Arts & Culture

A Food Journey: Empire Chinese Kitchen

By Sheri Bell

On Friday, April 13, I had the pleasure of dining at Empire Chinese Kitchen. I was a bit put off at first by the menu, as I can be a very fussy eater. I rarely ever eat vegetables unless they’re in a salad, and my favorite Chinese dish is General Tso’s chicken — or beef, which I usually eat with pork fried rice and a side order of teriyaki beef. Coming to Empire Chinese Kitchen was a bit risky for me, what with the upscale atmosphere. We arrived for an early dinner before our trip to the Portland Museum of Art where we listened to poetry readings done by local writers, inspired by the beautiful works of art displayed in the museum.

We were told the wait would be only a few minutes, and were asked if we would like to order a drink at the bar. My dinner companion for this evening was my husband of 27 years. We decided to wait to be seated before ordering our adult beverages. A few moments passed, and we were escorted to our table. After being seated, our server, Tess, arrived and filled our water glasses. We ordered drinks after she shared with us that night’s specials. After leaving us to look over the menu, she went to place our order.

My companion and I had a few questions about some of the menu options and what came with each item. The menu itself was divided into six categories so it was very easy to follow; the prices were clearly marked. It was about six to eight minutes before Tess returned with our drinks and asked if we had any questions. We proceeded to ask about the specials. Once we had our answers, she asked if we needed more time to decide and we replied that we were ready to order.

As always, I ordered first. I had decided on Chinatown Roast Pork, which was boneless  and barbecued. This item was listed under the “small plates” section of the menu and it came with a side of white rice — bacon-fried rice, which was under the Rice & Noodles section of the menu. Additionally, I ordered the Lobster Longevity Noodle, which was located under the Large Plates section of the menu. Tess, in response to the order stated that she did not know if the Lobster Longevity Noodle was available and so she left to check.

She returned in less than a minute to tell us that indeed, it was not available. Tess explained that the chef was willing to give me two other similar options. I eventually settled on the Lobster Lo-Mein. My dining companion ordered Beef Boas, also on the “small plates” specials list, and the Beef & Broad Noodles which was in the Rice & Noodles section.

The Empire restaurant was packed and beginning to fill; there was a line at the door. I noticed a great deal of take-out being ordered, so I asked Tess when she returned with our dinner if the full menu was available for take-out. She replied that it was.

The Chinatown Roast Pork was deliciously sweet; small shaved slices of roast pork with a sweet and tangy BBQ sauce. The Bacon fried rice consisted of a large portion, and tasted heaven- sent. Bacon always makes things better. My Lobster Lo-Mein was plated beautifully, and tasted as good as it looked. My companion’s Beef Boas looked interesting and tasted great. He stated that the Beef & Broad noodles were delightfully pleasant; he offered me a taste and I agreed with his verdict.

As usual when eating Chinese food, we ordered way too much food and had to ask for a doggie bag. Going to The Empire Chinese Kitchen was a wonderful experience, and our server Tess was attentive, accommodating and very knowledgeable about the menu. The food was delicious and the atmosphere was inviting. The wait time for being seated was extremely short — only a matter of minutes. The wait time for food after ordering was short as well, and the overall flow of the dining experience was excellent. We will certainly be returning to the Empire Chinese Kitchen.

Categories: Arts & Culture

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