Chinese food in Portland. That’s quite the topic to spark conversation amongst local foodies. Most would argue that the best Chinese food in Portland can be found peripheral to 82nd Avenue in establishments that don’t have craft cocktails on the menu, chic cosmopolitan decor or a staff whose mother tongue is English.
“Chinese food” is also an extremely generic term as it attempts to encompass the cuisine of a geographically (and thus agriculturally) diverse country with over fifty ethnic groups and that’s not even taking account the most prevalent “Americanized” Chinese food.
David Sigal might just be the first friend I made when we were freshmen at Lewis and Clark College back in 2007. We sat at the same table during Orientation at the Dining Hall and somehow we ended up being very good friends ever since then. David is Jewish and was born and raised in San Francisco, but also speaks fluent Mandarin, studied abroad in China and most recently helped open a craft cocktail bar in Beijing. Post college he started out as a bar back at Kask then moved on to bartend at Fish Sauce and Produce Row Cafe and he now holds the coveted title of Bar Manager at Racion. Besides having an impeccable talent at creating craft cocktails, David’s dream has been to open a restaurant- one that brings regional Chinese flavors to Portland.
Several weeks back, David invited a group of us over to dinner to test out some potential recipes. The dinner was a great success and next thing I knew I got a text from David to stay open on the night of April 27th as he was holding his first pop-up at Racion named Mian.
While David conceptualized the recipes and cocktails, Chef Connor Martin of Boke Bowl was the chef of the night as David bartended.
Before we get into the food, let’s start with the cocktails David concocted:
All that can be said is how fantastic these two cocktails were. The Chinatown Fizz being incredibly refreshing and the Sichuan Lady having that tequila and spice essence.
On to the food:
I promise I’m not just saying this because David is my friend, but the food was absolutely splendid and unique from any other Chinese cuisine I have ever tried. The sweet water noodles were my favorite dish- deliciously chewy hand-pulled noodles in a tahini based sauce with some sliced chilis for spice. The small plates also included a fascinating melange of textures and flavors- the Uigur salad for instance having a tinge of Middle Eastern flair as its representative of an ethnic group in China who migrated from Turkey.
And of course the sous vide tea egg was necessary as Racion does after all belong to the PDX king of Sous Vide, Chef Anthony Cafiero.
Mian was held from 6-9PM and for the duration of the time the restaurant was packed with even a waiting list at some point- a fantastic success for David and Connor. David hopes to continue with more pop-ups in the near future, if you’re interested in staying up to date for when those might be then go ahead and like his Facebook page and follow him on Instagram!