Wednesday, October 7, 2015

First Bite: Fortune Noodle at 808 Center

Nadine Kam photos
Dan dan noodles at Fortune Noodle showcase the full potency of the Sichuan pepper (hidden in the sauced at the bottom) that helps makes Sichuan cuisine so distinctive. It is definitely an acquired taste.


We did not have a true Sichuan restaurant until the arrival of Fortune Noodle at the new 808 Center at 808 Sheridan St.

The small, casual restaurant is the first Hawaii branch of a Chinese-based restaurant chain. It specializes in a short, fast menu of noodle soups, grilled meat and meat-and-vegetable sautes.

Dan dan noodles (below) are the star of the menu, at $6.99 for a small bowl. It will be an eye-opener for those who think they know dan dan noodles. This is the authentic version in which a sauce of chili oil, garlic and crushed Sichuan peppercorns lies at the bottom of the bowl, topped with noodles, ground beef and green onions. Mix it all together to get the full impact, which is not as much hot as mouth-numbing, thanks to the “peppercorn,” which is not really a pepper but the dried husks of coriander seeds. Its herbal character is similar to lavender.

 Chili oil dumplings with a dab of garlic paste are a winner for those who can handle a little bit of heat.

Though the dish is delicious, thanks to garlic and real peppers, the numbing factor and the soapy herbal taste is off-putting. It made me want to reach for something to rinse out my mouth. That didn’t stop me from going back for more. On the second trip I left the sauce at the bottom of the bowl and dipped the noodles in only as much sauce as I could tolerate.

Warm up to the peppers with red chili oil dumplings ($6.99). Then cool off with a dessert of iced “noodle” ($2.99), plant gelatin molded in its bowl and topped with brown sugar and a strawberry purée. It looks odd, but it’s so worth ordering.

This restaurant is really worth a full review, but alas, space in the newspaper is limited and with so many eateries opening in the new 808 Center, it would appear too repetitive to keep showing up at this spot week after week for my formal reviews. I’ll be back at the center soon enough anyway, likely as soon as next week!
Fortune Noodle is at 808 Sheridan St. Call 349-3711.

Don’t attempt the boiled beef in hot chili sauce ($29.99) unless you’re acclimated to the Sichuan pepper in the smaller dan dan noodle bowl. All those red chilis are no problem to me, but the herbal-flavored Sichuan peppercorns in the dish cause an uncomfortable numbing sensation.

 I loved the sweet delicacy of the Chef's Special Oxtail.

An assortment of skewered meat and vegetables. I only had the shrimp, at left, which were delicious.

 Mapo tofu with rice. Given that mapo tofu abounds locally, I'd try other items before ordering this again. It's $10.99 with rice.

Marinated fried pork is one of my favorite dishes here, accompanied by a house togarashi-like chili pepper blend for dipping or sprinkling over the pork. It’s delicious with or without the heat.

Sauteed beans for balancing the meat and noodle items.

Dessert is not very pretty but it’s very refreshing. Plant gelatin forms a glob of a “noodle” topped with brown sugar and a pour of strawberry purée. I was skeptical but ended up loving it.

Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage is in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

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