House of Fortune was my first culinary foray into Chinatown here in the Windy City. The first Chinese immigrants came to Chicago in the 1870′s, but it wasn’t until the 1950′s – 60′s that Chicago’s Chinese population really took off. Communism and more lenient immigration laws helped foster an influx that grew until Chicago ranked 4th in America’s Chinese population. Today, Chinatown serves as a beacon of community and commerce . . . and of course good food. Now – how do you like those facts?? If all the restaurants in Chinatown are as good as House of Fortune, I’ve certainly been missing out!
We started out with some appetizers – egg rolls and fried won tons. The egg rolls came out first and they were pretty standard – not overdone or chewy, but just good, basic egg rolls of the thinner, crispier variety. Not the thicker, more heavier fried version you sometimes get with takeout. I’m actually indifferent to both, having had both good and bad eggrolls, both thin and thick.
Side note – There was a huge party in the restaurant while we were there. It was newborn baby’s one month celebration, which is apparently a big Chinese tradition. There were probably close to 100 people and occupied 3/4 of the restaurant. The mood was very festive and lots of food poured from the kitchen – as a result, the timing of our food being delivered was just a bit off – but with the party going on and everything being so lively, we hardly noticed. Plus – the portions were so freakin’ big, it didn’t really matter.
I ordered the fried wontons and there was ten in my order. Ten – as in 1-0. In my order. They were just lightly fried, overstuffed with pork and veggies and served in a fun boat-shaped dish. FUN!
We also ordered a veggie egg drop soup, which was probably definitely the best egg drop soup I’ve ever had. Not your usual take out egg drop – it had the usual delicate egg whites swirling around with green onion, but it also had sliced mushrooms and there was a definite sesame flavor, which took it to a whole new level. Also – we thought we were getting single cup size servings. You know, like you normally get, right? Wrong. I was dead wrong. This came out in a huge swimming pool sized bowl, complete with a ladle – we could have easily had 3-4 servings each.
For our entrees, we ordered walnut shrimp and chicken lo mein. Now – I know most restaurants in Chinatown usually have more exotic and authentic menu items and House of Fortune was no exception, with several kinds of whole fish, pigeon, squid and lots of tofu items. And I’m all for exploring that – I was curious about the shark fin soup as I’ve never had it. But this being our first time, I’ll admit we played it safe and American. Next time, I’m sure I’ll be more adventurous and ask what their most popular items are, what the server likes best, that sort of thing.
First, the walnut shrimp – incredible. It was crisp coated in a thick, sweet sauce, topped with lightly candied walnuts. It was crispy, nutty, sweet perfection and was served on a bed of perfectly steamed broccoli.
The chicken lo mein was mounds and mounds of hearty, super-thin noodles stuffed with huge slices of chicken, snow peas, water chestnuts, bean sprouts and who-knows-what-else. For standard Chinese take-out fare, good LORDY it was delicious!
We ate and ate. And ate and ate. And ate . . . you get the idea. And all around us was this joyful, family merriment. I live two neighborhoods north of downtown and Chinatown is roughly 2 neighborhoods south of downtown. Venturing south, proved to me just how vast this city is and how very little I’ve actually explored. Eating at this great restaurant and seeing celebrations from other cultures, getting caught up in the universal happiness that only a newborn can bring, made for a really memorable weekend night.
House of Fortune has given me reason to explore yet another area. I plan on going back (many times) and diving deeper – both into their menu and their neighborhood.