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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
You may see the bao being made too – here’s Jasper Shen himself closing up those bao.
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 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.
What do you think of the atmosphere of XLB?