Best for: Silky dumplings, playful banchan and hearty ssam dishes.
Now that Han Oak is an Important Restaurant, it's easy to forget that Peter Cho, the James Beard-nominated chef whose young family lives at the open-air Kerns neighborhood restaurant, has the mind of a perma-stoned teenager. This is no knock on his culinary acumen—actually quite the contrary. To serve dishes like poached octopus waffles ($13) and Chee$y Korn Salad ($5) with shishito peppers alongside soy- and apple-marinated galbi ssam ($29) and bulgogi rice cakes ($15) is a mark of uncanny prescience on his part considering the proliferation of cannabis culture. Stoned or not, the trio of dumplings ($12-$13) that lead the bottom half of the menu are best consumed together. The pork and chive version comes on a bed of black vinegar, which plays the part of a sour and astringent foil to the sweet warmth of the veggie dumplings. A serviceable wine list is offered, but you're better off washing down that orchestra of umami with something far more bizarre, like kimchi brine michelada ($11-$13) or the aptly named Florida Man ($12), which is a frozen blend of apple vodka, real fruit (cantaloupe, lime, pineapple and peach, on our visit), fake fruit (Sunny D) and Mountain Dew. PETE COTTELL.
Best for: Dumplings a babushka could've made and an aggressively spicy Moscow mule.
If you imagined a dozen or so babushkas pooled their resources—brightly colored but mismatched plastic floral tablecloths and fine china—as well as their Old World recipes, you'd get something akin to Kachka. After relocating last year just a few blocks from its original location, now home to spinoff Kachinka, the new, spacious dining room has more than a few grandmotherly touches: lacy curtains, patterned wallpaper, a cuckoo clock. That matriarchal warmth extends to the hearty dishes inspired by chef Bonnie Morales' parents, who migrated from the former Soviet Union to the U.S. After studying French cooking, she found her way back to her Belarusian roots and helped inspire a Russian food boomlet across the country. Showboats like the creamy, crumbly seven-layer Herring Under a Fur Coat ($9) or the Ruski Wedge ($10), drizzled in Russian dressing and featuring a salty snap in the form of beef tongue chips instead of bacon, may catch your eye, but the comfort of the dumplings shouldn't be neglected. Savory, quarter-sized Siberian pelmeni ($13) burst with juices from beef, pork and veal. For a tangy, supple bite, try the tvorog vareniki ($11), plump with farmer's cheese and showered with scallions. All dumplings can come lounging in broth ($2), but even if you go the dry route, a generous dollop of sour cream accompanies each bowl. The impressive array of vodkas may be a bit too hardcore Russian for some palates. In that case, Kachka mixes the best Moscow mule ($9) in the city, packing a punch of citrus and an aggressively spicy ginger beer made with a blend of the root from three different countries. ANDI PREWITT.
Best for: Juicy dumplings, cheese-soaked flatbread and tart Georgian wines.
Kargi Gogo is likely to be many diners' first exposure to Georgian food, but the delightful carb explosions that make up the former food truck's menu will undoubtedly feel familiar to most. The most iconic dish is acharuli khachapuri, a chewy raft of flatbread with curled edges that holds a fondue-esque vat of melted cheese, slices of butter and an egg over easy. The unadorned version will run you $12, but the addition of wine- and dill-sauteed mushrooms is well worth the $3 upgrade. In many Eastern European countries, dumplings are an essential foodstuff, and Kargi Gogo's take on khinkali ($8-$10), with juicy fillings like lamb and caraway, have earned it a devoted following. You'll make good use of what looks like a handle made for dipping in one of the side sauces ($1)—the spicy green adjika is the recommended accoutrement for most dishes. Paired with a flight of amber fruit wines in tiny Mason jars ($13), and you've got a glimpse of Georgian cuisine that will leave you coming back for more. PETE COTTELL.
Best for: Handcrafted Northern Chinese specialties just like Mother used to make, whether your mother made Chinese food or not.
8435 SE Division St., 971-373-8248. 9:30 am-9 pm Tuesday-Sunday. $-$$.
At Master Kong, concision is king. Our 2018 Newcomer of the Year keeps its menu minimal, trimmed to just a few favorites from the northern port city of Tianjin and the southern province of Guangdong in China, allowing sibling owners Amy and Kang Zhu to truly hone their craft. Inside this converted house just off 82nd Avenue, you'll find a porridgelike congee ($7.50), pork-filled roujiamo "burgers" ($7.50) and jianbing ($6.50), which is rolled like a crepe and stuffed with soybean sauce, bean paste and fried wonton skins. You can't go wrong with any of it, but every meal should include an order of goubuli baozi ($6.50)—steamed dumplings halfway between shengjian bao and xiao long bao, with succulent pork inside a soft, chewy, hand-folded wrapper. It's a staple made with such focused care it'll almost make you feel like you're eating at your own dining table. MATTHEW SINGER.
Best for: An intimate evening in one of Portland's iconic dining rooms featuring inspired Northwest classics and Russian-style dumplings.
Nearing its 25th birthday, Paley's Place is one of only two survivors from the heady days of the mid-1990s when "Northwest Cuisine" was christened and Vitaly Paley was a fixture in his kitchen. Paley garnered a James Beard Award in 2005 for his efforts. Today, he is mostly beyond his stove steward days and has his finger in a lot of pies, primarily four downtown hotel restaurants. Still, the original venue's menu bears Paley's mark, offering a long-standing favorite: a plate of crispy fried sweetbreads ($21, $37) in late summer with chanterelles, fried green tomatoes and a smoked blueberry compote. Pelmeni ($18, $29), Russian-style dumplings stuffed with nuggets of ground beef and pork, are more a heritage food for chef Paley than they are a seasonal item. They made their way onto the menu a few years ago when he began to explore the cuisine of his homeland. Also, reflecting the restaurant's Willamette Valley home, seasonally changing courses might include Pacific razor clams ($25), corn cakes ($10) or a nectarine and tomato salad ($11). Whatever the time of year, Paley's offers spacious, comfortable surroundings and a sense of timeless elegance that is an increasing rarity in Portland. MICHAEL C. ZUSMAN.
Best for: Shanghai soup dumplings in a fast-casual environment.
Dumpling haven XLB bears no resemblance to anything in any Chinatown anywhere. The crowd is pure New Portland, and the venue is a deep narrow crevice along a notorious stretch of multimodal transportation chaos. The owner, Jasper Shen, is Chinese by heritage but cut his teeth in the New York City fine-dining world and learned to make his signature Shanghainese soup dumplings watching YouTube videos. On a good day, these are probably the best xiao long bao in town, barring a certain Taiwanese megachain at Washington Square. Order at the counter and await your steamer basket ($12), along with customary condiments: bold black vinegar and filaments of fresh ginger. MICHAEL C. ZUSMAN.