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Chinese New Year Feasting at Fu Lam Mum in Mountain View

Friday night’s dinner was at Fu Lam Mum in downtown Mountain View. This was a first time for each of us. Earlier I’d tried to take my mother there, but she balked at seeing only a couple diners. Not so this night, the place was nearly full all night, very noisy, and hopping with energy. While the busy FoH staff ran around and struggled to keep up with the crush, a manager with a headset circling the downstairs dining room kept things running smoothly.

The white board of specials included some new year’s dishes, such as ho see soong (lettuce cups with dried oysters). And, we saw a good looking plate of poached mustard greens (gai choi) topped with a healthy portion of fat choi go by. But we ended up picking pork and oyster preps from the regular menu.

Our server ladled out individual bowls of the soup, listed on the menu as Seafood tofu and bamboo pith. None of us could find any bamboo pith in our bowls, and I checked the tureen too and came up empty-handed. I pointed this out to our waitress, who checked with the manager and came back with the explanation that customers didn’t like the bamboo pith so it was discontinued. The stock did not have that much character, so I asked for it to be taken away. The manager said he wanted us to be happy and that it was no problem to take it off the bill. I greatly appreciated his smooth handling of this.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

Then a cold appetizer - Pork hock and jellyfish arranged nicely on a bed of marinated soybeans. This was very good with perfect salting and a good bounce to the jellyfish. The thin slices of succulent and smooth hock meat rimmed with chewy rind and fat were delicious dipped in the sauce blending sweetened mayo and hot Chinese mustard. The candied soybeans were special too, seasoned with preserved orange peel and sweet herbs for more complexity and unique flavor. This was a good value at $7.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

Another example of an out-of-date menu description was the roast pig. Listed as Crispy suckling pig, $11, but actually a thick slice of roast pork belly. This was too mature to be suckling pig, but good in its own right. The sweet, vinegary dipping sauce cut through the porcine richness.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

Another winner was Fried oysters with salty egg yolk, $12. The batter was a little heavy, but the oysters were on point with a custard-like texture under the crunchy exterior speckled with bits of salty egg yolk. Salty egg yolks (hom don wong) are one of my mom's favorite things, and she was chasing the last of the golden, rich crumbs around the plate with her chopsticks.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

We also had House special noodles. Available as a crispy cake (jin mein) or chow mein, we picked the latter, and were treated to tasty soy sauced noodles stir-fried with chunks of chicken, char siu, shrimp, scallops, squid, yellow leeks, plucked bean sprouts, and scallions. Like me, William would have preferred thicker noodles for this style.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

Complimentary dessert was red bean soup, still not my favorite, but this tasted better than most. Dinner for the three of us came to $58 with tax and tip, with some to take home. Overall, we thought Fu Lam Mum made a good showing and we’d return.

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Fu Lam Mum
246 Castro St, Mountain View, CA

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  1. I have only ever come here for the dim sum. I should return for some entrees next time. Thank you for the review!

    3 Replies
    1. re: meloncollie

      Pls do spill about the dim sum. Not convenient for me, but my brother lives in Palo Alto and this might be the best in reasonable driving distance.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        I actually think, given the area, that it's quite good. My favorites in general are hargow, shumai, minced beef congee, and I found them all to be tasty.

        There seems to be many places on Castro for dim sum though. I can't say I possess the ability to tell you which ones are the best, but at the very least, FLM is decent :)

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          My experience, based on 3 weekday lunch visits, is that FLM is very disappointing if you set your standard to be the usual suspects along Millbrae Ave.

          Random comments:

          - 2 out of 3 visits, I was "accidentally" charged $1 for tea when I asked for water. For the 3rd visit they corrected the faux pas and make a mark on the dim sum/tab chart that no tea was ordered.

          - limited variety during weekday lunch. Within 30 to 40 mins the same items circulated the floors (push carts)

          - cheung fun 3 visits out of 3 were room temperature or bordering on cold. Either the steamer/heater thing in the push cart outputs low BTU or they've been circulating too long.

          - beef tripe (the thin ribbony type) is good but very greasy. Everything else from ha gow to siu mai, to panfried daikon cake were very mediocre.

          - they offer ja leung (cheung fun skin wrapped around fried crullers), and even for made to order, came out a tad under lukewarm. The cruller had little or no flavor, and worse, the portions were horrendously small, and suddenly you're out $5 to $6.

          - for those who prefer dim sum at night, from 9 ish till midnight, you can pick a subset of their dim sum lineup, I think it was 3 varieties for $9.99 (some steamed, the rest deep fried stuff).

          I'm never in the area for a weekend but based on 3 average to disappointing weekday visits, I don't plan on going back anytime soon.

          To their little sister restaurant next door that is HK Bistro, the only decent item there is won ton noodle soup, where there isn't much shrimp and is more pork based, but for MV it is the best you can get (you can order won ton noodle soup inside FLM but not sure if it is different or not).

      2. Everything looks good. But the oyster dish and the roast pork dish contain enough cholesterol to last me a couple of months.

