“XLB is not a fusion restaurant,” says chef-owner Jasper Shen, speaking with Eater. “I’m cooking things I grew up eating.” And that means a honed menu of 12 to 13 Chinese plates, with xiaolongbao, or steamed dumplings, forming the backbone. And as the gallery above shows, that menu at XLB features pretty pictures of the dishes, which will be backlit like X-rays with light boxes during service.
Shen is best known for being one of the three founding chefs of Aviary (Shen has since left the business), but he also brings experience from New York’s renown Joe's Shanghai, Aquavit, and Jean-Georges, running the gamut from regional Chinese to technical fine-dining French. XLB’s dumplings will be divided between Shanghai soup dumplings, featuring pork, ginger, garlic, and pork stock, all entirely wrapped up in dough, and three Taiwanese-style steamed baozi, with fillings like hoisin duck and scallions and mushroom and chive.
“The perfect dumpling is all about balance,” says Shen. “It cannot be too doughy; the meat needs to be tender, flavorful, and moist; and the ratio of soup to dumpling needs to be right.”
The 44-seat, counter-service restaurant features a portrait of Gordon Liu, the 1970s and 80s kung fu actor, inspired by classic martial arts film 36 Chambers and painted by artist Michael Palaus. And designer Trish Grantham not only had characters from the Chinese zodiac hand painted on the walls but somehow found legit, 40-year-old Chinese lanterns, which pepper the ceiling. This summer will bring patio seating at XLB, too.
XLB will open this week, with The Oregonian reporting the officially date as January 19, unless weather says otherwise. Once open, it’ll operate daily, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- XLB [Official]
- XLB starts steaming soup dumplings in North Portland this week [Oregonian]
- All Previous XLB Coverage [EPDX]