Traveling thousands of miles for a great meal might seem extreme to some, but it makes sense to members of the Zhen family. As a group who's passionate about good food, they understand why some people travel just to taste delicacies from around the world. Fortunately, local diners need only travel as far as Taste of China—the Zhen family's second restaurant—to find fresh Chinese food that made the Chinese Restaurant News' Top 100 Chinese Restaurants in the USA list for three consecutive years.
Inside the restaurant, aromas waft from the semi-open kitchen, carrying the promise of dishes such as tender beef in spicy Szechuan sauce or shredded mu shu pork with wood ear mushrooms and savory pancakes. For a taste of something truly unique, diners can ask to to eat from the test-kitchen menu of seasonal dishes made from rare and elusive ingredients.
Bamboo Garden's authentic Sichuan cuisine floods palates with spicy flavor while diners relax in a sleek, bamboo-trimmed dining room. Dinner patrons can follow up hearty servings of dip-friendly green-onion pancakes ($3.99) with popular dishes such as the tongue-scorching spicy basil beef ($10.95) and eggplant swimming in hot garlic sauce ($8.95) and snorkeling between the rocky outcroppings of diners' teeth. On the Wild Side menu, sour-and-spicy jellyfish ($6.95) appeases taste buds looking for an adventure more palatable than hanging out with Lou Reed. Lunch specials include entrees such as chopped-pepper hot chicken ($5.99), which prove appetizingly fiery and capable of swiftly silencing hunger growls.
Finely chopped vegetables. Seared slivers of chicken. Sauces that balance sweet and savory notes. These ingredients have come crackling together in the kitchen of Chen's Dynasty since the eatery’s eponymous founder opened it in 1985. Jacob Echeverria took the reins two decades later, and as a longtime associate of the Chen family, Jacob adopted their culinary style.
The Sichuan- and Hunan-style recipes belong to past generations of the Chens, who have eschewed photo albums and immortal butlers to pass down specialties such as peking duck glazed with honey and served with steaming pancakes and hoisin sauce. Another dish, pan-fried oysters, drops onto tables accompanied by onions and ginger, or sizzling with black-bean sauce.
Restaurants often claim they have something for everyone. But with a selection of more than 80 dishes, Best of Szechuan Chinese Cuisine could make that claim without engaging in hyperbole. The eatery's menu specifically revolves around cuisine from southern and western China, including spicy, savory, and colorful dishes from the eponymous mountainous province of western China. The restaurant's chefs hail from Sichuan itself—with years of experience at kitchens in San Francisco and Seattle—and they impart authenticity to their meals as they whip up spicy stir-fried pork, sizzling fire pots of brisket, rabbit, or frog, and string beans and eggplant cooked in dry spices and garlic sauce. Though Best of Szechuan's owner, Lin, reserves a special place in his heart for the hot pots and chili-filled stir-fries of Sichuan, he peppers the menu with meals from his home city of Fuzhou, famous for its seafood delicacies and savory broths.
Best of Szechuan serves these dishes behind a traditional Chinese-style façade with a peaked roof. Inside, towering crimson columns and hanging red lanterns brighten the atmosphere as guests try to estimate the number of times chopsticks have ever been mentioned inside a Chinese restaurant.
The cooks at China Town Restaurant carefully pick fresh ingredients to use in their traditional Chinese entrees, striving to create healthy yet flavorful cuisine. Hot pots of stewed meats emerge from the kitchen alongside steamed spareribs and entrees with incendiary doses of sichuan sauce. Throughout each meal, servers also ply guests with small dim sum plates—including barbecue pork pies, deep-fried lobster balls, and stuffed jalapeños—from carts that navigate the dining room's red vinyl booths and warp tunnels dug all the way to China.
Growing up among the clatter of silverware and plates in his parents’ restaurants, owner Jack Chu went off on his own after he earned his MBA. Instead of clearing tables and standing over steaming pots, he went to his family’s homeland to work as a business consultant for 20 years. There, he tasted authentic Chinese food unlike the Americanized version that graced plates back at home. When he moved back to Portland with his wife, they opened Dragonwell Bistro. In the restaurant, large, arched windows stretch from the floor to the exposed rafters, allowing natural light to bring to life the color of dishes arranged artfully on plates. Chef Chen draws upon more than a decade of experience as he forges sweet and savory sauces, such as a combination of champagne and orange juice destined to glaze lightly battered chicken. A selection of seafood dishes are forged from prawns, scallops, crab, and lobster like Robinson Crusoe’s tea set, and sake, soju, ginger-infused vodka, and green-tea liqueur add exotic twists to cocktails.