Foodblogger Event: Fortune Chinese Seafood Restaurant

Whew, lots of events this week and plenty of pictures to be had. Tonight's event, I was invited to Fortune Chinese seafood restaurant, it's been open for four months now and is ensconced in the Chinatown Center in north Austin. They've taken over a previous restaurant and redesigned and hired a new executive chef hailing from Los Angeles. The menu looks very authentic and I for sure will be returning to order just about one of everything on the menu (perhaps with camera covertly in tow :) ). The restaurant is huge, boasting 9000 square feet of banquet space and a fairly good sized bar to the side. They pride themselves on serving dim sum seven days a week (one cart on the week day, but full on Friday thru Sunday) and specialize on Chinese seafood straight from the tank.

The tasting event was hosted by the owners Sara (pictured) and Pat Lee. The husband and wife team were quick to make everyone feel at home and seemed like proud parents of their new restaurant. Bacardi helped host their event to showcase their Dragonfruit flavored rum (see ice sculpture). They were there showcasing some of the mix drinks, very tasty, I liked the tonic/soda/rum with a squeeze of lime it was nice light and refreshing. Sara and Pat were very generous and gracious hosts we had plenty to sample and from the looks of the menu we had only touched the tip of the iceberg.

The first wave consisted of a series of basic dim sum dishes, this was good as it gave me a good basis to compare. The trio on the left was pork and shrimp Shao Mai, Char Siu Bao, Ha Gau (shrimp dumplings) next to that we have a clasic fried shrimp ball, and a closer shot of the Shao Mai (sometimes spelled shui mai). Quick commentary, I really enjoyed the Shao Mai the best, most places the wrapper is over cooked and falling apart and the insides are ground up too finely. The texture on this Shao Mai had healthy large (identifiable) chunks of shrimp and pork and had a very fresh substantial and clean taste. The Char Siu Bao had a light fluffy bread rather than the more dense-need-to-drink-tea-to-wash-it-down texture and the light sweetness of the bbq pork was pretty darn good. The Shrimp Dumplings were also well executed, perhaps the freshness of delivery helped, sometimes at bad dim sum the rice wrapper for the dumpling is too hard or worse over cooked and falling apart. The fried shrimp balls had a nice light crispy (not oily) taste and really good flavor. I got a copy of their usual dim sum menu and am eager to try some of the um... more traditional items.

Next up we had the salt and pepper fried calamari and walnut shrimp. My compatriots really liked the calamari, and I agree it was cooked well and the batter was tasty, but invariably with the salt and peppered fried items in most restaurants, you'll have one piece that's flavored well, another under and finally one over seasoned. The calamari itself was well cooked. Walnut Shrimp, ah, the influences of western culture into Cantonese cuisine. It's sinfully delicious, and more than likely served with rice to offset it's devilish richness on the regular menu. The candied walnuts were of course very good, and the lightly fried shrimp and mayo based sauce were also very good. I can only have a couple of pieces before feeling guilty that it's horribly bad for me. I'm not sure of the origins of this dish, but I know I have not seen anything like it until recently, even my last trip to Taiwan it managed to creep into the banquet menu.

Brief intermission, a picture of the gang of foodbloggers that managed to cluster around each other and perform their usual food paparazzi duties. It's always fun to see everyone again and I always look forward to these events to get a chance to reconnect and say hi. I picked the best shot I got, we'll call this an "action shot".

Ok we dive into the Americanized side of dishes. I say that, in that I'm either unfamiliar with the items (which I have pretty good experience with) or know for a fact Chinese cuisine does not include them naturally (cream cheese?) We'll start with bbq pork croissant, sweet and sour chicken, and the ubiquitous crab rangoon. Don't get me wrong, fusion and picking up new ingrediants into traditional cuisine is right up my alley, so I don't look down at these dishes it's simply easy to group these three photos based on their newness to the cuisine. First the bbq pork croissant, very flaky, I do wish there was more pork but the pastry was very light. Sweet and sour chicken, not like your normal red/orange sauced Chinese buffet, but you know me and sweets not my favorite but only by personal choice. I do like how they delivered the sauce without the traditional red food coloring, it did have a good note of vinegar that had me wondering if I had the dish pegged wrong. Crab Rangoon, this was rather unusual in that regular crab rangoon I've tasted (even at my family's restaurant) had a more crumbly "mealy" texture, the cream cheese filling was actually creamy which is an interesting and nice departure from the norm, kinda neat as it's not quite your run of the mill-just-as-expected-crab-rangoon.

Next, I think they brought out a jellyfish salad just for our blogger table (I didn't see a plate anywhere else in the bar). Jellyfish salad is a delicate subject for me, there's many ways to prepare this dish and of course I'm very opinionated due to the fact my father trained me on how to create his dish. When eating a jellyfish salad I look for very specific things that tell me that thought time and precision went into it's preparation. Taste, Texture, and seasoning (back to taste I suppose) are three things I look for. Taste: if there's a hint of the fish briny then it was not prepped correctly. Texture: the right amount of crunch is what I was taught to value which means the critical blanch/shock was done without too much blanch. Seasoning means that it doesn't taste like wet rubberbands alone (that's the jellyfish's job), the sauce that complements the jellyfish texture is meaningful and bold. That said, they did a great job under my standards and the only thing I longed for was a bit more bold on seasoning, in this case, I'm use to more garlic and a bit more vinegar, I loved the heat from the chili oil (not something I am use to), so definitely learned something I can try to add to the family recipe.

