A national coffee chain recently plopped its big, fat butt down on the corner of Glenwood Street and Chinden Boulevard. Not only does it block the Glenwood-side view of a popular java drive-thru owned by the chain's local competition, but it also crowds the entrance to the Stinker station on the same corner. However, the silver lining in this glaring cloud of greed is that what was once a scruffy Garden City shopping center has now had a spiffy, modern facelift in terra cotta and deep dijon hues, and new life is being breathed into the long-standing businesses there.
One of those businesses, Fortune Wok Restaurant, has been serving Chinese food to the Garden City/northwest Boise crowd for 14 years. Although the 1980s mauve palette inside has yet to catch up with the new earth-toned facade outside, the menus are new, and the dining room is clean. The restaurant is owned by the Fong family, whose great-great-grandfather immigrated to America from southern China five generations ago to work the mines in Idaho City during the gold rush of the late 1800s. Some of the family's first immigrants also helped construct the railways that connected the newly settled Western territories. Several decades later, Chummy Fong owned Mandarin Palace, a well-known Chinese restaurant in Garden City. Today, the family, who has 12 members living in Boise, owns and runs Fortune Wok.
I paid two visits to Fortune Wok. On my first visit, I was accompanied by my hunky boss and an 87-year-old former Marine on a recent Friday night. While sipping Tsing Tao beers ($3), we looked over the menu, which offers a good, but not overwhelming selection of Chinese food favorites. We started with an eight-piece order of Chinese barbecue pork and seeds ($3.60) with ketchup, hot mustard and sesame seeds to dip in. Tasty bowls of steaming soup in both egg flower and hot and sour varieties soon followed. Another round of Tsing Taos was required before the main courses arrived, and we did not wait long for either.
Our dinner was rolled out on a sturdy Cambro cart, and we wasted no time sharing a pot of steamed rice and sampling selections. Although the Marine had considered ordering the curry chicken, he settled on the delicious Mongolian chicken ($7.95) with slivered white onions and crispy rice noodles. My hunky boss's kung pao beef ($7.75), with its wafer-thin slices of tender beef, peas, peanuts, diced carrots and water chestnuts, was another winner. My order of fragrant mango tofu ($6.95) got its bright colors and light flavor from a combination of broccoli, peas, mango, baby corn, mushrooms and lightly browned tofu. Although I am not a vegetarian, once I ordered the tofu dish Joy Mak, Chummy Fong's granddaughter, was careful to inform me about which soups contained meat. I appreciated her attentiveness. We all agreed that our dishes appeared thoughtfully prepared.
On my second visit, I took two teenage boys on a Wednesday after school. We started with bowls of hot and sour soup, which were gone in two slurps. They were followed by an order of unfortunately oily fried spring rolls, which was the worst element of both meals. The eldest teen inhaled an order of General Tso's chicken ($8.50) made with meaty strips of crispy chicken and steamed broccoli spears in a thick, sweetish brown sauce. The youngest teen's kung pao chicken ($7.75) was in a mild brown sauce and full of peas, peanuts, diced carrots and water chestnuts. I really liked the colorful hot pot tofu ($7.25), which was loaded with fresh Chinese pea pods, celery, zucchini, carrots, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and onion in a mild white sauce. Overall, the service was friendly and fast, the food was good, and I'd go back again.
—Jennifer Hernandez was adopted by the coolest kitten ever.