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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Food Choices, Fu Lin Chinese Restaurant, and Burrito-sized Eggrolls in Salzburg

One of my closest friends enjoys visiting me because she says she always likes my "food choices." And she doesn't like other people's choices? Apparently we have the same taste buds and empty pocket books. So she always leaves happy with a full belly that she didn't have to pay much for. I didn't really understand what she meant until after I had several outings with another friend. I always left our meals feeling dissatisfied because I knew I could get much better for much less. That's the way it usually goes for restaurant recommendations. The tricky part is finding someone whose taste sensibilities are quite like your own. And so, upon someone else's recommendation, I decided to try Fu Lin Chinese Restaurant in Montclair. There were several reasons for this. I love quirky food stories and it doesn't get better than a Korean chef who was raised in China who opens a Chinese restaurant with a secret menu of Korean delicacies. It's easy enough to find good Chinese restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley. Outside of it? That's another matter. Fu Lin is just southeast of Montclair Plaza, on the south side of the freeway, across from a Costco. Since the parking is in the rear, most people enter through the back. The interior was surprisingly spacious with an entrance area with the requisite large fish tank. There were red booths along the walls and tables in the center. With only three tables of people. None of them Asian. Uh oh. Not a good sign. I began to suspect very Americanized Chinese food. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I mean, I have my Panda Express moments. Although I have to admit, I haven't actually eaten at a Panda Express in several years. We were served a complimentary pot of tea, fried chow mein noodles to dip in mustard and sweet and sour sauces, and kim chi. The kim chi made me think maybe my suspicions were wrong. I ordered eggrolls, deep-fried garlic shrimp, and Korean sweet and sour beef (which is supposed to be from that aforementioned secret hidden menu). What I got was, well, Americanized Chinese food.
The eggrolls were mainly filled with cabbage, and a small amount of meat that was pretty much negligible. The sweet and sour beef had the standard cornstarchy sauce and was crispy when it was served, but became quite soggy by the end of meal. The deep-fried garlic shrimp tasted slightly sour, as if the garlic came from a jar. I wanted to like Fu Lin. Partly because someone liked it enough to recommend it. And partly because the waiters were very attentive and the service was very good. I felt like the stereotypical white person in a Chinese restaurant who misses out on the good food because they can't read from the Chinese menu. I perked up when I saw two Korean couples enter. They spoke to the waitress in Korean and I arched my neck to see if they somehow managed to get something from that secret Korean menu. But alas, their fried rice and soups didn't look all that remarkable.
The $23 bill came with orange slices and this very "charming" piece of gum.
It wasn't a total loss. I'm sure I'll eat the leftovers. And the dining experience at Fu Lin brought chuckles as my brother and I remembered our drive across Europe during the summer of 2002. We had just picked up our cousin from Hungary and stopped off in Salzburg, Austria, birthplace of Mozart and home to "The Sound of Music." Down the street from our hotel was a Chinese restaurant and my cousin insisted we have dinner there that night. Surprisingly enough, she said the Chinese food in Hungary is really terrible. Really? We didn't think Chinese food in Austria would be so much better either... As you can see from the picture below, the eggrolls were burrito-sized. We actually had to eat them with a fork and knife. And they were filled only with cabbage. The peking duck was breaded and fried. But my cousin was happy to have some semblance of Asian food. And our Chinese waiter was happy to see other Asians, even though we couldn't speak Chinese and my cousin could barely remember her high school German.
So thanks Fu Lin, for reminding me of some good times. Americanized or Austrianized, as long as I've got a food story out of my experience, I'm happy too. Fu Lin Chinese Restaurant
9645 Central Ave.
Montclair, CA 91763 909-398-1088 And if you're ever in Salzburg and want to try burrito-sized eggrolls, you can go to this restaurant ==>.


  1. I love to see Chinese Restaurants in other countries, I find it so very interesting. So thanks for this post, I thought it wonderful, in spite of the food......

  2. darn, I thought it would be a hit with you...sorry :-(

  3. Hi Bill,

    I hope I didn't hurt your feelings with the review. I could tell you have a fondness for it and I can see why because the people there were very nice. But it wasn't my cup of tea. :(

  4. Awww...

    On a similar note, you know what I found today? A New York style Americanized Cantonese diner. In other words, a greasy spoon serving crappy Chinese food for white people. It was a real trip. Felt like I was back in NYC again.

    - Chubbypanda

  5. CP,

    It's kinda sad but I think those kinds of places are fairly common. :(


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