Empire Chinese Kitchen has consistently been one of my favorite restaurants in Portland, and it's easily the best Chinese restaurant. The restaurant's hip vibe and fresh take on classic Dim Sum has made it one of Portland's hottest eateries. Situated below a rock club, the edgy-vibe and the relaxed-upscale feel of the restaurant coupled with the uniqueness of the dishes makes one feel better about eating massive quantities of Chinese food.

I've mentioned the food is unique, but what's obviously more important is that it's delicious. The last time I ate there I was home and passed out on my couch deep in a food coma by 8:30 pm (this is a definite glowing review from me). Everything I've ever had there is something I would eat again. Honestly, I would eat almost everything on the menu (and probably have by now–I've been there more times than I can count) but for brevity's sake, I'll list few of my favorites:

1) Spicy Pork Belly Bun

The spicy pork belly buns are incredible. The buns are so fluffy–the waiter described them to me as little pillows, a description I have to say is accurate and I would definitely not mind taking a nap on these guys. The buns provided the perfect base for the soft and flavorful pork inside of them. The spice level was probably a 1 out of 5, making them less spicy than I was expecting but absolutely delicious. 

2) Lobster Rangoons

These lobster Rangoons are the perfect blend of the takeout Chinese food I grew up eating and Maine's most famous seafood. Why eat imitation crab when you can have Maine lobster

3) Bacon Fried Rice

As if fried rice weren't good enough on its own, Empire thought to add bacon. And lots of It. They really did not skimp on the bacon–if I had to estimate (I'm not sure in what type of scenario I would be forced to estimate bacon quantities, but bear with me) I'd say there are three or four full slices-worth of bacon bits per order. This twist on a more traditional pork fried rice was infinitely better than any other fried rice I have had–the flavors were extremely rich. The quantity of one order is pretty huge, I would say three or four people could share it and each have a fairly good sized meal. Or you could also do what I do and share the whole thing with just one other person. Totally up to you!

4) Pork Dumplings

I have had my fair share of dumplings in my day (in high school I lived on mass quantities of Trader Joe's frozen dumplings which, as I write it, seems mildly concerning). This gives me the authority to say that the pork dumplings at Empire are incredible. They are steamed and incredibly soft and flavorful, with no shortage of filling in each dumpling. This is a huge plus for me–underfilled dumplings are a huge disappointment. 

My Recommendation 

Part of the reason I love Empire is because of the restaurant's focus on personal and shareable plates. Much of the menu is comprised of "small plates" and "large plates" sections, the latter of which includes tons of dishes that are perfect for sharing. This gives you the opportunity to share with everyone you're with, which reduces the chance of order-envy. I recommend getting a few of their small plates, some Dim Sum (dumplings), an order of fried rice, and then sharing everything. I don't think that one can go wrong with anything on the menu, so really order anything that catches your eye. Keep in mind that this place is no secret: It has quickly become one of Portland's hottest Chinese restaurants. Make a reservation and plan your next trip to the Old Port around a meal at Empire, I promise you it'll be worth it.