Bleeech! Fortune House is the Worst Says Former NYT Food Critic

Former New York Times food critic Sam Sifton (@SamSifton) tweeted his opinion on the “new” Fortune House [82 Henry Street] earlier this week:

Guess I have a new job, because I can now report Fortune House on Henry is officially in the running for worst Chinese restaurant in NYC.

Heights native Sifton did wax nostalgic about China Chilli a defunct Montague Street restaurant earlier this year in the Times. This is also not the first time Fortune House has had a food writer ponder its existence. Eater asked in 2009 – “Who Eats at Fortune House?”

The Henry Street eatery recently reopened after an issue over worker’s pay, a remodeling and adding a new co-owner.

Is Sifton off target or is he just tellin’ like it is?

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  • AEB

    Haven’t been there since it mutated from its former self into its present-former self, but there’s something about Sifton’s blanket condemnation that’s absolutely delightful.

    You know, guy saying exactly what’s on his mind–and I have little doubt that the restaurant more than reflects his opinion. Makes one wonder, though, how painfully inept FH’s management must be to reopen with an obviously DOA kitchen.

  • PromGirl

    The worst Chinese restaurant in NYC? what a bloviating fool! Sifton was never the most reliable restaurant critic. Maybe that is why he was canned by the NYT. He should not be trashing restaurants using his former status as NYT critic.
    We tried Fortune House shortly after it reopened, and it wasn’t very good. We tried again last week, and it was very good. . We think they might have gotten their old chef back- the fried rice was as delicious as ever.

  • Claude Scales

    Sifton was made national editor of the Times, which hardly amounts to being canned. As far as tweets, he’s entitled to his opinion, as are you. I’m glad to know the fried rice was good. Being a Montague Street resident, I’ve gravitated to Andy’s for my Americanized Chinese fix more often than Fortune House, but I will give the re-opened FH a try, and order fried rice.

    Like Sifton, I miss China Chili.

  • Teresa

    No hat tip for posting the tweet on Wednesday’s Open Thread? ;)

  • Willow St. Neighbor

    My husband had been picking up an order from the original Fortune House every Friday after work. He said the food tastes the same as ever. He had no complaints.

  • Homer Fink

    @teresa – yes @bklynbackstretch tipped us!

  • Heightsguy

    It is just mediocre as usual. Gosh, not the worst, like those innumerable hole-in-the-wall with plexiglass partitions places. No Pork Halal on Dean and 4th is an example, just awful. FH has been very uneven, had watery and wierd moo shu pork, then it was OK next time. Of course that’s true of so many places. FH attempt at Vietnamese food did really fall flat on it’s face, I will say.

  • Karl Junkersfeld

    Sam, the man, Sifton you are right on target. I have been ordering Chinese food from Fortune house since as long as I can remember and the present food is just terrible. I’m so disappointed.

    I mentioned my disappointment a few weeks ago on this blog and it is nice to know my tastes in food is reinforced by Sam the Man.

    Now I just save my Chinese fix for Chinatown, a short walk over the Bridge.

  • Claude Scales

    Can’t resist a link to my views on restaurant criticism:

  • William Spier

    He’s right. The cooks left and the new kitchen tries to cover the menu and the new management seems to think that the folks will slide right into the old seats and not notice the difference. Bad idea. If he had brought in cooks who could bring some new ideas to the place, the new “Fortune House” might work itself back into local hearts and minds. I have no idea what the new owner was doing before this, but he does not like food. Maybe he owned a Firestone tire franchise. He reminds me of the nice gal who owned the place next to Mark Lahm’s before it was call Seasons. She wanted to be in the restaurant business, but she did not seem to like food.

    Someone once asked Sam Wall, founder of Walmart, how he was so successful with his enterprise: he simply replied that he knew everyone’s job better than they did…good advice for someone opening a restaurant or any business that expects success.

    I have had two meals there since it reopened; Sifton is right.

  • AEB

    Claude, nobody did it–or does it–like Britchky, who understood that dining out was not just about food, service and decor, but a gestalt, a drama, generated not only by the above, but by those who showed up and how the whole fitted together.

    He spoke (often satiric) truth to lasagna in a way that Times reviewers, with their weight of Responsibility re non-business wrecking, can’t and don’t begin to.

  • Heightsman

    Went to Ozu tonight. Who knew? It was great!

  • bleh

    Fortune House isn’t the worst. But why go there when Great Wall is right next door? If it’s good enough for Beyonce, it’s good enough for me.

  • WillowtownCop

    Red Apple on Columbia and Union delivers to the Heights – hands down the best in Brooklyn.

  • PromGirl

    Do yourselves a favor: stop the complaining and hop in a cab and go down to Oriental Garden on Elizabeth Street. Outstanding Cantonese restaurant specializing in every variety if fresh fish and seafood imaginable.
    Service is correct and pleasant, and the place is always packed with large families, mostly Chinese, celebrating.’
    Zagat rates it at the top of NYC Chinese. Food us delicious, enormous variety, large portions. Lobster Home Style for 2 (1 1/2/-2lbs) @ $39 is amazing. Dim Sum is the best!

