Anyone who grew up in the west will understand the concept of westernised Chinese food, the kind you find in Chinatowns all over the western world. Chinese-Australian Ping Lam missed the sort of Chinese food she knew and loved back in Australia and, assuming the masses of expats living over here did too, she decided to open her first ever restaurant, Fu Lu Shou.
Even though I split my childhood between South America, the UK and Hong Kong, for the times I wasn’t here, I had a few favourite ‘Chinese’ restaurants. I knew they weren’t even close to being authentic, yet I still loved them. I was therefore intrigued by the idea of bringing westernised Chinese food to Hong Kong, complete with fortune cookies and all!
Fu Lu Shou takes over the space on Hollywood Road that was once private kitchen TBLS. It has been completely transformed, making great use of the giant roof terrace that I barely even knew was there before. As you enter, you’ll be greeted by traditional statues of Fu, Lu and Shou, three deities from the Ming Dynasty that represent happiness, prosperity and longevity. On the roof terrace, these deities appear again on a giant mural, except this time they’re holding a martini glass and chopsticks, in line with the restaurant’s motto: ‘Eat, drink and be prosperous.’
Although there is a decent food menu that will leave you full and satisfied, Fu Lu Shou classes itself as a bar first and a restaurant second. With a barman who was formerly at the Upper House, you can expect to find some seriously fantastic cocktails here. I loved the Joh Sun – a fiery drink made with vodka, lemongrass, ginger, lemon and chilli – so much that I went back the following night for another! It tastes almost like a tom yum soup, but so much better.
Food-wise, we began with the starter sampler, consisting of spring rolls, sesame prawn toast and a ‘big arse dim sim.’ I originally thought there was a spelling mistake, but apparently a ‘dim sim’ in Australia is like a giant sui mai, and this one was even bigger. Either way it was delicious, as were both the other starters too. Although deep-fried, neither the spring rolls nor the prawn toast were too heavy or greasy.
The ‘short soup’, served in a cute ceramic dim sum basket was a very simple broth with pork dumplings and pak choi that was light yet comforting.
Possibly my favourite dish of the night was the deep-fried tofu with chilli salt. Whilst tofu dishes can sometimes be boring, tasteless and sponge-like, this one was utterly delicious. A bite into the crispy exterior gave way to the silkiest tofu I have had in a long time, generously sprinkled with crunchy chilli salt.
The Kung Pao chicken was not nearly as spicy as I expected it to be, but the flavour was intense and heavenly. After a while the intense flavour became a little too salty, but this could have been easily rectified with a spoonful of rice.
Sweet and sour pork is the quintessential westernised Chinese dish, popular amongst Brits, Americans and Australians alike. It’s not something I ever order, as I’m always put off by its neon hue, gristly meat and sickly sweet sauce. FLS’s version was pleasantly crispy and not too sticky, but it’s still not something I would necessarily choose to order above other dishes, particularly that tofu…
We finished the savouries with a serving of chicken chow mein, another quintessential westernised Chinese dish. Had I not eaten so much deep-fried tofu, I would have devoured this dish, as it brought back many childhood memories and tasted divine. I particularly loved the undertone of sesame oil that ran through it.
Although it was beautiful to look at, complete with its cute cocktail umbrella, I wasn’t enamoured by the banana split. I found the vanilla ice cream a little too bland and thought it could have done with a more generous drizzle of chocolate sauce. Fu Lu Shou also offers a few Chinese-slash-80s-style desserts such as banana fritters and deep-fried ice cream that I am keen to taste next time.
Prices at Fu Lu Shou are very reasonable, with most dishes between $100 and $150, and cocktails around the $100 mark. Service is friendly, yet a little on the slow side. I guess TBLS, with its set menu, was able to cope with this tiny kitchen; perhaps FLS just needs a little more time to figure it all out. The food is by no means gourmet nor authentically Chinese, but it doesn’t ever pretend to be; it’s simply a very cool spot with a really fun vibe, great drinks and tasty food that will no doubt keep its patrons happy – provided they understand the concept of westernised Chinese food. The thing that makes it so much better than the Chinese food you get back home, however, is that here there is not a trace of MSG and, in spite of the many deep-fried options on the menu, you don’t walk away feeling like you’ve just consumed a bucket-full of oil.
Fu Lu Shou
7/F, 31 Hollywood Road
Tel: +852 2336 8812
P.S. The door code to enter the building changes weekly; call ahead to find out what it is.