I love award shows. Until we cut the cable cord recently, I watched them all. As part of my ritual a family tradition was born where we always get Chinese take-out to enjoy during the show. This tradition became a favorite with my girls even if they didn’t always watch the show with me. But, one thing that we have struggled with even as the tradition has persisted is finding good Chinese food.
When we lived in Massachusetts, we lived close to a Chinese restaurant with excellent take-out so we had fairly high standards. While we’ve circled through a variety of local places we still haven’t found the right one yet. After reading great reviews for Empire Chinese Kitchen, I was hopeful we would finally find a restaurant that matched our standards.
As the year of the Rooster dawned, we headed over to Empire Chinese Kitchen for a late lunch. The vibe was modern and fresh with exposed wood ceiling beams and white walls accented in red, not anything like my clichéd experiences with other Chinese restaurants. After being seated and ordering our drinks, I scanned the menu. This is a Dim Sum style restaurant with small plates and a few larger plates all meant for sharing.
The menu did not list your typical generic Pu Pu Platter for two loaded with heavy sauces and other overly rich dishes, but rather had more complex offerings that take advantage of locally sourced ingredients.
We ordered a couple of small plates and a rice dish:
Lobster Rangoon (4 scallion & minced carrot) / 4 – $8.00
Empire Eggroll (local beef pastrami, asparagus, cabbage) – $7
Bacon Fried Rice (local bacon / sweet corn / spring onion / egg (GF))- $14
The food arrived quickly and was delicious, light and tasty. I especially enjoyed my lobster rangoon. Rangoon is one of my favorite appetizers, and I would put these at the top as some of the best I’ve had. Our fried rice had chunks of bacon and plenty of flavor. I am not a fan of egg rolls so my husband ate the Empire egg roll solo which he was happy to do. It was overflowing with pastrami.
It was a quick-lunch so we’ll have to venture back for a more leisurely visit when we can try out more of the menu offerings. We did take home the Szechuan Ramen noodles [wonton, roast pork, broccoli, tofu & soba noodles in duck broth – $16] to our daughter. We were able to order the ramen at the spice level desired. We opted for the medium spicy which seemed to work great. She had not problem finishing it off.
The food was wonderful, but sadly the Empire Chinese Kitchen is geographically not local enough to become our go to spot for takeout to accompany our award show viewing sessions so our search continues. We’ll definitely be back to Empire Chinese Kitchen again in the future even if we weren’t able to enjoy takeout from them during the Oscars last month.
If you’re looking to try out a new restaurant, Maine Restaurant Week is happening right now (March 1-12, 2017) which means there are special menus and pricing at many restaurants throughout the state. While I didn’t see Empire Chinese Kitchen on their list or participating locations, there are many other fun destinations that you can try. We usually check out one or two spots during this annual winter event. It’s a great excuse for a night out. Now that I need one!
|things to know|
|Restaurant||The Empire Chinese Kitchen|
|Location||575 Congress Street
Portland, ME 04101
|Website||Empire Chinese Kitchen|
|Favorite ♥||Lobster Rangoon|