Sunday, August 21, 2005

Good fortune

Is this the best Chinese restaurant in Wisconsin? My sources suggested as much so last night we gave it a shot. As you can see it's unprepossessing from the outside and the neighborhood, a wide commercial strip in suburban West Allis, is nothing special.

Fortune has two menus, inauthentic and authentic. When we got there, at the little rice eater's dinnertime (i.e., 5:30), there were a handful of diners, most of them elderly, all of them eating Chinese-American dishes. By the time we left around an hour later the place was filling up with a younger, more Asian crowd eating real Chinese food. The dishes were flying out of the kitchen by about 6:15. Steaming soups, sizzling platters, clay pots, glistening tofu, enormous dumplings. I wanted to try it all and I was envious of the party at the lazy susan table that would have lots to sample.

We ordered off the reddish-brown menu (I was told to ask for the "Hong Kong" menu and this worked). I also had a look at the green menu, pretty much identical to every other Chinese restaurant menu around here: egg rolls, wonton soup, sweet and sour, kung pao, chop suey, fried rice, general tso's, etc. We didn't order any of this stuff but everything at Fortune comes out of the same kitchen and I'll bet it's all good.

We began with BBQ pork Cantonese style, aka char siu. As you can see, the serving is enormous. and at $5.25 an excellent value.

It came with hoisin sauce for dipping. The rice eater and his mama liked it; I loved it. Some pieces were lean and a bit dry, but the fatty pieces were succulent. There was lots left over and I'm psyched to dice it up and put in my fried rice.

My sources recommended a "spicy salt and pepper" seafood dish. I can't remember exactly what the menu called it, and it doesn't appear on the takeout menu I took out so that I wouldn't need to remember. Anyway, it was a dish of little fish (smelt I think), squid, and head-and-shell-on shrimp in a spicy white batter somehow made crisp without browning. It was garnished with slices of fresh green chiles. This defies the commonplace that the Chinese never eat raw food except fruit, but who cares. This dish was insanely good and the chiles were a good compliment to the pieces of seafood. I saw several other tables order this one and it seems like one of the house specialties, so order it if you go to Fortune. (Incidentally, I'm not sure how you're supposed to eat a shrimp that's been battered in the shell. I ate it all except the tail.)

We ordered a chicken dish to be sure there would be something for the rice eater to eat besides rice. This is chicken in black bean sauce.

You might be able to get this sort of thing at lots of places in a city with good Chinese food, but around here the pickins is slim. We loved this one. The sauce was delicious: salty, a bit hot, a hint of ginger. It had green peppers in it too, as you can see, and every time the rice eater ate one he said "peh-pa!"

A few additional notes: the tea we were served was reddish in color and lukewarm. This is inexplicable. And the white rice wasn't hot or particularly tasty either (despite this the kid ate about a pound of it). I have vivid childhood memories of the bowls of rice in Chinese restaurants in Toronto, and in my memories they are steaming hot and really yummy. I duplicate this all the time at home with cheap Jasmine rice and a cheap rice cooker. Why can't a good restaurant? Finally, the service was friendly and attentive even as the restaurant got crowded.

I think my sources are probably right. I haven't tried every place in Wisconsin, but Fortune is the best Chinese food I've had around these parts.

Fortune Chinese Restaurant
2945 S.108th St. (N. of Oklahoma)
West Allis, WI 53227
(414) 328-9890

UPDATE: a friend who grew up in Hong Kong describes how she eats shrimp:
Remove head, if present. Suck off the stuff on the outside of the shell and any hepatopancreas bits [ed. note: can you tell she has an MD?] or roe (if you’re lucky), peel the shrimp, eat it, minus the tail. A lot of Chinese restaurants will then give you a moist, wet towel for your fingers, preferably lemon scented.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

ooh! ooh! Fortune really is the best in MKE. Anything in a clay pot is wonderful...the black mushroom made me strangely drunk.
I heard a Chinese woman who sat with her pals at one of the lazy susan tables order an eggplant dish from the vegetarian menu...had I only been closer to hear which one it was, she bragged that it tasted just like what her mom used to make (said this to her American friends who she was ordering for.)
Gosh I wish I had Chinese friends who could order for me...
anywho, great blog.
I work at Outpost Natural Foods - home of MKE's best Scones and Sausages
You'll have to try for yourself!

3:59 PM  
Blogger mzn said...

Thanks for the comment, cryana. I shop at Outpost sometimes. If you see me there say hi.

I've been back to Fortune many times since writing this review. I recommend eggplant in casserole with plum sauce (which contains pork but they'll leave it out if you want), ho fun with beef (not on the menu, but they'll make it if you ask--wide rice noodles, really great), gai lan with garlic (also not on the menu), and the house specialty, shrimp with walnuts.

4:06 PM  
Blogger mzn said...

Fortune is still the best Chinese food in Milwaukee. A couple of additional choices on the menu that I've tried since my last comment:

-Oysters in black bean sauce isn't a huge quantity of food but the oysters are impressively large and the preparation is sophisticated and very tasty. The same preparation with clams is also worth trying.

-Crispy skin chicken is an excellent choice--roast chicken with succulent meat served with a seasoned salt on the side. Very nice for kids.

7:30 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Wow, thats so ironic, my parents are Chinese and we go to Fortune a lot, so they know the owners very well, my father use to work with him, but now my family owns serveral restaurants. And Fortune does have excellent food, and the owners are really nice too

2:15 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home