Pasta in a Cheese Wheel in LA

Travel Tuesday is back, thanks to a recent trip to LA. These trips have been to visit family, so I prioritized being able to spend as much time with family, particularly my new niece who turns 6 months old at the end of March, and her schedule of feedings and naps. Generally this meant food at home via delivery or take out and leftovers from lunch – and I try to keep my asks reasonable at maybe 2 restaurants I want to try out each visit. Recently, the big one on my list was to eat pasta in a cheese wheel, which I found is offered at lunch and dinner at Forma Restaurant in Santa Monica.

Forma is named after cheese and all about the cheese. Their cheese bar offers more then 50 cheeses, breaking up the cheese sectiosn based on hardness (soft ripened, washed rind, semi-soft, semi-hard) and a whole section for just truffled cheese (cheese with white or black truffle). They have a few US cheeses from California, Vermont, Wisconsin, New York, and Oregon, but most are imported from Italy, France, Holland, England and Spain. This does not count the fresh cheeses like burrata and the mozzarella knots that you can also find in their small plates section. Of course I got burrata. This is the Burrata Stracciata with creamy burrata, prosciutto, plum ad citrus conserva, and micro basil.
Forma Restaurant offers an impressive cheese bar with more then 50 cheeses, a few from the US but mostly from France, Italy, Spain, England, and Holland, but also a few fresh cheeses not part of that 50 count on their small plates menu such as mozzarella knots or this dish of Burrata Stracciata with creamy burrata, prosciutto, plum ad citrus conserva, and micro basil

We ordered another starter of Filet Mignon Tartare, a dish of avocado, fresno chile pepper, capers, shallot, parmigiano, on grilled bread. I was really happy to see them go to the cheese bar in the back to freshly shave the parmigiano from the cheese wheel and bury these toasts in them!
At Forma Restaurant Filet Mignon Tartare, a dish of avocado, fresno chile pepper, capers, shallot, parmigiano, on grilled bread. I was really happy to see them go to the cheese bar in the back to freshly shave the parmigiano from the cheese wheel and bury these toasts in them

Besides the expert cheese selections, Forma Restaurant also offers something really unique: a few pastas served Dalla Forma. This is where freshly cooked pasta is then finished in large cheese wheels prior to being served by someone grating cheese and mixing it all up in melty goodness in the cheese wheel.
Besides the expert cheese selections, Forma Restaurant also offers something really unique: a few pastas served Dalla Forma. This is where freshly cooked pasta is then finished in large cheese wheels prior to being served by someone grating cheese and mixing it in the cheese wheel. Besides the expert cheese selections, Forma Restaurant also offers something really unique: a few pastas served Dalla Forma. This is where freshly cooked pasta is then finished in large cheese wheels prior to being served by someone grating cheese and mixing it in the cheese wheel.

They don’t do this tableside as the restaurant is too intimate for the requisite cart to lug the cheese wheel from table to table to do so, but there is an open view of the cheese bar in the back and you can totally go up to watch the cheese magic happen like I did.
Besides the expert cheese selections, Forma Restaurant also offers something really unique: a few pastas served Dalla Forma. This is where freshly cooked pasta is then finished in large cheese wheels prior to being served by someone grating cheese and mixing it in the cheese wheel. Besides the expert cheese selections, Forma Restaurant also offers something really unique: a few pastas served Dalla Forma. This is where freshly cooked pasta is then finished in large cheese wheels prior to being served by someone grating cheese and mixing it in the cheese wheel.

