Posted 12 February 2017 - 01:23 PM
Their zha zhang mian is very good, with handmade and chewy "QQ" noodles. Also great is the lamb rou jia mou (aka "lamb burger") which is an upgraded version with better meat and more generous cut than you'd find in traditional Xi'an restaurants in LA, Richmond BC or NY (whereas traditionally the meat is a mince, at Danwei they fill the jia mou with generous chunks of tender lamb). Also very tasty is the hong shao rou (red cooked pork belly) which is traditionally braised in soy sauce and rock sugar giving it a red tint. Traditionally, the cubes of pork belly are specifically cut to showcase several layers of meat, fat and skin. Anticipating Portlanders squeamishness, they did what I feel is a really smart move that enhances the dish-- they cut off the skin and fry it into pork cracklins, adding an extra layer of texture to the dish and averting a non-Chinese patron squeamishness at the same time. They also render the pork a bit more to reduce the fattiness in the cubes. But make no mistake- the intent is always to have a layer of fat, to have a contrast of textures in the mouth, which is a highly praised characteristic of this dish. Please don't send your hong shao rou back because it's too fatty-- it's supposed to be.
The la zi ji (chili oil fried chicken) is also quite tasty, though it could use more spice. Traditionally this dish is served in a comically large pile of chili peppers (which you're not supposed to eat) but they've had to cut back due to complaints from locals about the "wasteful" amount of chili peppers. Again, this is one of those cross-cultural misunderstandings-- wasteful or not, it's supposed to be that way.
If there are any misses on the menu, I'd say its the vegetarian concessions. The tofu rou jia mo ("burger") is quite bland, as is the tofu jiaozi (dumpling). These are not really traditional preparations of these dishes-- I feel that rather than altering these dishes, they should add really good natively vegetarian dishes to the menu.
At one point early on, they had problems with the jiaozi being too small for the thickness of the skins they're rolling (they have a dumpling skin rolling machine imported from China) but I understand they've addressed that issue. I haven't tried them yet.
Anyway, go. Avoid the tofu jiaozi and tofu rou jia mo. Get the zha zhang mian, la zi ji, and lamb rou jia mo. Also get the lamb skewer with cumin, chili and mala-- they're charcoal grilling them on the patio on weekends.
Posted 12 February 2017 - 02:55 PM
Welcome back from a long hiatus.
Thank you for this detailed review. I thought of you last week as we went to EC Kitchen. We also finally tried Duck House for dumplings. I wanted to go to XLB and write a comparative review of the two, but my heart wasn't into it as this board has been dead and the winter's been hard.
Maybe, hopefully, Spring will bring new life around here.
Posted 14 February 2017 - 02:36 PM
I agree that this place is worth a visit. Standouts for me have been the seared cauliflower, lamb burger, cucumbers with black vinegar, and xianbing stuffed pastry.
Not everything I've had is a hit, but I think they'll refine and sort them out as they go. They seemed very interested in feedback, so I gave it.
Posted 16 February 2017 - 08:41 PM
I went tonight. Everyone in my group liked the place a lot. Favorites were the lamb jiaozi, lamb skewer, and xianbing w/ black vinegar.
Posted 19 February 2017 - 04:26 PM
XLB was good, but could use a little tweaking. I'll leave it at that.
Posted 19 February 2017 - 07:32 PM
Posted 19 February 2017 - 10:59 PM
Chongqing chicken is "la zi ji" (literally spicy oil chicken). (Chongqing is a city in Sichuan province where this type of dish is purportedly from...You can get a Cisco version at Taste of Sichuan in Beaverton. Mr Taster
Have you had it at Duck House? I enjoyed it at both of these places. Has become one of my favorite dishes. I love how Sichuan peppercorns change taste perception, especially of boldy flavored beers.
Posted 20 February 2017 - 10:19 AM