don't remember the sauce. I just remember that I liked them there, and I liked them here.

Stealthily, the staff would refill waters, tea, pop, and empty dishes got whisked away. New carts came by with new treats: shrimp & taro, deepfried in a ball, sesame balls, strange little balls made with shrimp or pork, rolled in sweet sticky rice. Tofu stuffed or combined with pork, shrimp and/or mushrooms. Shrimp dumplings. Another dumpling with shrimp and scallops. Several types of congee, rice porridge; grilled noodles; chinese doughnuts; plates of bok choy and salt & pepper calamari; tropical fruit jello desserts with umbrellas.

There are cons, of course. It's not like eating in a diner, or a banquet hall. The surroundings are quite elegant, sophisticated. You'll have to pace yourself, because, if you want to get everything you want in 5 minutes, you can have it. You won't get the opportunity to stack the empty metal steam pots. You won't get to wait in line, or to wait for food to come. There is no ginger chicken or lobster pie... or if there is, we haven't seen it. And it's in Beaverton. On the MAX line. With parking.

So, obviously, I'm sold. It does seem like it might be a smidge more expensive, though it may be that we're just too excited to stop when we should stop. But we're not talking hugely expensive. In our small groups, we've eating like kings for $15 a head or less, plus tip. We've ended up spending less at WK or FC. Course, there was that one time at WK where we only were visited by the sesame roll cart...

I'm hugely impressed by the service. The staff is friendly, and helpful.

filled under Restaurants on Portland's Westside
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8001 SE Division St
(503) 777-2828
get there via trimet
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Legin Restaurant
at Legin
We trekked here one Sunday for dim sum. Arriving at 9:55, we were pleased to notice others standing by, keeping the vigil at the front door. At 10am sharp, a manager unlocked the door, and let the hordes in.

When you go to Legin for dim sum, you want to be seated in the dim sum dining room, usually Dining Room C. Sit elsewhere at your peril.

You can't complain about the quantity and variety. We were seated and there were lots of carts with lots of steamer baskets of goodies, so we began with shaomai (pork dumplings) and hargau (shrimp dumplings). These were warm, but not hot; the shrimp fresh, the wheat starch wrapper a little gummy.

We tried many things. Tripe (okay, I didn't try that), taro dumpling, cheong fun (rice noodle rolls), a dumpling with shrimp and chinese greens, and chinese broccoli. For the most part, these were okay, though I've had better versions elsewhere in town, in particular at Wong's King and even at Fong Chong.

While enjoyed a great variety of dishes, only one was served hot, the very last plate of shaomai. There were several dumplings that I usually enjoy (like scallop, or shrimp in rice ball, or the fried meat dumplings) that tasted mostly like library paste.

And yet. The humbao was light and fluffy, really much better than what you usually find in Portland.

Consistency is an issue here. From week to week, you may find things better or worse.

Prices appear to be higher here. We were a bit restrained and it cost $13 a head.

So, in the end, do you have to wait in line, or have a hard time finding something to eat? These aren't likely at Legin. You may find better dim sum elsewhere in town, but this, for the most part, isn't bad.

filled under Restaurants in SE Portland, Dim Sum in Portland
September 27, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Lum Yuen Chinese Restaurant

28 NW 4th Ave
(503) 229-1888
get there via trimet
find a bike route

Haven't been here yet. What do you think?

filled under dim sum in Portland
January 2, 2007 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wong's King Seafood Restaurant

8733 SE Division St
(503) 788-8883
get there via trimet
find a bike route
dim sum 7 days a week, 10-3
dinner 7 days a week, 11-11

Wong's King Seafood Restaurant

I think all reviews of Wong's King are obligated to begin thusly:

There are other Wong's King, owned by the same family, but the only one you have to take seriously is Wong's King Seafood on SE Division in the new Chinatown. The ones in Sellwood, Sandy and Estacada? You'll get a decent American Chinese meal. But if you are looking for serious high-end Cantonese, get thee to WKS.

Dim sum, a competitive sport.

We knew that the place packs for dim sum on holidays, maybe even on non-holidays, so we got there at 9:30. We were not the first ones there. By 9:45, there were clumps of families there, shivering in the chilly morning, waiting for the doors to open. By the time the doors opened at 9:50, the lobby, filled with chairs, filled with hungry clients.

Word to the wise: have your whole party there when you're seated: if you hold seats for your flakey friends who don't show, you'll be personas non grata in the dining room. I know this sadly from experience. You can get away with this stuff at Fong Chong, but not here.

Within 10 minutes of being seated, every table in the large banquet hall is full. And the carts have already begun. I would have loved to have one of those picture menus so I could accurately name what we had. But everything we had was really good.

Some of the things we had:
-shrimp dumplings
-chicken paws (feet)
-BBQ duck
-sesame balls
-han sui gok (pork in sweet sticky rice then deepfried)
-sticky rice in banana leaves
-ginger chicken
-wu gok (mashed taro in sweet sticky rice then deepfried)
-shrimp dumplings with chives
-BBQ pork pastry
-shrimp paste on sugar cane
-deepfried shrimp balls
-shrimp in rice noodle
I admit being too greedy with the eating to take notes.

Whenever we needed something, be it a fork, 10 glasses of water, a glass of 7up, more shrimp in rice noodle, soy sauce and chili oil, we just asked one of the cart ladies, or one of the staffers gliding around the room, and our wish appeared in a matter of moments.

So we ate to a Mr Cresote level, all of it delectable, and for ten people, it was $86. So it was $10 plus change per person.

Eating off the dinner menu is a little more intimidating.

There's 150 things, and it's hard to tell what to choose from the descriptions. The trick here is to remember that they're known for their seafood, and that they have a healthy trade in BBQ.

A great start to a meal is ordering a BBQ plate (we've had the duck, pork and duchess chicken and they were all good) and some soup. Even old standbys like wonton and hot and sour soups are really something altogether better.

We ordered several seafood dishes, one a suggestion and another a memory of another meal at WKS, and they were both very good—not what we had expected, but something better entirely.

Most entries ring in within a couple bucks of $10 and portions are generous. For $50 including tip and a beer, two of us ate to bursting, and brought some food home.

Other Press:

filled under Restaurants in Southeast Portland, Dim sum in Portland
April 17, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0)



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