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Fuloon Chinese Restaurant --- Malden

lipoff Jul 12, 2006 07:50 AM

I went with three friends tonight to the Fuloon Restaurant in Malden, where we had a really excellent Chinese meal. Two of us are Chinese and the other two of us have spent lots of time in China. This is a "real" Chinese restaurant and "miles away from ordinary" as they say.

From the sign to the parking lot on the outside of the building I gather that this used to be called "Peking Gourmet". Indeed, the restaurant is hard to place. It looks recently renovated inside and while attractively decorated there is a full complement of the standard "Chinese restaurant decor package" --- the double happiness character sign, fish tank, gilded wall paper, screens, and so on. The standard menu appears to be the classic American-Chinese restaurant menu from the 1970s in both style and substance --- replete with cocktails like the Mai Tai! Make sure you get the "special menu" as well, which has pictures of the food as well the Chinese and English names. A closer look at the standard menu will also reveal some decidedly non-standard dishes.

We ordered the following:

Jiang Pao Duck (jiangbao ya pian), Diced Chicken with Dates and Chestnuts (zao sheng li zi ji), Steamed Pork with Dry Bean Curd (bai ye jie shao rou), Pork Pancake (rou bing), Scallion Pancake (cong you bing), and Mandarin Cabbage with Spicy & Sour (cu liu baicai).

We also wanted to get the Whole Fish with Chili Pepper (dou jiao quan yu) but they were out of whole fish. This is a good sign --- it means the fish is fresh! They did have one other kind of fish, which we ordered instead. I'm not sure we were even told the name, but looking at the menu afterwards I believe it was Sliced Fish, Shanghai Style (wugu songshuyu) because it looked like a songshu and had a sweet glazed sauce over it. Although my companions didn't like this dish very much --- the two from the Shanghai/Ningbo area called it "Americanized" --- I loved it, and object to their description of it as Americanized! It did have a heavy, sauce and the fish was probably once frozen, but it was still excellent. I also look forward trying the fresh whole fish next time!

The Jiang Pao Duck was really quite excellent, and while expensive at $21.95 came with plenty of duck --- probably enough for two people to share as their only entree! It lived up to its name which literally means "duck pieces exploding with soy sauce". The duck pieces were coated with a caramelized soy sauce and had just the right texture. Thin pancakes, scallion brushes, cucumber slices, bean paste and a plum-based sauce accompanied it, but this is not Beijing Roast Duck but something much harder to find!

The Diced Chicken with Dates and Chestnuts was small chicken bits with jujube and several nuts mixed together in a medium-weight brown sauce. The jujube (or "Chinese date") is one of my favorites, but while I enjoyed this dish it was not spectacular and came in a very small portion. Again nothing wrong with it --- the chicken was of good quality and the jujube good too, but next time I am looking forward to trying the many other chicken dishes on the menu, such as Hot Diced Chicken Szechuan Style (ge le shan la zi ji).

I didn't try the Steamed Pork with Dry Bean Curd but it looked very fine, with a heaping mound of cilantro on top. Dry Bean Curd is quite different from "ordinary" white blocks of tofu and definitely an unusual dish worth trying if you've never had it before.

The Scallion Pancake came out from the kitchen very quickly and was good but not remarkable. It was a little bit greasy (as a good scallion pancake should be!), but a little bit too thick and not quite the right texture --- a touch less crispy on the outside than optimum and a tad chewy on the inside and a bit light on the scallion. But I would definitely order it again. The Pork Pancake was also quite thick, but much more delicate, with interwoven layers of pork and pancake. The texture is similar to the fine scallion pancakes at Mulan in Cambridge. Also, a spicy sauce was brought out with the scallion pancakes while vinegar was brought out with the Pork Pancake. If you just order the scallion pancake, don't be shy about asking for vinegar to go with it.