In terms of the pasta in the Dalla Forma section, there are four options:

  • Chitarra Cacio E Pepe, a dish with home made spaghetti, black pepper, extra virgin olive oil tossed in pecorino romano cheese
  • Fettucini Bolognese, a fettucini pasta in beef ragu tossed with butter in parmigiano reggiano cheese
  • Risotto Milanese, a risotto dish with rice, saffron, and veal ossobuco then tossed in grana padano cheese
  • Tortellini, a dish of tortellini pasta with mushrooms, light cream, truffle oil then tossed with bella lodi cheese

Besides the expert cheese selections, Forma Restaurant also offers something really unique: a few pastas served Dalla Forma. This is where freshly cooked pasta is then finished in large cheese wheels prior to being served by someone grating cheese and mixing it in the cheese wheel. Besides the expert cheese selections, Forma Restaurant also offers something really unique: a few pastas served Dalla Forma. This is where freshly cooked pasta is then finished in large cheese wheels prior to being served by someone grating cheese and mixing it in the cheese wheel.
We ordered the first and last on that list, as these two  were vegetarian so one of my sisters (who is vegetarian) could also eat it. I also kept in mind and controlled my gluttony to leave room for a visit we would be making after this lunch to a friend’s place where we knew there would be some home-cooked Thai food. But I’ll gladly be back again for more, especially that truffled cheese section.

Here are the Chitarra Cacio E Pepe dish of homemade spaghetti, black pepper, extra virgin olive oil tossed in pecorino romano cheese and the Tortellini pasta with mushrooms, light cream, truffle oil then tossed with bella lodi cheese, once plated. The tortellini pasta doesn’t look like much visually but the pasta itself stuffed with cheese and mushrooms inside were my favorite, while I wish there had been a lot more pepper in the cacio e pepe.
Forma Restaurant also offers something really unique: a few pastas served Dalla Forma. This is where freshly cooked pasta is then finished in large cheese wheels prior to being served by someone grating cheese and mixing it in the cheese wheel.. This is the Chitarra Cacio E Pepe dish of homemade spaghetti, black pepper, extra virgin olive oil tossed in pecorino romano cheese once plated. Forma Restaurant also offers something really unique: a few pastas served Dalla Forma. This is where freshly cooked pasta is then finished in large cheese wheels prior to being served by someone grating cheese and mixing it in the cheese wheel.. This is the Tortellini pasta with mushrooms, light cream, truffle oil then tossed with bella lodi cheese, once plated.

We also tried the Trofie Al Pesto, a dish of fresh pasta, basil pesto, vegetables, pine nuts, parmigiano cheese (my other sister, the mother of my niece, is a pesto lover!) , and shared a dessert dish of the bombolone alla crema with chocolate sauce, which the waiter described as a bit like an Italian jelly doughnut, but was decidedly much better then a jelly doughnut. Although it is fried it isn’t as sickly sweet to me as most doughnuts on the outside or the creamy inside.
Forma Restaurant main dish of Trofie Al Pesto, a dish of fresh pasta, basil pesto, vegetables, pine nuts, parmigiano cheese Forma Restaurant dessert dish of the bombolone alla crema with chocolate sauce Forma Restaurant dessert dish of the bombolone alla crema with chocolate sauce

Have you ever heard of pasta in a cheese bowl before, which of the four dalla forma pastas would you have picked? What’s your favorite pasta usually?

Forma Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Shigezo

What is your favorite little restaurant in your neighborhood that you can go to any day for a quick date? For F and I, it used to be a Mediterranean place but that closed own recently and now our spot is Shigezo Sushi Izakaya and Sushi. Shigezo is a Japanese restaurant that has a large menu that can make omnivores, vegetarians, vegans, and the gluten free all happy. They offer sushi, but I particulalry love their rice bowls, grilled items, and ramen. I even find room to squeeze in desserts. Here are some of our favorite dishes.

For the vegetarian and vegans out there, here’s a starter for you from the happy hour menu: Deep fried tofu in hot soy broth, or the Temaki, or hand roll of the Veggie Roll with avocado, cucumber, shiso leaf, daikon sprouts, yamagobo, and sesame seeds.
Shigezo Agedashi Tofu appetizer with fried tofu, mochi, ginger, grated daikon, shishito pepper Shigezo happy hour Temaki, or hand roll: this is the Veggie Roll with avocado, cucumber, shiso leaf, daikon sprouts, yamagobo, and sesame seeds

