My final stop in Portland last week was Empire Chinese Kitchen, a Chinese restaurant right downtown that calls itself “Portland’s first deluxe Chinese Restaurant.” They specialize in dim sum, and also do great renditions of traditional Chinese soul food — but with a strong preference for cooking with the bounty of Maine’s local produce and seafood.
The highlights of my visit to Empire are floating in the image above: lobster dumplings with a salty, savory soy dipping sauce. Dumplings were one of five or six ways I had lobster during my Maine trip, and definitely the most “fused” or cross-cultural way. When my server brought them to the table she said “The chef wanted me to let you know that the lobster in your dumplings was swimming this morning.” They were unreal.
Next I had the hot and sour soup, a traditional version but several rungs above your local Chinese. Those two small dishes were enough along with a side of wok-sauteed bok choy and a pot of tea. I wish every town had their own version of affordable, carefully and healthfully cooked Asian food — yet another reason to envy Portland’s food scene.