January 18, 2020

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The real deal

Food at Fu Lin makes up for lack of ambience

Opinion

Once located on Keewatin Street, Fu Lin closed, only to reopen in 2018 in St. Vital, with a menu that hangs on to old favourites and adds some new dishes. The barebones venue on St. Mary’s Road has absolutely no ambience, but the food here is the real deal.

Fu Lin specializes in the cooking of northeastern China, with many dishes that feature lamb, potatoes, cumin and cornbread-like pancakes. The short but intriguing bill of fare also offers ingredients not usually found on more westernized menus, such as dried daylily buds and nubbly nose-to-tail cuts of meat and poultry like chicken gristle, duck neck, ox throat and pig feet.

The spicy lamb hotpot soup is served in a black metal pot with a handful of cilantro scattered on top and a spicy broth featuring red shreds of chili.

The spicy lamb hotpot soup is served in a black metal pot with a handful of cilantro scattered on top and a spicy broth featuring red shreds of chili.

One of the house specialties is spicy lamb hotpot soup, which comes to the table in a big, black metal pot, hot in both senses of the word. There are fall-off-the-bone tender lamb ribs with a handful of cilantro scattered on top. As good as the meat is — and it’s really, really good — the centre of the dish is the broth.

As advertised, it’s spicy, with red shreds of chili, but there’s a great deal of deep, dark subtlety, with notes of anise and garlic and just general umami goodness.

Restaurant Review

Fu Lin
956 St. Mary’s Rd., 204-615-5126
fulin-chinese.business.site

Go for: authentic northeastern Chinese food

Fu Lin
956 St. Mary’s Rd., 204-615-5126
fulin-chinese.business.site

Go for: authentic northeastern Chinese food
Best bet: the spicy lamb hotpot
Mains: $11.99-15.99; big mains: $20.99-29.99

Tuesday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday 2-10 p.m.
Licensed: Yes, serves beer
Wheelchair accessible

★★★★

 

STAR POWER

★★★★★ Excellent
★★★★ Very Good
★★★ Good
★★ Mediocre
★ Substandard
No stars Not recommended

At $29.99, it might seem pricey, but it’s a huge serving that could easily be the centrepiece of a group meal.

Other big one-pot dishes include pork belly with fermented cabbage, beef brisket with dried daylilly buds, pork ribs with beans and corn cobs, and Spanish mackerel, all served with cornbread pancakes along the side for soaking up the juices.

Eggplant can be ordered in slices with fish sauce, or finished with cubes of pork.

Eggplant can be ordered in slices with fish sauce, or finished with cubes of pork.

There’s Chinese-style barbecue, with various foods threaded onto long, sharp skewers and finished with a crust of spices. You can choose from meats such as beef and lamb, but there are also options such as tofu, vegetables, enoki mushrooms and cloud ear fungus.

Cold appetizers include a mixed salad of cucumber, thin shredded potato, tofu skins and peanuts. The balanced dressing combines sweet, sour and spicy flavours, but the salad also gets a lift from its crunchy, crisp textures.

Texture is also key with the kitchen’s handling of eggplant, which is incomparably, extravagantly melty and rich. You can order slices of eggplant served up with fragrant fish sauce, or finished with little cubes of pork.

A note: If you want rice, you’ll need to order it à la carte. It’s not a staple in the northeast as it is in southern Chinese cuisine.

A bowl of beef noodle soup.

A bowl of beef noodle soup.

There are plenty of other interesting starches, though, including fluffy, paper-white steamed rolls, elegantly twisted, and hand-pulled noodles, which are featured in soups as well as fried in chow mein dishes.

Chicken noodle soup is perfect winter food, with springy noodles and pleasantly chewy bits of chicken. A shrimp chow mein features sweet-tangy sauce and fresh-tasting, non-generic shrimp.

Boiled dumplings, filled with beef and celery or pork and cabbage and cut with vinegary dipping sauce, are comforting but a bit soggy.

Service is obliging, though it can slow down when things get busy. Around dinnertime, the small room can fill up very quickly.

Taste that lamb hotpot, and you’ll understand why.

alison.gillmor@freepress.mb.ca

Fu Lin owner and head chef Hongbin Yu.

Fu Lin owner and head chef Hongbin Yu.

Alison Gillmor

Alison Gillmor
Writer

Studying at the University of Winnipeg and later Toronto’s York University, Alison Gillmor planned to become an art historian. She ended up catching the journalism bug when she started as visual arts reviewer at the Winnipeg Free Press in 1992.

Read full biography

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