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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