Finally dessert: two desserts were presented, a pineapple custard bun, and the traditional Dan Ta (egg custard). I really liked the custard bun, very light and crusty (I didn't taste pineapple, maybe I heard it wrong still, very delicious). The egg custard is a bit of a departure from the usual dim sum offering, smaller, the custard was right on, not too sweet, custard in constancy, but the crust was not the usual pastry dough type. I like the pastry dough even if it is worse for me :).

Again, I'd really like to thank Fortune for inviting me to the event. I plan on coming back and tasting their regular menu and I'm certain that will require at least five visits with an army of friends. I wish the best of luck on the restaurant (for selfish reasons, as I have a whole menu to go thru ;) ), they seem like a wonderful couple that care about the comfort of their guests. Seriously, I saw their main menu and the website does not do it justice, I'm eager to try the abalone and peking duck as well as a huge selection of my childhood favorites.

Special thanks from Sean (sp?) of @hungryengineer helping me figure out my new photo gear, and of course @cookingforengineers for his tips as well. Next post will be a bento I promise. Until then thanks for dropping by.


Catherine said…
Great seeing u last nite! Love all the food shots & descriptions in the post..especially from a foodie w/ loads of dim sum knowledge!
lisa is cooking said…
Great review of the tasting event! It was nice to meet you last night.
Ironjack said…
Great seeing you both last night it was great fun! maybe it's time to do another jellyfish salad in my bento :)

Thanks for dropping by!
ajanhelendam said…
Honey walnut shrimp seems to been started in HK from what I've been able to discern. The first time I've had this was ~15 yrs ago, and being the only HK style dish I know that uses mayo, I was intrigued, so I asked all the Chinese and HK people I knew about it to figure out if it was something American like crab rangoon or "authentic". My HK parents had never seen it before, but my HK classmates had and apparently it was very popular at the time. I'm kind of surprised you only encountered it recently.

I'm guessing the bbq pork in the crossiant is suppose to be char siu soh which is a HK dim sum dish.

Sure, sweet and sour you find in a buffet is likely the Americanized version, but sweet and sour can be authentic too, like honey, rice vinegar and soy sauce.

Then again Dan tats on the otherhand are for the most part just an adapted version of the western egg tart. Pineapple buns or melonpan (Japanese variation, who's name consists of 2 foreign words melon from english and pan from portuguese) are also western at the core when you consider the techniques involved. Historically, there have been baked flatbreads, but leavened breads all seem to be either steamed or fried in Chinese cuisine. BTW, those breads are named for their resemblance to the skin of a pineapple (bo loh bao) or melon. I normally get pineapple buns sans the custard and I haven't seen it served with custard at HK restaurants yet; however, I do see the custard variations at bakeries and grocery stores such as MT.

On a side note, I wish they had cocktail buns(gai mei bao) reliably in Austin.

BTW, what makes something traditional or authentic, ingredients or technique/execution? Stuff like egg tarts and pineapple & cocktail buns have only been served as dim sum since about the 50s according to wikipedia. Besides they commonly use butter which is a not common Chinese ingredient. Though it's conceivable they used lard originally, we're talking about HK, which is pretty much fusion considering how the region developed in the first place.
Ironjack said…
@ajanhelendam well to be fair, I've only been back to see my family in Taiwan a handful of times over many decades so it's probably no surprise that I miss a culinary trend out there. Something I should rectify. Course I'm visiting Taiwan and not HK so regionally we're eating different foods. Not a single Dim Sum did I attend in Taiwan (for that matter not one did I attend on my two visits to HK, what a missed opportunity)

Very good analysis and commentary obviously you know your stuff. Don't forget that the various dim sum items are also an a composite of dishes that are found across China. For instance the baos are very popular in eastern central china (Shan Dong) area where my father grew up. But I think you hit nail on the head, areas like Singapore, HK are full of western influences in food. For instance my (brief as there's lots more) investigation into Singapore bento showed that many foods evolved from the Singaporeans cooking for the British working with their many worldly ingredients. I suspect the same should be said of HK. But none of that should be a surprise as they are port cities and would naturally get cultural influences regardless.

Traditional, authentic? these are terms that are nomilizations and can also be considered time relative. Where is the cut off date for such labels, dunno, I suppose my bias comes from what my father taught me about the Chinese cuisine from stories from his childhood and time as a chef. But you're right, new ingredients get incorporated all the time.Heck my own blog is about innovations on recipes and techniques that I find. I suppose at some point from the standpoint of primative man one could say traditional is meaningless :)

The take away that everyone reading should get is that I try really hard not to judge here on this blog. I may have opinions which I try very hard to indicate.(not for me, not what i'm use to) All of these places are very kind to open it their restaurants and invite me to try their food. I am not a food critic, that's not my job. And by no means should anyone consider me an expert on anything, I like to be a jack of all trades but it comes at the price of being master at none. My day job is not food, and everything I've learned/know is from my family, growing up in my family restaurant, curiosity and inner geek wish to take apart and understand all of the things around me. That and my personal hero Alton Brown.

As to reliable places to get goodies, lemme know when you find one. Hopefully they have my goodies too. I think that's why I've been mining my family for cooking demos as I've been visiting them recently. If I can't find a place to buy my favorites, I better learn how to make them or suffer never having them. The Chinatown complex seems to grow every month with something new, I need to check out that bakery and tofu place.

Oh if does anyone know where I can get taro flavored chew candies? They kind of have a starburst consistency but they are taro flavored. I had some at my friends wedding and have never been able to find some.

Thanks for visiting @ajanhelendam and for the thoughtful post, probably one of the best ones to date. :)

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