Shigezo has a Robata Grill, so you can order individual skewers like these – Thigh, Breast, Pork Belly, Quail Egg and Bacon, and Flank Steak skewers. Thankfully, Shigezo has much more space so you won’t be elbow to elbow and in a cloud of smoke like the typical hole in the wall izakaya in an alley in Tokyo! They have about a dozen skewers so not as many as an in izakaya, but half are meat and half are vegetables so they are great appetizers before your meal. Or just order skewers as a snack accompaniment to drinks like beer or sake, which is what most people do in Japan. The skewers are part of the happy hour menu!
Shigezo has a Robata, so you can get grilled skewers like these - Thigh, Breast, Pork Belly, Quail Egg and Bacon skewers Shigezo has a Robata, so you can get grilled skewers and the skwers are on their regular adn happy hour menu

They also have a handful of teppan grill items not on skewers, such as Grilled Chicken Thigh with choice of Yakitori sauce or Shio Dare (it doesn’t look like much, but the crunchy pieces of chicken are delish) and my favorite, squid such as Grilled Squid Legs (available for happy hour) or the Grilled Drunk Squid, a grilled squid marinated with soy sauce, mirin and sugar over night, both are served with mayo and chili pepper.
Shigezo Grilled Squid Legs, served with mayo and chili pepper Shigezo Grilled Drunk Squid dish, Grilled squid marinated with soy sauce, mirin and sugar over night, served with mayo and chili pepper

Another hole in the wall type of food I sometimes crave is Tempura. In Japan, there are some small restaurants that only do tempura, and you can choose stick by stick what you want. At Shigezo you have the option of vegetables usually on a specials menu (such as kabocha squash) or the classic shrimp and I usually just go for Shrimp Tempura.
Shigezo's 5 pieces of shrimp tempura with shishito pepper

Japanese curry with rice donburi is super comforting. Often Japanese curries have meat, but at Shigezo they also have a Japanese Vegetable Curry that is vegan with eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, asparagus, carrots, and onion in mild brown curry with shredded cabbage over rice. They have this on the dinner and happy hour menu.
Often Japanese curries have meat, but at Shigezo they also have a Vegetable Curry that is vegan with eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, asparagus, carrots, and onion in mild brown curry with shredded cabbage over rice.

For the omnivore, the curry I prefer is the Chicken Katsu Curry, a panko fried chicken breast on top of beef curry with shredded cabbage and rice.
Shigezo has on their happy menu this great Chicken Katsu Curry, a panko fried chicken breast on top of beef curry with shredded cabbage and rice.

For the omnivore who wants something lighter then curry, I really like the Shigezo Kitchen special of Seafood Takikomi Don, a Japanese style rice bowl dish cooked with soy sauce, mirin, eringi and and enoki mushrooms and topped with crab, salmon roe, and shiso leaf
Shigezo Kitchen special of Seafood Takikomi Don, a Japanese style rice bowl dish cooked with soy sauce, mirin, eringi and and enoki mushrooms and topped with crab, salmon roe, and shiso leaf

They have delicious ramen with broth, but I also like something unusual that you don’t always see at ramen places – Abu Ramen. All year round, they have Abu Ramen or Udon – your choice of ramen or udon noodles, tossed in house shiodare, vegetable ramen base, garlic oil, chili paste and onion oil, topped with chashu pork, soft boiled egg, green onions, bean sprouts, tempura puffs and crispy wontons – can be made vegan or vegetarian by excluding the pork or egg.
Shigezu Abu Ramen or Udon - your choice of ramen or udon noodles, tossed in house shiodare, vegetable ramen base, garlic oil, chili paste and onion oil, topped with chashu pork, soft boiled egg, green onions, bean sprouts, tempura puffs and crispy wontons - can be made vegan or vegetarian by excluding the pork or egg Shigezu Abu Ramen or Udon - your choice of ramen or udon noodles, tossed in house shiodare, vegetable ramen base, garlic oil, chili paste and onion oil, topped with chashu pork, soft boiled egg, green onions, bean sprouts, tempura puffs and crispy wontons - can be made vegan or vegetarian by excluding the pork or egg

