A sampling of Empire Chinese Kitchen’s fare: Peking duck buns, Shanghai soup dumplings, pork potstickers, duck fried rice, orange beef and Kung Pao chicken. Photo by Ray Routhier

Empire Chinese Kitchen in Portland gave me a birthday present, a few months early.

Every year on my birthday, my family and I go out to eat, somewhere where we can sit down and have fancy (for us) fare. A couple years ago, we had a memorable meal at Empire Chinese Kitchen, and this year, I was really hankering to go back.

But I had read in March that the sit-down restaurant closed temporarily because of COVID-19, and during the summer and early fall, I had not heard anything about it reopening for takeout. Then a few weeks before my mid-December birthday, I thought “maybe Empire has reopened, I’ll check.” I was pleased to find they began offering takeout and curbside pickup in early October.

The Kung Pao chicken from Empire Chinese Kitchen in Portland. Photo by Ray Routhier

When I started perusing the online menu, I was also happy to see how extensive it was – all my family’s favorite dishes were there. I also liked the online ordering system, and the fact that you can put in an order any time of day and pick your own pickup time.

So around 3 p.m. on my birthday, I asked my daughters and wife what they wanted, and we put in an order with a curbside pickup time of 5:45 p.m. There was also a neat feature on the website where people can create an account that remembers their order. So the next time, if you want the same thing, you just select “order my usual.” But since this was only my second time eating Empire Chinese Kitchen food, I don’t really have a usual – yet.

My birthday dinner featured three larger dishes and three appetizer-type selections, and we shared them all. The two steamed Peking duck buns ($9) were fluffy and moist, with large slices of duck, hoisin and spring onions inside. The four pork potstickers ($8) were nicely fried dumplings with lots of pork, and the four Shanghai soup dumplings ($7) had pork and a good dose of savory broth inside.

Orange beef from Empire Chinese Kitchen in Portland. Photo by Ray Routhier

The Kung Pao chicken ($16) was the family’s favorite, with chunks of tender chicken, peanuts and thin noodles in slightly spicy sauce. The orange beef ($16) had thin, crisp-on-the-outside slices of beef glazed with orange peel and garlic, and came with white rice and bok choy. The duck fried ($16) rice had chopped roast duck, onions, green beans and egg.

The online menu includes small plates like spring rolls, lobster Rangoon and honey walnut shrimp, several kinds of dumplings, soups and buns, and about a dozen large plates. From the latter category, I remember the bacon fried rice from my previous visit as being a standout.

One other item I’d like to try from the menu is the Mongolian beef – sliced flank steak with broccoli, onion and jalapeno, served with rice. Another is the Empire eggroll, which includes local beef pastrami, sesame cabbage and is billed as “double crispy.”

I’m thinking either or both of those could end up on my “usual” order list.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: