First Look: Fortune Noodle

New Sichuan restaurant serves dishes so spicy you tingle.


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Photo: Martha Cheng

 

“My tongue feels funny,” says my dining companion. This is the first and most lasting impression of Fortune Noodle, which specializes in Sichuan cuisine.

 

That tongue tingling, along with extreme levels of spiciness, is the hallmark of Sichuan food, the result of cooking with fistfuls of chilies—sometimes I break into a sweat just looking at Sichuan dishes, flooded with alarmingly red chili oil or entire whole chilies—and a dose of Sichuan peppercorns. It’s a flavor profile called ma la in Chinese, translating literally as numbing spicy. 

 

At Fortune Noodle, though, they could ease up a little on the Sichuan peppercorn so that finishing a meal here is less like leaving the dentist with a mouthful of Novocaine. Still, I must be a sucker for punishment—and starved for Chinese food flavors beyond Cantonese—that I’ll be visiting Fortune Noodle more frequently than my dentist’s office.

 

Skip the fancy-looking “hot stone noodles,” which come in a hot stone pot like the ones Korean restaurants use to serve dol sot bi bim bap. It’s a fancy show for a rather bland broth and even blander rice noodles … and the inexplicable addition of luncheon meat. Order instead the classic dan dan noodle, which packs punch in a savory sauce of pork, sesame paste and, of course, chilies. This is my Chinese comfort food.

 

Sichuan cuisine has given us Chinese food favorites that include kung pao chicken and ma po tofu; Fortune Noodle’s ma po tofu is one of my favorites in Honolulu (though again, could ease up a little on the numbingness). Also, get the combination platter of vegetables, which might include crunchy pickled wood ear fungus (more the texture of seaweed than mushroom); shredded potato, fresh and crisp, like an apple; and string beans stir-fried with pork.

 

When you finish with dinner, cool off the tongue with the iced jello noodle with brown sugar; it is sweet and soothing, and much needed after the ma la assault.

 

Fortune Noodle, the first Hawai‘i branch of a restaurant chain based in China, bills itself as Honolulu’s only Sichuan restaurant. Not that we’re strangers to Sichuan dishes; Hunan Cuisine, despite its name, serves some excellent ones. But, while a visit to Fortune Noodle is a welcome break from the Cantonese food hegemony in Honolulu, the one-note flavor of most of the dishes doesn’t do one of the four great traditions of Chinese cuisine justice.

 

Fortune Noodle, 808 Sheridan St., #105, 428-5382

 

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