For vegetarians and vegans, besides the Abu you can also get a broth noodle bowl. Here below you see the Shigezo Happy hour portion of Veggie Udon, which is vegan, with napa cabbage, green onion, shungiku, eringi, enoki, tempura puffs, and homemade udon noodles in a seaweed and soy broth.
Shigezo Happy hour portion of Veggie Udon, which is vegan, with napa cabbage, green onion, shungiku, eringi, enoki, tempura puffs, and homemade udon noodles in a seaweed and soy broth

Try to leave some room for dessert. Here you can find special dessert menu items, such as here Coconut Butter Mochi, a rich and delicate homemade Hawaiian style mochi cake served with your choice of vanilla, adzuki green tea or mango ice cream, or Goma Dango a dish with fried sesame balls filled with adzuki served with sweet potato chip and your choice of vanilla, adzuki green tea or mango ice cream
From Shigezo, special dessert menu item of Coconut Butter Mochi, a rich and delicate homemade Hawaiian style mochi cake served with your choice of ice cream From Shigezo, special dessert menu item of Goma Dango, a dish with fried sesame balls filled with adzuki served with sweet potato chip and your choice of vanilla, adzuki green tea or mango ice cream

Do you have a favorite Japanese restaurant in your neighborhood, whether it be for yakitori or sushi or whatever, what is it?

Shigezo Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Chinese Food in Portland – Duck House Portland

Duck House Portland opened in fall last year, and as per its name, you can definitely find Peking Duck here. They have a large menu, and it includes some Szechuan gems that you might not easily find at most Chinese restaurants, and also some Americanized Chinese dishes of you are looking for something familiar for yourself or the kids. Their Peking Duck, as well as several other dishes at Duck House, are totally worth it in my opinion especially the more hard to find ones. It’s my favorite of the three Chinese new places in Portland that recently opened. Here’s a look see.
Duck House Chinese Restaurant in Portland by Portland State University at the corner of SW 5th and College Street, in the old First National Taphouse (you will still see their tables labeled from the original owners)

They only have a limited number of ducks in stock, so to make sure you don’t miss out call ahead to reserve your duck for the day and time. They are very diligent on making sure it comes out perfectly for you, including not letting the skin get soggy, so they will even want you to call to confirm your arrival time an hour before and get nervous and call you again if you are tardy to your table reservation because they want to make sure that the skin is perfectly crispy. You can order just the traditional Peking Duck wrap version which you see below that comes with 12 pancakes, shredded cucumber, shredded scallions, and Peking Sweet Sauce.
Duck House Chinese Restaurant in Portland traditional Peking Duck wrap version comes with 12 pancakes, shredded cucumber, shredded scallions, and Peking Sweet Sauce Duck House Chinese Restaurant in Portland traditional Peking Duck wrap version comes with 12 pancakes, shredded cucumber, shredded scallions, and Peking Sweet Sauce

Or you can get adds on of either the Duck Bone Soup or the Duck Meat with Bean Sprout. Or get all three! If you get all three, this Duck Trio is basically a meal in itself for 4-6 people.   If you have more (like 10 people) then you can reasonably order more food to go with the duck. I prefer getting the whole thing so I know we’ve used the whole animal, even the bones.
Duck House Chinese Restaurant in Portland traditional Peking Duck wrap version which you see below that comes with 12 pancakes, shredded cucumber, shredded scallions, and Peking Sweet Sauce. You can get adds on of either the Duck Bone Soup or the Duck Meat with Bean Sprout. Or get all three Duck House Chinese Restaurant in Portland traditional Peking Duck wrap version which you see below that comes with 12 pancakes, shredded cucumber, shredded scallions, and Peking Sweet Sauce. You can get adds on of either the Duck Bone Soup or the Duck Meat with Bean Sprout. Or get all three

