Sherman's Food Adventures: Wong's King

Wong's King

Dim Sum... in Portland??? Okay, I'm not pulling your chicken feet here. There really is such a thing. And no, it is not some place serving up frozen "Asian" appetizers from Costco or Safeway. I'm talking about an actual Chinese restaurant with push carts and authentic Cantonese Dim Sum. Okay, coming from the land of excellent Dim Sum, otherwise known as Vancouver, B.C. (or more specifically, Hong Kong #2 = Richmond), I am quite picky about my Chinese food. So much so, whenever I am in San Francisco (which is a lot since I have family there), I put up with the "Chinese" food they have there. We all know Portland is no San Francisco in terms of Chinese food, let alone Vancouver. I remember back in the 80's when my parents would take me on road trips down to San Fran. We would stop in Portland occasionally for a meal. Let's just say Chinese food was slim pickins' back then. With a growing Asian community, it was only time that Portland got a taste of real Chinese food. Of course the $6.99 lunch special with sweet 'n sour pork and chicken chow mein still exists; but the real stuff can be had without doing the Panda Express thing.

So we find ourselves heading out to SE Portland in search for authentic Dim Sum at Wong's King. Apparently, this place is so busy on weekends, there is a massive lineup out the door. This is just all-too-common in Vancouver, so I wouldn't be surprised especially since this is the place for Dim Sum here. Now heading West on Division Street, we totally missed Wong's King. You see, the storefront is angled such that it faces Southwest and you'd never see it unless you were heading East on Division. Just FYI, because we almost thought it didn't exist. Entering the fairly large parking lot, we had our pick of spots. Visiting the place on a weekday morning has its perks. Lots of parking and no wait. We walked in and had our pick of tables. Naturally, I picked the one right next to the window. Too bad the light was doing weird things - shadows everywhere! Sorry for the bad pics!

Like a moth to a flame, all the Dim Sum carts came flying by faster than a Brett Farve comeback. We started with the 2 staples of Dim Sum in the Haw Gow (Steamed Shrimp Dumplings) and Sui Mai (Pork & Shrimp Dumplings). The haw gow were filled with whole cold-water shrimp that had a nice "snap". Very mildly seasoned. I wish there was more sesame oil. As for the dumpling skin, it was far too thick and gummy. The sui mai were filled with plenty of shrimp, shiitake mushrooms and slightly chewy pork. Topped with tobiko while being lightly seasoned, I could still taste the pork and shrimp. This was quite good. We got an order of the Beef Meatballs next. Normally, the meat in these are processed with baking soda, which gives their distinctive tender bounce. With the wrong amount, these become a mushy mess. These ones were on the stiffer side; yet were still quite good. Not too much green onion and with a touch of water chestnuts, these would've been good with Worcestershire sauce (this is normally the condiment, which we were never provided with).

Another popular Dim Sum dish is the Black Bean Steamed Pork Spareribs. I found these to be over-tenderized; thus losing some of its texture. Well, let me rephrase that. Some pieces were too soft while others were good. Maybe a uneven mix of marinade? Now to one of our favs - Bible Tripe. Yup, not really a fan favourite if you've never had it before. The main feature of this dish is the "crunchy" texture of the tripe while being soft enough to chew. This one was done right with a modest amount of seasoning. From one tripe to another, we go the Honeycomb Tripe with daikon. With this form of tripe, it has to be cooked long enough so it's chewable with a slight resistance. Like the other tripe, this was a well-executed dish. Each piece of tripe did not degrade in appearance or texture while being easy to chew. The daikon was also very good, maintaining its shape and being soft at the same time.

We waited for awhile for the Beef Rice Noodle Roll to come out since the kiddies generally eat this dish. Turns out they were more interested in the desserts instead. Well, I guess they were onto something. The rice noodle itself was too thick and not really all that soft. With that being said, it wasn't terrible and the beef filling was plentiful (and soft). Well, other than the desserts, my daughter did tackle the BBQ Pork Buns. These were pretty good. With a nice steamed soft exterior and savoury BBQ pork inside, there is not much to complain about. Often, the thing that annoys me with BBQ pork buns is that the filling is too sweet and full of fatty pork. Neither was the case here. No chunk of pork fat (well, some people like that) to be found.

While my daughter was munching on the BBQ pork bun, my son didn't want any of it. Instead, he had his eyes set on the Pineapple Buns with custard filling. Well, he likes the bun part. The custard? Not so much. Don't get me wrong here, the custard was good. He's just used to the regular pineapple bun (which has no pineapple whatsoever, the top only resembles a pineapple). In the end, he did eat the whole thing with the custard because he discovered that it was sweet and tasty. Imagine that, custard being sweet and tasty... These were done very well. Sugary top, soft baked bun and sweet custard. What's not to like? Onto another classic Dim Sum dessert - Baked Egg Tarts. This is a favourite of the kiddies. Essentially egg custard in a puff pastry shell, these were very good. Light-tasting egg custard in a flaky shell. Very well done. The kiddies loved it.

Well, well, decent Dim Sum... in Portland of all places. Of course compared to Vancouver, B.C., it would not even be fair to do so. It put away the my memories of great Dim Sum in Vancouver, B.C., I can truly appreciate what Wong's King does for Dim Sum here. Of course there is better Dim Sum elsewhere, albeit 300+ miles North and 600+ miles South. Thus, when in Portland, Wong's King is best and most authentic place to get Cantonese-style Dim Sum, complete with matching uniformed Dim Sum Cart ladies.

The Good:
- Authentic Cantonese Dim Sum
- Good variety
- Decent service

The Bad:
- Of course there is better... but not very close by
- Very busy on the weekends

Wong's King Seafood on Urbanspoon


KimHo said...

Well, visiting on weekdays have issues as well: given they aren't that many customers, some dishes might have made a couple of rounds before somebody picks them. :(

Given the Chinese population in Vancouver or San Fran, it is quite unfair to draw some comparisons, not to mention we have to keep in consideration when the owners/cooks arrived to the US (or, in our case, Canada). Dim Sum in Panama sucks because it is the old guard Cantonese cooks from the 1970's/early 1980's (this will be true even for places like NY!); whereas the ones in more vibrant cities like Vancouver have more modern style chefs, as a result, more innovation. The fact that it being in the middle of nowhere... OK, not the mecha of Chinese immigrants and can produce something that you consider good in its own ways is something to be admired. Wish to go there just for kicks but, darn, 6+ hours drive just for dim sum?!

Sherman Chan said...

Yup, can't compare with Vancouver or San Fran at all. Very good for Portland considering the fact.

In terms of the weekday freshness issue, I was there right when it opened and we practically go all of our dishes right away. Unless they were serving "old" stock from the day before, the food would be fresh. Honestly, Wong's King would be alright even in Vancouver. It wouldn't be in the upper tier, but would slot in nicely in the middle.

Anonymous said...

Sherman , next your in portland . try
Legin Restaurant for Dim Sum
most of the time i am in there it is about 95% Chinese eating there.
just west from Wong's
8001 SE Division St.
Portland, OR. 97206

Sherman Chan said...

Thanks for the tip!

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