Monday February 11, 2013 | 07:04 AM

Very slowly Greater Portland is getting its long overdue share of reputable Chinese restaurants.  It’s no longer the domain solely for the take out joints where anything goes or the strip-mall   eateries with their Chinese xylophone music singing over antiquated sound systems.

We’re all thankful to have Zen Bistro. which opened last summer and written about here several months ago. If you haven’t gone, try their high-style Cantonese fare  served in a thoroughly attractive setting where attention to the food as well as the setting strikes a very positive chord.

Tao in Brunswick is playing to a very appreciative clientele in that college town where dining well is becoming standard fare.  I’m very jealous, though.  I wish they had opened in Portland too.

The newest on the scene is the Chinese Laundry, which debuted last night hosted by the Speckled Ax Café on Congress St. 

Hostess and proud mother of the chef, Anna Joyce, welcoming the crowd

Don’t run to look up their website for location or phone number.  They’re strictly a pop up for now.  But starting later in the month, they will be using the Cantina space for a happenstance schedule Monday through Wednesday when Catina closes on those days for their winter schedule. And they wll be in other locations as well by announcement  on the web.

The chef and creator of the Chinese Laundry is a young woman named Erika Joyce.  She’s a local chef  and Portland native with Vietnamese ancestry.  Her very young-looking mother, Anna, was the hostess last night commandeering the slew of diners streaming in for their little plates of dim sum.

Dim sum diners lining up for their dumplings

The menu is strictly dim sum and from what I sampled last night I would advise not to miss her future pop-ups.

There were only two items served: steamed dumplings filled with pork and scallions and fried dumplings  with sweet potato and leeks.  There were a few sauces on the side including a very sweetly pungent hoison sauce with scallions.  Both were evocative examples of the genre.

Pork dumplings were being gobbled up fast

Dim sum has been around in American cities for many decades, starting in the Chinatowns of New York, San Francisco, LA and Boston nearly 40 years ago.  So it’s taken a while for food-centric Portland to catch up. 

Change happens slowly here.


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John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.

In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.

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