If you are not getting the duck, or have enough to justify ordering more dishes with the duck, definitely get at least one or two appetizers. Winners that I’ve enjoyed include the xiao long bao or Shanghai Soup Dumplings, famous for having meat and soup inside that doughy pouch of a dumpling. To eat, gently rock to separate it from the paper in the steamer and enjoy it with the black vinegar sauce. You can choose from pork xiao long bao or shrimp and pork xiao long bao for $1 more. There’s nothing wrong with the seven other dumplings – pot stickers and dumplings with various meat combos – but the xiao long bao are the stars of the dumpling choices. There’s a little extra dough at the top as you can see in the photo, but the filling inside is juicy and you can see how the pack is ready to burst in your mouth. So far these are the best Xiao Long Bao I’ve had in Portland.
Duck House Chinese Restaurant in Portland xiao long bao or Shanghai Soup Dumplings, famous for having meat and soup inside that doughy pouch of a dumpling. You can choose from pork xiao long bao or shrimp and pork xiao long bao for $1 more Duck House Chinese Restaurant in Portland xiao long bao or Shanghai Soup Dumplings, famous for having meat and soup inside that doughy pouch of a dumpling. You can choose from pork xiao long bao or shrimp and pork xiao long bao for $1 more

Besides the dumplings, you will also find in the Appetizers section the egg rolls, szechuan wontons with chili oil and three kinds of buns (two steamed bun versions, one pan fried bun). The Pan Fried Bun is worth a call out because they are also a Shanghai specialty also known as sheng jian bao and which have a little bit of gelatin that melts inside along with the pork meat ball inside. There might be a little too much dough around it, but it’s still a fun dish. I also recommend the wontons in chili oil as they are bold in flavor.
Duck House Chinese Restaurant in Portland szechuan wontons with chili oil Duck House Chinese Restaurant pan fried bun

Finally, in the appetizers section you will notice pancakes three different ways: the Golden Sesame Pancakes and Green Onion Pancakes are flat versions, while the Beef Roll takes a pancake and rolls it with seasoned ground beef. These are classic Chinese yummies that if you don’t usually see Chinese Pancake are worth a try.
Duck House Chinese Restaurant in Portland Beef Roll takes a pancake and rolls it with seasoned ground beef Duck House Chinese Restaurant in Portland Beef Roll takes a pancake and rolls it with seasoned ground beef

The rest of the large menu really runs the gamut from American Chinese favorites like Honey Walnut Prawns, Moo Shu Pork, Orange Chicken, and General Tso Chicken to authentic Chinese like hearty Braised Beef Noodle Soup using the wide noodles like in Chow Fun,  or any of the Szechuan Hot and Spicy Dried Pot dishes.  These Szechuan Hot and Spicy Dried Pots arrive on a fired sizzling pan, definitely are worthwhile. You get your choice of protein varying from beef to lamb to mushrooms or in my case tofu shown, served with bean sprout, celery, bamboo shoots, leeks and bell pepper.
Szechuan Hot and Spicy Dried Pot with here Tofu or other choice of protein, served with bean sprout, celery, bamboo shoots, leeks and bell pepper sizzling at Duck House Portland Szechuan Hot and Spicy Dried Pot with here Tofu or other choice of protein, served with bean sprout, celery, bamboo shoots, leeks and bell pepper sizzling at Duck House Portland

The Szechuan Dan Dan Noodles were a bit more peanut-ty then I anticipated, but a little of chili oil added in from the garnishes (you can ask for the chili oil or Sriracha) balances it out with just that extra bit of spiciness needed. Then again I may have a higher desire for heat than the average person.
Duck House Chinese Restaurant Szechuan Dan Dan Noodles were a bit more peanut-ty then I anticipated, but a little of chili oil added in from the garnishes (you can ask for the chili oil or Sriracha) balances it out with just that extra bit of spiciness needed. Duck House Chinese Restaurant Szechuan Dan Dan Noodles were a bit more peanut-ty then I anticipated, but a little of chili oil added in from the garnishes (you can ask for the chili oil or Sriracha) balances it out with just that extra bit of spiciness needed.

They have an affordable and decent list of beers which I think are the best accompaniment to cool down spiciness. You can also take as a good sign that you will find lots of other Chinese people here of multiple generations (I’ve seen the college students up to grandparents with red envelopes on Chinese New Year) as your fellow patrons: it’s not just a Chinese joint catering to nearby PSU.

