It's All Good Smell

Good Chinese take-out is a whole different bag from good Chinese food -- quite literally. Because aside from needing to be slightly undercooked, to travel from restaurant to home without physical deterioration, great Chinese take-out food must interact with its enclosing porous paper parts (cardboard lids and cartons, et cetera) in such a way that together they scent one's entire car with the smell of Asian-via-Brooklyn -- or wherever you grew up -- well-being. In fact I've often wondered why no one's thought of bottling Chinese Take-Out Aroma; that unique odor has become increasingly hard to come by in these days of authentic Chinese food instead of Chinese-American, not to mention plastic bags instead of paper.

Fortunately Fortune House is there to fill in where entrepreneurs still fear to tread. While it is far from Miami's finest Chinese food, a recent take-out order left my car smelling satisfyingly blissful for days. And another source of satisfaction: Portions are huge, half again what you'd get at most places.

Apologies to Buddha and Confucius, but in terms of conveying a sense of spiritual peace after a hard work day, those guru-type guys had nothing on an order of Fortune's roast pork fried rice, packed with pork as well as scallions and diced egg omelet. Sweet and sour pork also contained lots of meat, and the pork pieces were for the most part unusually juicy under their crisp and not-too-heavy batter coating. However, except for a few tiny bits of pineapple, the dish contained nothing but pork; the usual onions and sweet peppers were completely absent. Since meat has long been a sign of wealth in China, the plentiful proportion is a generous impulse -- but frankly this dish needs veggies to balance the deep-fried battered pork's richness.


Fortune House

9753 SW 72nd St, Miami

305-279-6677. Open Monday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Sunday noon to 10:00 p.m.

Inquiring about two pressed duck dishes on the menu, I was strongly urged by my server to instead order roast duck with Chinese vegetables "like Cantonese peoples do it." This turned out to be very large pieces of bone-in duck (including one huge breast with wing attached) served with an over-enthusiastic application of soy marinade. Additionally, though there were more vegetables than in the sweet and sour pork, the meat/vegetable proportion was still too meat-heavy for my taste. What little that was there, though (broccoli, red peppers, Chinese cabbage), was perfectly crunchy. And the preparation's sauce was both nicely intense and, blessedly, free of Chinese-American-style gluey over-thickening.

Egg rolls were disappointing, loosely packed with limp, grayish shredded cabbage that tasted and, more tellingly, smelled overcooked. (The telltale smell is more characteristically encountered in working-class English homes, from years of absorbing fumes of boiled-to-death Brussels sprouts, than in Chinese eateries, but does often happen with egg rolls.)

But Szechuan beef -- a dish that, despite those little red "warning: hot stuff" peppers preceding its name on menus, is often very bland -- was uncommonly tasty. While not overly hot, it was hot enough that when one shortly becomes hungry again, as is customary with Chinese food, there's still a slight warm, tingly reminder in the corners of one's mouth that Fortune House is the place to return for more.


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