Monday, November 21, 2011

Signature Dish 2011 - Fortune House Seafood Restaurant

Fortune House Seafood 福聯海鮮酒家 on Urbanspoon
For the last day of the Chinese Restaurant dine-out event happening in November (1st to 18th), I went to Fortune House Seafood Restaurant for their party-of-10 $300 set menu.

Fortune House is pretty snazzy looking from the outside and seems quite popular every time I walk past it inside Metropolis at Metrotown. Inside, it's spacious but sort of typical-looking. Same as with just about every Chinese restaurant, expect to see staff of all levels pitching in everywhere. And don't expect fawning politeness from service staff -- no, not even the hostess who seats you.

And honestly, if you don't speak Mandarin or Cantonese, get a warm body who does to help you. Most of the time you can get by with something simple, but if it's anything more complicated than you showing up and asking for a table for two, you might have a scary time with the language barrier.

For example, I had set up my dine-out night weeks in advance, and as interested parties signed up, I expanded the reservation to two tables. The day after we had snow in Burnaby, attendees dropped to 9 so I had to cancel one table. Half the time it sounded like they were trying to confirm that I was dropping both tables.
Then when I got to the restaurant, it sounded like the manager was trying to confirm I had ordered two sets of the dinner-for-10. I tried to tell him we were only 9, and he said it was okay. I really wasn't sure if he meant he'd tweak the portions to nine and charge us $270 or just give us the full portions for ten and charge us $300.
Further complicating things were two unexpected attendees (our bad, I admit), bringing our total to 11. At that point, happily, a mandarin speaking attendee took over for me. She said the restaurant agreed to tweak the portions and give us the menu for 10 and charge us $300 even though we were 11. When the bill finally came, it was $300 plus $30 "open food" -- i.e., still $30 per head. Sigh. Whatever.

Dinner Menu Set For Ten...
$30 per person

  1. Deep Fried Crab Claw Stuffed with Minced Shrimp & Salad
  2. Stir-fried B.C. Geoduck with XO Sauce & Foie Gras Sauce
  3. Pan-fried Alberta Beef Tenderloin with Roasted Walnuts in Taro Basket
  4. Winter Melon Soup with Crab Meat and Dried Scallop
  5. Sautéed B.C. Dungeness Crabs with Amoy Premium Soy Sauce (Two Crabs)
  6. Braised Alberta Spare Ribs in Black Vinegar Sauce with Vegetables
  7. Roasted Crispy Chicken with Garlic Flakes (Whole)
  8. Salmon and Assorted Seafood Fried Rice
  9. Chinese Petits Fours
  10. Dessert of the Day

Sadly, mostly a lukewarm reaction from me in terms of quality and interestingness in this menu although the non-Chinese persons seemed quite impressed. I'm going to have to chalk it up to my Chinese upbringing and snobby standards here as I'm comparing it to mom's cooking.

The Deep Fried Crab Claw "stuffed with minced shrimp" was basically the front joint of the crab claw. Very little actual crab meat. There's no stuffing per se: It's surrounded by basically a ball of shrimp meat that's quite thick, and crusted with something so that once it comes out deep fried it's golden and crispy on the outside. Too little sauce to go around for 10 persons, but most of us didn't notice there was sauce in the first place till it was too late. The "salad" was cold cubes of melon in what tasted like salad dressing, resulting in a strange but quite nice sweet-and-sour mix.

The Stir-Fried Geoduck with XO Sauce and Foie Gras Sauce was thinly sliced geoduck and a heck of a lot of asparagus. Some of the geoduck was wrapped about the sticks of asparagus (1 stuck per person), the rest just sauteed in. Not sure I could make out any foie gras per se. If some of the brownish-grey slivers were foie gras, I couldn't make out the difference. This was very disappointing as I was very curious about this dish and the use of foie gras.

Pan-fried Alberta Beef Tenderloin with Roasted Walnuts in Taro Basket ended up being the safest, tastiest choice, if not imaginative.

The Winter Melon Soup with Crab Meat and Dried Scallop actually came twice. The first time around was a bland mix that was livened up with a bit of optional reddish vinegar (?). I think they realized they messed it up because they came around and collected the bowls and promised to replace it (although by then all but one of us had finished the soup). Second time round it was much better and actually flavourful. I definitely give them extra points for doing this!

Sautéed B.C. Dungeness Crabs (2) with Amoy Premium Soy Sauce were chopped up crab claws that looked lightly dipped in flour and then fried. It was basically like eating steamed crab because the meat inside the claws didn't really hit the soy sauce anyway. I also remembered to scrape the inside of the crab shell to get at the fried innards -- which really aren't for everyone because it tastes so fatty. Honestly, the whole thing looked quickly deep fried rather than sautéed.

Braised Alberta Spare Ribs in Black Vinegar Sauce with Vegetables was quite strange for me. If I remember it correctly, it was reddish pink. (No, I don't take photos because that just draws unnecessary attention to me). It looked like the ribs had been marinated in char siu but someone forgot to grill it afterwards. The star anise taste was also pretty strong, and I'm generally biased against that -- just my personal distaste for star anise showing. On the up side, the meat was tender and just fell off the bone.

The Roasted Crispy Chicken with Garlic Flakes was so scrawny meat-wise it looked like duck. The skin here is the best part. The salty garlic flakes plus crispy skin makes this a nice dish. Watch out for bone splinters!

Salmon and Assorted Seafood Fried Rice was more novelty than special. Typically there's a bowl of fried rice for everyone in a Chinese restaurant. This one just adds chunks of salmon. Ho hum.

"Chinese Petit Fours" was a sweet cookie. Looked like peanut cookie. "Dessert of the Day" was red bean soup. An extremely disappointing finish to what was already a somewhat boring dinner -- especially when the set menu for 4 had Chilled Mango Pudding and the set menu for 6 had Five Flavour Rainbow Puddings.

By dinner's end we had mostly finished up everything. Some of us had slowed down and passed on the red bean soup, although this may have been because they had the sweeter cookie first, which made the soup seem bland.

Overall, after someone volunteered to calculate the tip and divvy it up, it was calculated to be $38 per head. Not worth it. If you didn't grow  up on this stuff though, you might rate some of the items a bit higher.


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  2. You've summed it up nicely. Metotown Mall used to have two Cantonese restaurants. Harbour Restaurant(?not sure if that was the name) was much larger in size and served better quality cuisine; it even had a take-away outlet for soy chicken bbq duck & roast pork. It was always crowded (full house), while Fortune House had only a trickle of customers then. After Harbour closed shop about 10 years ago, FH picks up more traffic. It's such a pity that no good restaurants are willing to move to Metrotown.

    Btw, they all speak good English. You've been led on. LOL

  3. @Robin - WHAT?! They all speak good English? O_O ARGH!

  4. Yeah, they're a tight-knit bunch. Even their best customers either related to the kitchen or are their family friends. Unsuspecting customers, to be wary, best stay away if you do not want to be grossly overcharged for poor quality dishes. Our last dinner there, they charged us $46 for a plate of chinese cabbage with exactly 6 thin miniscule slices of tilapia.

    Last word in my last sentence of my earlier comment should be 'Mall'. Kawawa, Suishaya & FH are a "gem" to Mall. High rents, bad food to keep the shoppers away.

  5. Great blog and honest reviews! I wish there are more bloggers like you who do not use their fame for freebies for themselves and one of their own.
    Something is serious amiss if 2 or 3 dishes ordered are not in the regular menu and then cooked up a biased review to fool others.