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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Portland Pop Up Restaurant List 2017

Updated March 8 with 3 more popups!

It’s difficult to track pop-ups: they often change up when they are open and where they might appear. Depending on the season, they may close down for a while – and if you don’t pay attention to their social media you could miss when they come back from their sabbatical, while others move on to other ventures. All have limited capacity so if you don’t jump on reservations quickly you are out of luck until the next event.

That means following lots of things on social media or being on several mailing list to become informed immediately when an announcement for a meal event is made with the when, where, etc.  Despite the work, pop up restaurants are often your chance to try great cuisine and meet amazing chefs, as the lineage of pop ups alumni that have now settled into homes like Holdfast Dining, Nodoguro, Langbaan, Coquine, and Nomad PDX are proof. One current popup, Mae PDX, boasts Maya Lovelace who is nominated for 2017 Rising Star Chef of the Year, while another Han Oak is the only Oregon nominee this year in the Best New Restaurant category.

Eater PDX hasn’t updated their list since last year and Willamette Weekly only did a list of 10 back in October. So I’ve done some of the legwork for you and so here’s my Portland Pop Up Restaurant List 2017 as of Updated March 8 to add 2 more popups! to help you keep track of the Portland pop-ups currently operating. These are not ALL the pop ups in Portland, but this is the version I know of now – 24 of them! I did not count the five I mentioned in the first paragraph since they don’t move in location and have more regular schedules now. [Read more…]

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Scallion Pancakes Recipe

I needed 2-3 bulbs of green onions or scallions (yes, green onions and scallions are the same thing!) for a tomato pie recipe with fresh cheeses and uncooked cherry tomatoes I was doing (recipe here!). I asked F to pick some of those up at the Portland Farmers Market. This is what he brought back – after I already took 2 bulbs to use is when I took this photo, with fork to scale.
Green Onions or Scallions from the Portland Farmers Market

Yes that’s right, instead of a few bulbs he brought me two BUNCHES of scallions. It was terrible timing too because I already had multiple meals on my calendar with others for the next week, and then I was traveling to California for work a day then more travel to see family. So, I knew I would have to freeze them.

Have you ever frozen scallions before? It’s pretty simple – wash and chop, and then place them on a pan spread out with wax paper or such, then put them in the freezer. After an hour or so, you can then transfer them from the pan into a freezer ziploc bag. This way, when you want to use them, you can just grab a handful from the bag and they aren’t already all stuck together in a block.
freezing Green Onions or Scallions from the Portland Farmers Market Freezing Green Onions or Scallions from the Portland Farmers Market

You can also make scallion pancakes, which are sort of a mashup between Indian paratha in that it is stuffed with in this case scallions within the bread, but it’s slightly fried and flaky on the outside and soft on the inside, almost like a cheeseless quesadilla. All you need is flour, water, scallions, and oil for this easy peasy Scallion Pancakes Recipe! And, you can even make these pancakes ahead of time and just freeze them too for an easy snack. This is totally vegan!

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • Sesame Oil
  • 1 bunch scallions, by which I mean the tiny ones that are the small size like a foot long at most and maybe 3-5 bulbs… not gigantic monsters like what brought me that are as long as my arm

Directions:

  1. First we’re going to make the dough since it has to rest a bit before making the pancakes. So, in a mixing bowl, mix the 2 1/2 cups flour (traditionally white, but I also make it with whole wheat flour) with 1 cup warm water until it forms a smooth dough. You can do this in a mixer with a bread kneader, or I just do it by hand by continually doubling the dough over and pressing down. If you are using a mixer you can even go up to boiled water – the reason why you want to use warm to hot water is that it breaks down the proteins so there is less gluten when you knead in the next step. This is because you don’t want the dough to be too elastic, and it will make it easy to roll out and stretch.
  2. Coat this ball of dough lightly in oil (maybe a teaspoon or so worth) and put it back in the bowl. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for about 30 minutes.
  3. During this resting time is usually when I do my scallion chopping.
  4. After the dough has rested, cut the dough into 4 equal parts. Lightly oil a working surface and roll out one of those four parts until it is a thin rectangle, it should be only a few millimeters thick.
    Scallion Pancakes Recipe, also known as Green Onions Pancakes - let rest for 30 minutes before cutting into four pieces
  5. With the back of a spoon, I lightly spread some more sesame oil, then sprinkled the chopped scallions
    Recipe for Green Onion Pancake, also known as Scallion Pancakes - Flatten each of the balls, brush with sesame oil and sprink with scallions
  6. Now, starting from one end, start rolling up the dough as tight as you can. Don’t worry if some of it tears a little bit here or there and you have a hole, just keep rolling. Adding layers is how we will get flakiness to the pancake, so this is step one of rolling.
    Recipe for Green Onion Pancake, also known as Scallion Pancakes Recipe - Roll each of the rectangles now brushed with sesame oil and sprinkled with scallions into a long tube
  7. Cut this long rolled tube in half, and then coil each of those halves individually into a circle. Let it rest, and continue with the other parts from the original ball. In the end you will end up with 8 coils which you will have let rest at least 15 minutes. Now you have completed step 2 of adding layers to add flakiness!
    Scallion Pancakes Recipe, also known as a recipe for green onion pancakes
  8. Now, roll or pat each of the 8 coils into a a ball and flatten into a smooth round pancake. At this point, you can freeze them if you’d like – just separate each pancake with a wax paper layer.
    Scallion Pancakes Recipe, also known as a recipe for green onion pancakes Scallion Pancakes Recipe, also known as a recipe for green onion pancakes
  9. To cook the pancakes, heat a pan on high with a tablespoon of oil. After the oil is hot, place the pancake gently in the pan so it doesn’t splash and it should start to sizzle. Let it cook on each side for 2 minutes, it should be golden brown when you flip it. Haha the ones I made below you can totally tell I didn’t pat them as flat because they are so full of scallions since I had soooo many.
    Scallion Pancakes Recipe, also known as a recipe for green onion pancakes