The cabbage was perhaps the best dish we ordered. We asked for spicy cabbage and received exactly that. Long strips of exquisite Chinese cabbage were laden with various diced peppers in a light vinegar sauce. This was the only real Sichuan-style dish we ordered tonight and it was very spicy and highly, highly recommended.

Good white rice and decent tea rounded out a most enjoyable meal. There were only a few other patrons there tonight and the service was extremely attentive and very kind. Along with the check we were brought nice little cubes of Pea-flour cake (wandou huang), which was an extremely pleasant surprise and a perfect ending to the meal.

Just note that it is located at 375 Main Street in Malden (right near Malden Center) and not at 375 Main Street in Everett (Sonny's Pizza), which is about a three minute drive due south.

All in all, a worthy addition to the vibrant group of authentic Chinese restaurants in the Greater Boston area. I'd rank it with Chili Garden, Zoe's, Qingdao and Mulan and just a tad below Wang's. Of course, they each serve different kinds of food, and I very much look forward to returning to Fuloon. It's not a long drive from Boston or Cambridge, and also easily accessible by the Orange Line.

I should add a note about a few less then positive reviews I've seen of this restaurant on this board. Fuloon apparently does a lunch buffet and "dim sum" on weekends. I don't know how these stack up, and I don't know how their Americanized Chinese food is either. They might be fine, or might be just ordinary as some others have suggested. There's nothing wrong with Americanized Chinese food (consider it a type of Fusion cuisine), and there are some places that do it very well. While I can't speak for the lunch buffet, the Pu Pu Platter or the Moo Goo Gai Pan, I suspect that this is not the style at which Fuloon excels. Try the dishes from their special menu and enjoy extraordinary Chinese food.

Check out http://fuloon-restaurant.com/ for their full menu and some more information.

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  1. Karl S RE: lipoff Jul 12, 2006 12:56 PM

    FUnny, I just got my first take out (they deliver to Melrose) on Sunday and was very pleased (I had stopped by earlier in the day to confirm deliverability and get a menu). I was pleased that they offer vegetarian potstickers, and white fried rice (the House Special Fried Rice) -- if I become regular enough I might ask them to make it with Chinese sausage and dried scallops... I normally never order fried rice because what passes for fried rice is normally pretty dreadful, but I was pleased that I took a chance. The tea smoked duck was flavorful, and I diced it up and added it to my fried rice. The Kan Shue string beans were also a bit different than the usual, glazed with sesame seeds and bits of mushroom in a bright tasting sauce. Lots of other things on the menu to explore in the future.

    One very interesting thing: this was the first Chinese delivery I have experienced in this area where there were no condiments, fortune cookies, et cet. Just what you order. It was sort of refreshing not to have to toss those things I don';t need.

    1. sheila RE: lipoff Jul 12, 2006 01:49 PM

      Thank for the detailed report. I still don't get a chance to go there yet but I'm looking forward to it.

      1. Chris VR RE: lipoff Jul 12, 2006 01:52 PM

        Yay- another place that delivers to Melrose! Here's their online menu:

        http://fuloon-restaurant.com/default....

        I'll have to try it soon- thanks for the heads up!

        1. Prav RE: lipoff Jul 12, 2006 04:07 PM

          The Jiang Pao Duck sounds intriguing. How is it different than Peking Duck?

          Fantastic review, by the way.

          1. r
            Raconteur RE: lipoff Jul 12, 2006 06:47 PM

            I live in Malden and this is my usual haunt. They're nice people, the menu is diverse and good, and they have XLB.

            The dim sum and lunch buffets are unremarkable, but the spcial menu is very good.

            Thanks for this detailed post!

            2 Replies
            1. re: Raconteur
              l
              Ladycale RE: Raconteur Jul 13, 2006 12:29 PM

              I'm always on the lookout for good XLB. How are they here? How do they rank with, say, Taiwan Cafe or Wing's Kitchen?

              1. re: Ladycale
                r
                Raconteur RE: Ladycale Jul 26, 2006 03:43 PM

                Doughy, but tasty; I think I thought the broth was more flavorful than the last time I had them at TC. It's been awhile since I had them, but my memory is of yumminess. Next time I go I'll order them and post a review.

