Restaurant Review: Restaurant Review
Fortune: We welcome you to Austin
Reviewed by Mick Vann, Fri., Oct. 2, 2009
Fortune Chinese Seafood Restaurant10901 N. Lamar Ste. A-1-501, 490-1426
Lunch: Monday-Friday, 11am-3pm; Saturday-Sunday, 10am-3pm
Dinner: Daily, 5-10pm
Fortune Chinese Seafood Restaurant is Austin's newest addition to the realm of Cantonese seafood and dim sum. It's equipped with a 200-item menu and live seafood tanks in the kitchen holding various fish species, lobster, Dungeness and king crabs, geoduck clams, giant prawns, and eels (market price on each; pick your favorite of 11 different preparations). Dim sum carts cruise the aisles at lunch every day; during the first part of the week, the choices are somewhat limited, but on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the full dim sum menu of some 80 items makes the rotation. And you can order from the dim sum menu at any time if there's a particular dish you prefer.
Fortune took the place of the short-lived Kim Son from Houston and is located at the southwestern corner of Chinatown Center at Kramer Lane and Lamar, which is anchored by MT Supermarket. Convenient, since Fortune owners Pat and Sara Lee also own Pho Saigon in the same center, and Pat's family owns the 55,000 square-foot MT Supermarket.
The entry section of Fortune is a large, dark, and restrained Chinese bar with bistro seating. There is a teapot display, embroidered red upholstery, and very dark wood. Go through the doors into the main dining section and you enter a world of flashy crystal chandeliers hung from 25-foot ceilings, neutral colors, and a sea of tables: large squares and even bigger circles. It's the kind of room that can swallow you up if it's not frenetic and packed to the gills.
Riding herd on the kitchen is chef Paul Lau, who came here by way of Capital Seafood in Las Vegas, famous restaurants in Orange County, Calif., and years in kitchens in China before that. He won Iron Chef about 15 years ago. Pat thanks the down economy in Vegas for being able to lure chef Lau to Austin. Lau's forte is his expertise at the wok: his speed and efficiency, his knowledge, his use of fresh ingredients, and the fact that everything is made from scratch.
A first visit had us trying pan-fried dumplings ($5.95), tender caramelized handmade pastries enveloping minced pork and aromatics, with a well-balanced soy-ginger sauce emboldened by an assertive chile paste. The spicy shrimp with pepper and salt ($12.95) is one of the better versions in town. The thin shells are lightly battered, edible, and crunchy; the meat is sweet and seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic, and jalapeño.
We started the next meal with a large bowl of hot-and-sour soup ($5.95, easily enough for four) that was complex and perfectly balanced between the black vinegar and the black pepper, loaded with egg flower, tofu, scallion, shredded pork, and assorted vegetables, all in a rich broth. It was nicely thickened and cooked to order. Dim sum carts regularly trundled by, and we were tempted by tender and sweet steamed shrimp rolls in rice paper ($4.95), light and fluffy steamed buns filled with rich barbecue pork ($3.95), and an order of cold braised duck wings ($1.95) – all excellent.
Next arrived shredded pork with dry bean curd ($7.95), paired with a few green beans, red and green bell peppers, jalapeño slivers, scallions, and strips of dried spiced tofu. In typical Cantonese fashion, it was loaded with fresh, crisp vegetables and mildly spiced, but the taste was superb. We wanted crabmeat and dry scallop with Japanese squash, but Fortune was out, so we took a chance on sizzling salad with spicy shrimp paste ($8.95). The name is deceptive, as it is actually braised bok choy cooked in an aromatic brown sauce with garlic, a little chile paste, and fermented shrimp paste. It's definitely a dish to be eaten with the nutty, aromatic white rice, and it's delicious.
Following the salad, we had chicken with black mushrooms ($8.50). A large platter arrived with lots of tender, sliced breast meat, combined with unctuous braised black mushrooms, sweet sugar snaps, white mushrooms, scallions, and carrots. The flavor is light, and the overall effect was tastily amplified with a spoonful of the sauce from the bok choy. Our favorite dish was ribeye with ginger and scallion ($10.95). A considerable amount of thinly sliced rib eye is sautéed with slices of caramelized and spicy ginger and scallions – simple, rich, and wonderful. Our waiter on visit two was named Daniel, according to the receipt, and I have to say, he provided first-rate service, letting us time the meal as we preferred and unobtrusively anticipating all of our needs; the best server we've had in some time.
Our overall impression of Fortune is quite favorable. Dishes are cooked with fresh vegetables that are treated with respect. Lau's sauces are clean and light, not oily, and they taste like they're constructed in layers in the wok. You don't get the typical oppressive brown sauce bathing every dish, and it's refreshing. With a huge menu and daily dim sum, I can foresee numerous trips to explore the finer nuances of this extensive menu. Fortune: We welcome you to Austin.