You can cut the pancakes into wedges to serve and dip. Some various dipping sauces you can use include gochuchang or other spicy sauce, Chinese black vinegar, or a mix of soy sauce (usually an equal part of soy sauce and rice vinegar, and then add ginger or chili pepper or a little bit of sugar per your taste).

Have you had Scallion Pancakes before? What sauce would you make alongside this Scallion Pancakes Recipe?

Have you ever sent someone to get you ingredients to hilarious results like my story with the giant bouquet of scallions I received?

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Headwaters Lunch Recommendations

There are certain places I like to recommend for a power lunch – a place you can have lunch with other professionals in an environment that is more informal than a meeting room so you can be comfortable, and you can linger at your table as needed to continue discussions or meetings. The list includes places like Higgins, Nostrana, Clyde Common, Clarklewis, Andina, Urban Farmer, Serrato, Gracie’s, Raven and Rose, and now to that top 10 list, I add Headwaters. Today I want to share my Headwaters Lunch Recommendations.
Bar at Headwaters Open Kitchen at Headwaters

Of course, any power lunch place needs to take reservations, and have tables that are large enough to be comfortable. The atmosphere at Headwaters additionally adds a feeling of formality with the white tablecloths and transparency with the big windows and lots of light from outside during lunch. The space allows some privacy with your tables for conversation.
Seating at Headwaters Seating at Headwaters Seating at Headwaters  Seating at Headwaters Seating at Headwaters Seating at Headwaters

When you visit Headwaters, my recommendations for a sophisticated start that is sure to impress are from the Crudo and Ceviche section the Diver Scallop with truffle and foie gras. If you feel like treating yourself to a special luxury there’s Caviar Buterbrodi here you see the Artic Char Caviar Buterbrodi.
When you visit Headwaters, my recommendations for a sophisticated start that is sure to impress are from the Crudo and Ceviche section the Diver Scallop with truffle and foie gras. Headwaters Artic Char Caviar Buterbrodi.

For appetizers that you can share, look to the vegan Spit Roasted Cauliflower with broccoli sauce and vadouvan. The Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with hazelnuts, pecorino, and lemon is also amazing and large enough to share or keep it for yourself!
Headwaters Spit Roasted Cauliflower with broccoli sauce and vadouvan Headwaters Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with hazelnuts, pecorino, and lemon

The other significant salad I can recommend is the Crab Luigi with mixed lettuces, louie dressing, and it is surrounded by a ring of prosciutto and delicious tender fresh Dungneess Crab in the middle.
Headwaters Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with hazelnuts, pecorino, and lemon Headwaters Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with hazelnuts, pecorino, and lemon

There’s soups (including naturally a chowder for this seafood restaurant,  and also a vegetable bisque). For your main dish, there’s a handful of sandwiches, a pasta dish, fish and chips, seared steelhead and a few unique items like a vegetarian chickpea pancake. I am usually a sucker and keep ordering the veggies and salads and stuff from the Crudo and Ceviche section, but I’ve dined with others who had the sandwiches, pasta, and fish and chips dish and they looked really good.

There are even more seafood options at dinner, and they also are offering a Russian tea service, and brunch! For March they are participating in Portland Dining Month, so you have a chance to try three courses for only $29 choosing from

  1. First Course: Hearth fired flatbread with spinach, radicchio, lemon and Pecorino
  2. Second Course: Seared, herb crusted albacore with potato salad and spring vegetables
  3. Third Course: Butterscotch Pudding, vanilla Chantilly, peanut butter “butterfinger” and sea salt.

Have you been to Headwaters yet, what would you order? You can make reservations at Headwaters – and for March if you do they will donate a portion to the Oregon Food Bank – here at OpenTable.

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