            2. a l i c e RE: lipoff Jul 12, 2006 07:05 PM

              Nice review. I will am looking forward to checking it out, especially since I am in nearby Somerville. By the way, I was wondering if you have ever checked out Sesame in Teele Sq (on Broadway). They have always served boring, Americanized food until several months ago. I read on this board that a daughter of Wang's owner now runs the place (I'm too shy to ask when I go in). We got take-out last night and it was good, not great.

              -veggies dumplings: nice thick-ish skin, not at all mushy, bite-sized
              -temple bean curd with veggies: I originally wanted the *chicken* (these are soy products) but they were out of it. Slightly spicy not-too-thick sauce with some crisp carrots and broccoli. This dish was okay, but I didn't expect the tofu to be fried.
              -steamed chicken with ginger and scallions (also had onions): for my DC; really anemic-looking since there was no sauce, but once he added soy sauce and some of the sauce that came with the dumplings, he said it was good.
              -Baby bok choy with black mushrooms: this is consistently my favorite dish at Sesame. Slight mustard taste, not over-cooked at all. Not difficult to make, I'm sure, but I'll leave it to them to cook it. Delicious.

              In any case, it's not spectacular food, but better than your average take-out joint and the young woman behind the counter is so darned nice. There are some intriguing-sounding items that we are hoping to try out.

              http://www.foodler.com/MA/Somerville/...

              1. Aromatherapy RE: lipoff Jul 12, 2006 09:14 PM

                Not sure the Wang's connection still exists. The daughter bought the place a few years ago (used to be a good Sichuan restaurant) and after a lot of menu kerfluffle it settled into a sushi place with a Chinese menu very close to Wang's and Qingdao, and I stopped going. But it wasn't just "boring Americanized," and I haven't seen the Sesame menu at Wang's in quite a while so I wonder if it hasn't changed since. Of course I guess I could just ask at Wang's but that would be too easy. ;-) Keep us posted if you try more.

                1. a l i c e RE: lipoff Jul 13, 2006 04:00 AM

                  The incarnation of Sesame when it offered sushi is long gone. (I had the misfortune of ordering it once...I must have been really desperate for sushi that night.) It's a different young woman behind the counter and the menu is completely different. Happily, no sushi! I surely will post next time we get take-out (it's rather depressing in there - I can't imagine eating in). Almost nothing makes me sadder than a decent restaurant struggling to survive. :(

                  1. lipoff RE: lipoff Aug 23, 2006 05:24 PM

                    Have been back to Fuloon twice since my initial post, and have tried a few more dishes:

                    They were again out of the duo4 jiao1 quan2 yu2 (whole fish with chili pepper), but we were suggested to try the gan1 shao1 quan2 yu2 (sichuan style whole fish) instead, which is made with a different fish. The flavoring was fine, but I found the fish not entirely fresh. My dining companion loved it, however. They have many different fishes on the menu --- maybe next time I should call first to arr range a particular fish!

                    The si4 chuan1 dou4 fu hua1 (bean curd with special sauce --- mislabeled on their special menu in English as "hot diced chicken with chili peppers") was really fantastic. The jellied bean curd was just the right consistency, and the sauce was flavorful and thick. This is ordinarily vegetarian, but can be prepared with meat if you ask.

                    On another trip, we had the ge1 le4 shan1 la4 zi ji1 (hot diced chicken with chili peppers), which is one of the very best versions of this dish that I've had anywhere. A large plate was presented with many chili peppers and seeds, and small bits of fried chicken hiding amongst the peppers. The chicken is boneless, but very flavorful, and the peppers are extremely hot.

