Following some very intriguing Chowhound advice (see "Triangle -- my personal faves" below), my wife and I beat an eager path to Fortune Palace in Raleigh. Earlier comments were on target in one important respect: my Taiwanese wife confirms that the restaurant's Chinese menu is perfectly authentic. Indeed, it's not a Chinese restaurant at all, but a Taiwanese restaurant, which is something of a rarity in the U.S. The problem is that authenticity and quality are not completely synonymous. It was hugely refreshing to have authentic food, but we were not necessarily thrilled by the execution. Our $60 meal ran as follows:
1) Chicken rolls (minced chicken, and in this case rice, wrapped in tofu and deep fried). My wife calls the chicken rolls served at a certain food stand in Changhua, Taiwan, her very favorite food in the entire universe, but this offering was a pale comparison. The rolls were loose, so they become infused with oil and more or less fell apart. Plus they were served with a bright orange, American-style sweet and sour sauce that would have paired more nicely with chicken McNuggets.
2) Seafood hotpot. This was low on shrimp and scallops, high on mediocre faux crab meat, and the seasoning did not go much farther than the chili bean sauce we use every day in our own kitchen. I said, "I recognize this! It's our mapo tofu with seafood thrown in!" The dish got bonus points on authenticity grounds for including cubes of congealed blood (which I refused to eat, but I don't hold my own provincial tastes against the restaurant).
3) Steamed cod covered in a small mountain of fried "crispy soybean" pieces. This dish, which somewhat redeemed the meal, was completely new to me. The beans had an unusual meaty flavor and texture, though again the dish was not terribly subtle. I recommend it for the sake of novelty.
4)Wu-shin spareribs (stewed ribs in a sweatish sauce). My wife wouldn't take more than a bite, saying it tasted too much like her mother's cooking, which was a compliment in terms of authenticity, but a rebuke in terms of quality. I thought it was edible, but, as she said, too much like the mushy, indifferently flavored food one finds in the average Taiwanese home.
I would call Fortune Palace the most credible Chinese restaurant we've visited in the Triangle, but it's not worth the long trip from Chapel Hill.
The Holy Grail remains at large!
A final note: the portions at Fortune Palace are pretty large. We ordered three dishes but could have gotten by with two.
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