        1. Thanks for the review. I've passed by the restaurant a couple of times and have always been curious about the place. It looks like it's a pretty standard Chinese restaurant. In fact, it looks pretty good for Mountain View considering there are fried items where the batter is made with salty egg yolk, which means this restaurant is somewhat up to date with what's popular in Hong Kong. I just can't stand the places that still continue to serve sweet and sour pork and broccoli beef as their main dishes (e.g. so many of the other Chinese restaurants in Mountain View) when Cantonese food in the bay area - even if it is still a few years behind Hong Kong - has evolved so much beyond that!

          I guess one of the things I dislike about restaurants in the bay area is how they use the names of very famous restaurants in Hong Kong but do not come close to delivering the same quality of food. Fu Lam Moon is a perfect example because there is actually a very established and well regarded Cantonese restaurant in Hong Kong called Fook Lam Moon.

          Sigh - when are we actually going to have some really good Cantonese restaurants in the bay area? I just wish even places like Lei Garden would open a branch here...

          7 Replies
          1. re: hong_kong_foodie

            While a certain pining for your HK favorites is reasonable, it's fairly slanderous to say Mountain View is the land of sweet and sour pork and broccoli beef as you imply.

            Besides Fu Lam Mum, there's next-door Hong Kong Bistro. Dynasty (?) and Chef Liu and Trend are Sichuan, and I haven't been to that Queen place. I used to be a sucker for Food Street, with their excellent basic noodle dishes, but they've been papered up for years now.

            Hunan Home probably still serves the "classics", but it's a hunan joint. I haven't been to Chef Wang since they moved off Castro, but I always liked their jellyfish. Even china village has that kind of stuff, although they label them "classic" and they're pretty well done. You don't have to order them.

            Don't just walk by - walk in, and report back!

            1. re: bbulkow

              Actually, I've been to a bunch of the other places like Hong Kong Bistro, Dynasty (if you are talking about the restaurant in Cupertino--there's also one in San Jose), and Food Street (when it was still around), and the food was awful. They serve dishes other than sweet and sour pork and the like, but the quality was really, really bad. Of course I am comparing them to restaurants in Hong Kong, but I guess that's my gripe all along--that you really can't find good Cantonese food here (and Hong Kong Bistro, Dynasty, and Food Street are all focused on this type of cuisine).

              I really do want to like the food here since I live here, but I also go to Asia 3-4 times a year (primarily Hong Kong and Taipei) and the food there is so much better. And to me, a restaurant that calls itself Fu Lam Mum is obviously using the name of the legendary Fook Lam Moon in Hong Kong, and for those who have been, it might be off-putting.

              1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                Well, you are going to be always disappointed if you want to base your comparison with HK restaurants. The pure concentration of the number of Chinese foodies packed in a small area is enough in itself to guarantee that no other place can compare. Besides, Fu Lam Mum is not the exact name as Fook Lam Moon. Fu and Fook are two different words. Just because they may sound similar (not even sounding the same) don't mean anything. There are other restaurants in the Bay area that are actually branches from HK, such as Zen (Penninsula), which has branches in HK and Shanghai.

                1. re: PeterL

                  Good point.

                  By the way, is Zen Peninsula in Millbrae really a branch of the one in Hong Kong? Are you talking about the one in the Festival Walk Mall in Kowloon? For the longest time I had thought they had just used the name--I had no idea they were actually a branch of the ones in Asia. In fact, I am surprised that they are since they do not use any of the promo material (logo, decorative patterns, etc) as the ones in Asia.

                  1. re: hong_kong_foodie

                    No, Zen Peninsula here is not a branch of HK's Zen restaurant. I had checked when it first opened in Millbrae. However, I do still like the dim sum there and you can find my post from a couple months ago.

                    Also, I wanted to mention that I've had a dish, maybe it was frog, coated with salty egg yolks about four years ago at HK Flower Lounge's original location in Millbrae, where Asian Pearl is now.

                  2. re: PeterL

                    Yeah the Fook and Fu differences in the Chinese names are 福 vs 富

                    I agree with HK foodie that too many Chinese restaurants in SF Bay Area (and arguably elsewhere) use the Chinese names of known establishments in Hong Kong only to draw people in (recognition by familiarity), but have zero affiliation (and quality in comparison) to the original named places. I suppose it is also not against the law to have two completely independently owned restaurants to have the same or similar sounding Chinese names as well.

                    Peter, than than Zen Pen, what other restaurants do you know of are branches or affiliated with their original counterparts in Hong Kong (other than Harbor Village which is no longer around).

                    1. re: K K

                      The original HK Flower Lounge group was Hong Kong-owned until its recent sale to Mayflower. Fook Yuen in Millbrae and East Ocean in Emeryville are/were both parts of Asian chains.

                      As far as lamenting the sweet and sour pork, restaurants offer what sells. When each of these HK restaurants first opened they were very close to what they offered in Hong Kong. But if customers don't pay for that level of cuisine, the standards slip. About 10 years ago when I was still doing a lot of business in Vancouver, I tried its local branch of East Ocean and even then Vancouver's was better than Emeryville's.