The portions here are what you would normally see at most Chinese restaurants that have a lazy susan so you can share platters that feed a whole table, so you can see quite a feast on your table just by ordering a few dishes that you should definitely all share. Don’t expect the lazy susan’s here though, as they are reusing the square wooden tables from the previous tenant, First National Taphouse.

some food at Duck House Restaurant in Portland

Are you a fan of Szechuan food? Have you had any of the dishes I’ve mentioned before? Do you eat Peking Duck?

Of the three recently Chinese restaurants I shared, Danwei Canting, XLB, and Duck House which are you most interested in?

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XLB Portland

Recently in the past few months, three new restaurants have opened in Portland featuring Chinese food. Here’s a quick primer on the three new options for Chinese Food in Portland. Here’s a look at what XLB offers. I have other posts that cover Danwei Canting from yesterday and tomorrow will be Duck House Restaurant.

Of the three new adds for Asian food recently to Portland, XLB has the coolest atmosphere.

Menu at XLB in Portland Interior of XLB in Portland

Here at XLB, it’s counter service, which can be confusing if you come during a busy time when there’s a wait to order and for a table since at its busiest even if you order there’s no place to sit yet so they can’t deliver you your food unless it’s to go.

When it’s time, you order from the register, they hand you a number, you get a table, and they will bring your food to you and bus it after you’re done. You serve yourself water or tea from the station right behind the register – the tables already have chopsticks and spoons, but if you want other utensils they are also located here.

With all these dishes be aware they are sized so you can have the dish itself as your individual entree, or at most maybe share among 2 people – so order accordingly, it’s not like the traditional Chinese place with a lazy susan and platters that can feed 4-8.

Interior of XLB in Portland

They have vegetarian and vegan options – 5 dishes are or can be made vegan, including 3 sauteed vegetables, 1 tofu noodle with black bean paste, and 1 wok fried tofu dish minus Chinese sausage. I also appreciated that they had plenty of beverages, nine taps with half beer and wine, bottled beers, and non alcoholic beverages like Portland Soda Works Lychee Lime or Orange, Soy Milk, grass jelly, basil seed, and winter melon juices.
Menu at XLB in Portland Beverages at XLB in Portland
XLB is the shorthand for Xiao Long Bao, or Chinese soup dumplings. Xiao Long Bao are Shanghai Soup Dumplings with seasoned pork filling with ginger and garlic mixed with pork stock that is wrapped in dough. They are the specialty here, and so you should be pretty much see every table ordering one of these.
At XLB in Portland, Xiao Long Bao, the Shanghai Soup Dumplings with seasoned pork filling with ginger and garlic mixed with pork stock that is wrapped in dough At XLB in Portland, Xiao Long Bao, the Shanghai Soup Dumplings with seasoned pork filling with ginger and garlic mixed with pork stock that is wrapped in dough

You may, like during my visit, see the assembly line in their kitchen continuously making more of these labor intensive dumplings. I’m hoping it’s only the initial opening months kinks that although I found the skin to insides ratio ok, the broth still seemed watery to not have the burst of as much flavor as I hoped for. The flavors over my visits have been improving.
Menu at XLB in Portland

It takes a while for the xiao long bao since it is steamed to order, so I recommend also getting the Baozi or Bao – the steamed doughy buns filled with various options depending on what you order. These come out of the kitchen the fastest. I had the Hoisin Duck Baozi, filled with hoison duck leg and scallions, or you could get the Pork and Cabbage Baozi with pork and cabbage seasoned with ginger, garlic, and soy sauce, or the Mushroom and Chive Baozi with king oyster mushrooms and chives (vegetarian but not vegan as there is dairy in the bao dough).
XLB Portland, I had the Hoisin Duck Baozi, filled with hoison duck leg and scallions, or you could get the Pork and Cabbage Baozi with pork and cabbage seasoned with ginger, garlic, and soy sauce, or the Mushroom and Chive Baozi with king oyster mushrooms and chives (vegetarian but not vegan as there is dairy in the bao dough). XLB Portland, I had the Hoisin Duck Baozi, filled with hoison duck leg and scallions, or you could get the Pork and Cabbage Baozi or the Mushroom and Chive Baozi XLB Portland, I had the Hoisin Duck Baozi, filled with hoison duck leg and scallions, or you could get the Pork and Cabbage Baozi or the Mushroom and Chive Baozi

