Henry Liu says that if he and his business partner Vo Chien can get all their permitting ducks in a row, Alphabet District residents will have the chance to try his latest take on Chinese cuisine by May 11.
That take will include plenty of spices, including the tingling heat of the Szechuan peppercorn. Liu, who's also the chef-owner of the popular Shan Dong Chinese restaurant in the Hollywood district, estimates that at least 80 percent of Kung Pow's menu can be classified as spicy, but adds that his main focus is on flavor, not heat. In fact, his ultimate goal is to simplify Chinese food by using simple ingredients and by making everything in house.
"I'm not looking to reinvent [the cuisine], but I want to keep it simple," he says, "I'm more proud of what I don't put in each dish than what I do put in."
What's he most proud of? At the moment, he thinks Portland will go gaga over his fish balls, which come in chili-tomato, curry-mah loh berry, and sweet and sour flavors.
And if his opening staff's tastes are any indication, his lamb bao bing — served with a roasted red bell pepper salsa and mu shu pancakes — will be a popular dish, too. When he was testing out recipes, he'd put out samples for his them so that they could give him their feedback. They did, silently, and each batch was polished off almost instantly.
"They were like piranhas," Liu says.
The 90-seat lunch and dinner space, once home to the Blue Olive Cafe, will also serve a dozen house cocktails, based on the signs of the Chinese Zodiac, which will be crafted to complement the flavors in Liu's dishes.
Kung Pow: 500 NW 21st Ave., 503.208.2173