                    The si4 chuan1 shui3 zhu3 niu2 rou4 (steamed beef, sichuan style) was fantastic. A large bowl filled with large pieces of boiled beef, cilantro, sichuan peppers, celery and chunks of cabbage floating in water that's been flavored by the sichuan peppers. shiu3 zhu3 niu2 rou4 is something of an acquired taste --- Zoe's also does a version that's not as hot --- because the beef never gets much above 100 degrees C the Maillard reactions that give grilled or roasted meat its flavor don't have a chance to occur. The result could be bland, but with all of these spices, this dish is anything but. This dish is like a very spicy version of "New England Boiled Dinner".

                    These last two dishes are not for the faint of heart --- this is as real Sichuan food as it gets. (Chilli Garden, down the street in Medford is very good too, although I don't think that they normally do shiu3 zhu3 niu2 rou4).

                    Have also tried several dishes again:

                    cong1 you2 bing3 (scallion pancake) were not so good the second time around --- too oily, to crispy, and hardly any scallions. But the rou4 bing3 (pork pancake) is still excellent.

                    The duo4 jiao1 bai2 cai4 (mandarin cabbage with chili pepper) is one of the best vegetable dishes around. Nicely cut cabbage strips are bunched together and drizzled with a sauce that's at once a little sweet and spicy. The presentation is excellent too.

                    And the jiang4 bao4 ya1 pian4 (jiang pao duck, whole) is one of the very best duck dishes I've had --- again, different from Beijing duck, it's not as difficult to make, but is very unusual and has a great flavor. The pancakes are obviously homemade. My only complaint this time is that they cut the cucumbers too thickly and skimped on the scallion brushes. I think the duck was even more flavorful this time.

                    The staff is very nice, the bathrooms extremely clean, and the music piped into the room is pleasant, although some of the musical choices are a bit unusual. :)

                    Excellent restaurant, and definitely worth a trip!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: lipoff
                      macca RE: lipoff Aug 23, 2006 05:32 PM

                      Great review! I live nearby ( in Melrose), so it will definitely be added to my "must try" list.

                    2. Chris VR RE: lipoff Aug 23, 2006 10:04 PM

                      Thanks for the detailed review. We've had some delivery (sorry can't remember specifics, it was a couple of months ago) and were very impressed.

                      1. i
                        InmanSQ Girl RE: lipoff Sep 7, 2007 01:02 PM

                        Does anyone know if their Chinese-American food is any good or just their more authentic stuff? I ask because while I *love* more authentic fare, my grandparents *love* Chinese-American (pork fried rice, lobster sauce, bone in spareribs, crab rangoon, beef chow mein, and random mixed meats drowned in oyster sauce, being some of their favorites). It would be amazing to find a place with good quality Chinese -American and authentic fare, so we could all go out to dinner and all genuinely enjoy it (I'm usually the one that suffers through random-meat-drown-in-oyster-sauce-#53)

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: InmanSQ Girl
                          skokefoe RE: InmanSQ Girl Sep 7, 2007 01:30 PM

                          I've had it a couple times, and it's not the best Chinese-American food, but it's certainly passable, in my book (based on pork fried rice, kung pao chicken, pork w/ garlic sauce, hunan chicken, etc). I obviously really need to try some more of the Sichuan choices there!

                          1. re: skokefoe
                            limster RE: skokefoe Sep 7, 2007 02:52 PM

                            Do also try the Shandong choices there.

                            1. re: skokefoe
                              f
                              foodperv RE: skokefoe Sep 7, 2007 04:47 PM

                              i have Always found with chinese is you would have to go to 4 diff places at a time to make a GREAT plate what i mean by this is, one place has great kung pao and lousy this or that the next great rice and lousy this or that etc every rest. has it strenths and weaknesses

                            2. re: InmanSQ Girl
                              j
                              joth68 RE: InmanSQ Girl Sep 7, 2007 03:16 PM

                              I went to their lunch buffet today and I can't recommend it. The kung pao chicken and pork with scallions was good but everything else disapointed. It should be noted that it wasn't very busy today and clearly the food had been sitting for a while. I'll give them another shot and order off of the specials menu.

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