You may see the bao being made too – here’s Jasper Shen himself closing up those bao.
Bao line with Jasper Chen at XLB in Portland

To round out your meal, order noodles and vegetables, like the Shanghai Pork and Shrimp Noodles with stir fried udon noodles tossed with ground pork, shrimp, and yu choy, or the XLB Portland dish of Tofu Gan with Chinese Sausage, firm tofu marinated in soy and spices wok fried with celery, soy beans, and chinese sausage (you can get it without the sasuage to make it vegan), which I think are the best of those dishes.
XLB Portland dish of Shanghai Pork and Shrimp Noodles with stir fried udon noodles tossed with ground pork, shrimp, and yu choy. XLB Portland dish of Tofu Gan with Chinese Sausage, firm tofu marinated in soy and spices wok fried with celery, soy beans, and chinese sausage.

XLB is open 11 AM – 2 PM and 5 – 10 PM every day but is closed Mondays. All the food except for the XLB soup dumplings are available to go.
Interior of XLB in Portland Decor at XLB in Portland

What do you think of the atmosphere of XLB?

Some of the food at XLB in Portland

XLB Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Danwei Canting

Recently in the past few months, three new restaurants have opened in Portland featuring Chinese food. Here’s a quick primer on the three new options for Chinese Food in Portland from Danwei Canting, XLB, and Duck House and what differentiates each one, I’ll do all three of these posts back-to-back. This first post is about Danwei Canting.
A look inside Danwei Canting A look inside Danwei Canting
What differentiates Danwei Canting is the specialization into food you would be able to get in Beijing. The service is casual counter service which seems to continue to trend this year – you go to the register where you first place your order, pay, and get a Chinese character card which is how they’ll find you to deliver your food. The food comes in simple metal plates or white bowls, and they bus your dishes from your table for you. There is a board above the register with photos of all the food, but you can find descriptions on paper menus right at the door you enter on the Stark Street side (vs the other entrance on the SE Sandy side). You’ll want to head towards the China + Portland mashup mural.
A look inside Danwei Canting
Danwei Canting after you order at the counter, you are given a card with a number where they then deliver your food

Here, you’ll find Jiaozi, or dumplings, that are steamed and offer fillings of pork jiaozi with ginger, chives, garlic and napa cabbage (white dough skin), lamb jiaozi with lamb, cumin, ginger, fermented chilis and napa cabbage (orange dough), or tofu jiaozi with tofu with sweet potato noodles, scallions, carrots and sesame (green dough). Eat these with the imported Donghu brand of the famous Shanxi mature black vinegar which you pour into the smaller sauce container already waiting with slices of bamboo shoots and ginger. Be generous dunking into the vinegar because that’s really what these dumplings are, a vehicle to get all that sauce.
Danwei Canting are really proud of their dumplings - they even imported a special dumpling making machine in order to make the capacity they need. They offer Pork Jiaozi, Spicy Lamb Jiaozi (pictured), and a vegetarian Tofu Jiaozi Danwei Canting are really proud of their dumplings - they even imported a special dumpling making machine in order to make the capacity they need. They offer Pork Jiaozi, Spicy Lamb Jiaozi and this pictured vegetarian Tofu Jiaozi

A not often seen street food, xianbing is also available here, where they offer Spiced Beef Jianbing with the minced beef sandwiched between the flaky dough layers. These are pretty good with or without sauce.
Danwei Canting Spiced Beef Jianbing with the minced beef sandwiched between the flaky dough layers Danwei Canting Spiced Beef Jianbing with the minced beef sandwiched between the flaky dough layers

