The first thing you notice about the House of Fortune, a new Chinese restaurant in McLean, is how popular it seems to be. When our family arrived for dinner about 6 on a Thursday night, almost every table was taken. When we left, there was a line of people waiting to get in.
The next thing you notice is the decor, which is something of a surprise considering the bland brick exterior of the office building in which the restaurant is located. It might best be described as California meets the Orient. There are plants in window alcoves and comfortable blond wood and wicker furniture. No ubiquitous red-flocked wallpaper here, but rather a tactile covering that looks like thin strips of earth-toned bamboo on a misty blue background. Linen tablecloths and a single vivid red Hawaiian blossom adorn each table.
All in all, the House of Fortune is a pretty, relaxing place to be. And despite all the elegance, plenty of families with youngsters are in evidence.
Now to the food. It isn't the best we've had in the Virginia suburbs, but is quite good nevertheless. The restaurant specializes in Szechuan and Hunan cooking, with the hot and spicy dishes printed in red on the menu. There are a sizable number of offerings, arranged in categories.
Prices are reasonable, and we found it interesting that all the chicken and pork dishes (except the specialties) were the same price. It reminded us of the dim sum meal in some Chinese restaurants, where the various dishes cost the same and waiters tally the bill by simply counting the number of bowls on the table.
We ordered our chicken and pork favorites as well as two specialties, orange beef and fortune triple delight. As might be expected, the specialties got the highest marks. Fortune triple delight, $6.95, was made of sauteed shrimp, beef and chicken with beautifully cooked vegetables in a brown sauce. An interesting blend of flavors, it was as tasty as it was attractive.
Orange beef, $6.95, was the only red-flagged dish we tried, and it was just slightly hot, certainly mild enough for the children. The beef was tender enough to cut with a fork, but the orange sauce verged on being too sweet.
Similarly, the lemon chicken, $5.95, served on a bed of lettuce, had a crunchy coating so sweet it was cloying, and unfortunately the slices of chicken breast were rather chewy.
Moo shi pork, $5.95, was better. The dish combined strips of pork, egg and vegetables in a soy-based sauce, all garnished with bits of bright green scallions and ready to be rolled in large, thin pancakes and spread with plum sauce.
Tea and bowls of rice came with the meal, and servings were generous. Thus, we passed up dessert, although sesame banana, $2, sounded intriguing.
For the four of us, the tab came to $37.15, including drinks, tax and tip.