  • travy

    taking unnecessary shots at a little chinese restaurant? pretty lame

  • Willow St. Neighbor

    Phoenix Garden on E. 40th is also amazing. When Fortune House closed we decided to find a new Chinese restaurant close to Grand Central. We have eaten there at least five times since FH closed. The food is excellent and reasonably priced.
    As far as Oriental Garden goes, we have yet to get in! The wait it usually long no matter what time we get there. Maybe someday!
    Nice Green Bo on Bayard St. cannot be beat for their prices either and the food is good.

  • Heightsguy

    Nice Green Bo does rock indeed, it is Shanghai-style, soup dumpling heaven. Strange that no one mentions the many many wonderful,authentic and very inexpensive dining spots in the gigantic Brooklyn Chinatown. Hides in plain sight, tho’ actually larger than it’s venerable Manhattan counterpart.

  • Master Of Middagh

    @William Spier-

    “Someone once asked Sam Wall, founder of Walmart, how he was so successful with his enterprise: he simply replied that he knew everyone’s job better than they did…good advice for someone opening a restaurant or any business that expects success.”

    The only thing his saying that might prove is that Mr. Wall is an arrogant jerk who doesn’t think much of his employees. And if it were actually true? Then he’s an idiot for not training his hires to be as skillful as he thinks he is himself. I wouldn’t exactly use the guy who created a store designed to pass the slavings on to you as a model for how to run a respectable business.

    As for Torture House? It’s a crying shame. It just isn’t the same as it was before, and I loved that place. The low prices, the big portions, the awful decor- magical. And the food? Always terrific. How many Chinese restaurants (not take-out) in the hood serve those fried noodles with duck sauce and hot mustard while you wait for your meal? All of them. Now tell me how many of those places serve noodles that aren’t stale? Only one- and it was Torture House. Hear me now- EVEN THE FORTUNE COOKIES WERE FRESH! Unreal…

    But now? Several of the more original menu items have disappeared (such as the honey baby ribs) and the quality is just not as good. Sad sad sad sad…

  • someone

    @ Willow St Neighbor: Glad to see Phoenix House is still around. Do they still have the decades old sign that the “credit card machine is broken”?

  • Willow St. Neighbor

    I am referring to Phoenix Garden on E. 40th near 1st Avenue.
    We always pay in cash so I did not notice a broken credit card machine. They do have a sign on the front door that says “open at noon on Saturday and Sunday. They open at 12:30 not 12. We went one day and thought they had closed down because we were there at noon. I called the restaurant a few days later and was surprised when someone answered. I asked them what time they opened on weekends and they said 12:30. I guess no one cares that the sign says12 and they might lose customers.

  • Willow St. Neighbor

    So, I would love to have the names of the Brooklyn Chinatown restaurants that you are referring to. It would be nice to find good Chinese restaurants close by.

  • Willow St. Neighbor

    Great Wall has a C rating.
    It takes alot of effort to score a C rating. That rating was given on Oct. 11, 2011. They had an opportunity to clean up their act and they chose not to. Not a place I would set foot in.

  • monty

    The letter grades can be deceiving. Siggys was shut down for a lack of documentation. Great Wall, on the other hand, was cited repeatedly for live roaches. No thanks.

  • my2cents

    The founder of Walmart was Sam Walton, not Sam Wall….
    I think you are getting the Great Wall mixed up with the Wal Mart!

  • PromGirl

    @Willow Street Neighbor
    I always call and make a reservation @ Oriental Garden. They will accommodate you if they are not fully booked for an event.
    As to OP looking for Brooklyn Chinatown restaurants: Elizabeth Street is a five minute cab ride away.
    We are always looking for excellent food, good service, attractive room and reasonable prices.
    Even though Oriental Garden has a large Chinese clientele, the Maître d’ and most waiters speak English and can explain the dishes, ingredients, etc.
    Everything we’ve ever had there has been wonderful, so I wouldn’t know where to start. Every kind if fish, crustacean, clam, crab in season is fresh and live.

  • Willow St. Neighbor

    Thanks for the tip about calling ahead and making a reservation.
    The food must be good otherwise they would not have such huge crowds waiting to get in.

  • Eddyenergizer

    Of course there are better restaurants in “Chinatown”… The point is, what does one do when they get home late from work on a weeknight and wants to dine with chopsticks, here in the Heights…

  • Mike

    That’s ridiculous. Fortune House is pretty average and absolutely fine when you’re in the mood.

  • Hicks St Guy

    China Cafe on 36th St between 5th & 6th in Manhattan: the BEST szechuan food in the universe, and reasonable too.