Another common in Beijing but not so common dish you’ll find here are Beijing Peanuts, work roasted peanuts in black vinegar with scallions and cilantro. Other street food options include Xinjiang lamb skewers and Paigu (chinese style crispy pork ribs). I find all three of these to lean more towards “drinking food” as they are not dishes you eat on their own: you need drinks, or other dishes to balance them out. My favorite are the ribs of these three.
Danwei Canting Beijing Peanuts, work roasted peanuts in black vinegar with scallions and cilantro Danwei Canting Paigu (chinese style crispy pork ribs)

As the latter lamb and pork dishes come with just the meat on the platter, you might consider ordering a rice dish. You can just order a side of plain rice, or get a entree with rice. Danwei Canting offers two meat and rice entrees like the Chongqing Chicken, a dish of spicy chicken with whole chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorns, or Hongshao Rou a dish of pork belly cooked with star anise and cinnamon and fennel seed respectively).
Danwei Canting spicy chicken with whole chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorns Danwei Canting meat dish served with rice and seasonal pickles of Hong Shao Rou wtih red cooked pork belly with star anise, cinnamon, fennel seed, and crispy skin

Or try the vegetable dishes of wok seared Cauliflower with Sweet Peppers or the Green Beans with Pork and fermented bean paste. They also offer two dry noodle dishes and wonton noodle with soup,  but I preferred the rice dishes to the noodle dishes. With all these dishes notice that they are sized so you can have the dish itself as your individual entree, or at most maybe share among 2 people – so order accordingly, it’s not like the traditional Chinese place with a lazy susan and platters that can feed 4-8.

Danwei Canting Cauliflower with Sweet Peppers Danwei Canting noodle dish of Chongqing Liang Mian with thin chilled egg noodles with shredded chicken, sesasme paste, radish and spicy Chonqing sauce

Danwei Canting also offers a Beijing take on burgers, such as Pork Rou Jia Mou with pork shoulder braised with star anise, fennel seed, and ginger, or a Lamb Rou Jia Mou with lamb, ginger, and chilis, or the Spicy Tofu Rou Jia Mou with tofu roasted with cilantro, sesame and chile. I think this Spicy Tofu burger is the best option for vegetarians, and even for non vegetarians of the burgers.
Danwei Canting offers three burger/sandwiches, one of which is this vegetarian Spicy Tofu Rou Jia Mou with tofu roasted with cilantro, sesame, and chilies Danwei Canting offers three burger/sandwiches, one of which is this vegetarian Spicy Tofu Rou Jia Mou with tofu roasted with cilantro, sesame, and chilies

For drinks, look to the baijiu, which are the national liquor of China. Cheap, strong, and gluten free as it is made from sorghum and rice and usually consumed in small glasses or as shots. The baijiu here at Danwei Canting is courtesy of local Vinn Distillery and is under their Elixers section. You will find flavored versions spicy Sichuan peppers, or Star anise with ginger, clove, and goji, or Asian pear with bamboo and white wood mushroom. They also offer the baijiu in cocktails, like the Danwei Canting cocktail of Lao Ban with Vinn Baijiu infused with fresh ginger and lime, ginger beer, and ginger sugar rim.
Danwei Canting presents baijiu from Vinn Distillery, Elixers #2 and #3, but my favorite was #1 but it is really spicy so be prepared, otherwise my next fave is #2 with ginger Danwei Canting presents baijiu from Vinn Distillery, Danwei Canting cocktail of Lao Ban with Vinn Baijiu infused with fresh ginger and lime, ginger beer, and ginger sugar rim

A different cocktail I enjoyed was there in January, but replaced in February with the Black Cat cocktail with Burnside Bourbon, Townshend’s Smoke Tea Liqueur, sweet vermouth, splash of black currant syrup, dash of black walnut bitters so it looks like we’ll be seeing them rotate often.
Black Cat cocktail from Danwei Canting with Burnside Bourbon, Townshend's Smoke Tea Liqueur, sweet vermouth, splash of black currant syrup, dash of black walnut bitters

What would you order on a visit to Danwei Canting?

Danwei Canting Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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