House of Fortune, McLean, VA

Every so often, you hear tell of a “secret Chinese menu” at a suburban Americanized Chinese restaurant, and indeed, you’re about to hear of another one right now.

The best way to describe the location of House of Fortune is that it’s “downstairs from Tachibana,” tucked away on a side street in downtown McLean.

Following the lead of a Chinese-American poster, I ordered a Spicy Szechuan Beef Noodle Soup ($10.95) and an order of steamed rice just so I’d be sure I was good and full. When I went to pick up my carryout order, I asked the hostess – who was perhaps also the manager or owner – about a Chinese-language menu, and sure enough she produced one and was delighted that I asked.

Her name is Amy, and she urged me (and told me to urge others) to ask for her anytime, and she’ll happily guide us through the dishes. The relatively new chef, Peter Chin, was trained in Taiwan, and was the executive chef at Mr. K’s in downtown DC for 23 years (House of Fortune’s old menu had a section of Shantong dishes, so if you have that one, it’s outdated). My soup seemed Szechuan in name only, and was only mildly spicy (but very well-flavored) with moderately thick noodles. After dumping in the steamed rice (yes I did – sue me) to absorb all the broth, I was stuffed, and couldn’t quite finish the meal.

The carryout menu at House of Fortune is very Americanized, and doesn’t harken me back, but next time I pick up the phone to call, or the next time I go in, I’m making a beeline straight for Amy and the Chinese-language menu.

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