Last night, Adam and I took our families out to dinner to celebrate Mother’s Day. Despite the fact that our parents have met each other several times, this was actually the first time they would sit together on one table and share a meal together. Initially, Adam was a bit reluctant to have a joint-dinner and asked me why we couldn’t just do two separate meals like we’ve done in the past, i.e. one big yum cha with Adam’s parents and one big dinner with my family. My answer was that 1) two big meals cost more and would make us fatter and 2) it’s about time our folks actually conversed with one another over food.
We decided to have dinner at Fu Long in Box Hill so on Wednesday afternoon, I booked a table for eight (initially ten for my cousin, Jess and my aunt, Emy but they were still stuck in Indonesia because of German measles) for 6pm. We had been there for yum cha once and thought that it was okay so we decided to see how they were like at night. Okay, so the week went by and soon enough, it was Saturday. Now, Adam’s parents read the community Chinese newspapers whenever they come out and more often than not, these newspapers would often publish Chinese restaurant ads. It turned out that one of the ads that appeared this week was one advertising a “Mother’s Day Set Menu Dinner” at Fu Long, implying that every diner had to have the set menu. So Adam’s telling me about this so-called set menu while I’m staring at him all confused (“Set menu at a Chinese restaurant on Mother’s Day? Since when do Chinese people give a crap about Mother’s Day?”) before I said, “But the lady on the phone never told me about a set menu!” Without knowing much about what was on this so-called set menu, Adam told me not to worry about it and that his mum “probably had no idea what she was talking about.” Still, it wasn’t reassuring to me so the next day (Sunday, Mother’s Day) I made Adam ring up Fu Long to find out if this set menu thing was true and to get the details of it.
It turned out that yes, there WAS a set menu and that for a party of eight, it would cost “two hundred and something.” When I asked Adam about the details of the set menu, he just shrugged and said “it had mud crab in it.” Hmph, he may be able to speak Cantonese alright but so much for his linear questioning skills! Anyway, I was pretty annoyed that I wasn’t told that there would be a set menu when I made the booking only a few days ago and to me, that is just a sigh of unprofessionalism. Both Adam and my mum told me not to get pissy because “that’s just the way that the Chinese do it” but the way I see it, 1) Fu Long’s customers aren’t all Chinese and 2) it’s showing a lack of customer care. After thinking about whether to go to Fu Long and sitting through the set menu or whether we should go elsewhere, we eventually decided that we should stick to our original plan. And so at 6pm, we arrived.
The eight-people set menu was actually $298 and consisted for the following courses:
-16 oysters with “two colour sauce”
-Ginger and shallot mud crab with egg noodles
-Roast/Cold meat platter
-King prawns with scallops and vegies
-Deep fried spicy chicken ribs
-Steamed (or fried) barramundi
-Sauteed mushrooms, baby corn and other greens
-Red bean soup
Oh, and there was a $30 (!! ) surcharge if you were going to pay by credit card (Yeah, I’m aware that places do charge extra for credit card transactions but c’mon, 10%??).
Looking at the menu, there were only a few things that we liked – the oysters, the mud crab and the fish. The bulk of the menu consisted of seafood items which Kenneth didn’t particularly like and which Adam’s dad couldn’t really enjoy because he had a skin condition. We asked a passing waiter if we could order a la carte because we didn’t like anything on the set menu but he insisted, “everyone tonight must have the set menu.” We argued that several people on the table didn’t eat seafood to which his response was, “You can add extra dishes for an extra charge.” Well, that didn’t go down too well for us. For the most part, there would be way too much food on the table and half of it will go to waste.
The manager of the restaurant then came to our table to see if we were ready to order to which we expressed our dissatisfaction with the things on the set menu. We really wanted to substitute things because it was the only way everyone on the table could be happy. I mean, if most restaurants can substitute things because of allergies and so on, then why couldn’t Fu Long? The manager was getting a little pissy at this stage because he took out his pen and angrily circled the “Set Menu” heading on the menu and told us, “No, we cannot change anything. Our kitchen staff are going to be under so much pressure.” Adam and his dad were, at this stage, upping their psycho Cantonese talk-slash-yell and waving their arms around before the manager relented and said (rather rudely, I might add), “Fine, have the six-people banquet and then order more dishes, how’s that?”
Well, the six-people banquet was no better than the eight-people one. It was pretty much the same, minus a few dishes. But at $178, (or $208, if you’re paying by credit card) it sounded a lot better than the eight-people banquet and it would work out to be cheaper even if we added a few extra dishes to make the non-seafood eaters happy. The manager popped a sheet of paper on our table, with all the dishes we were to consume and every time our dishes would arrive, the waiter would tick the respective dish listed on the paper so that there wouldn’t be any issues with people getting the wrong dishes etc. Here are the food photos minus any commentary because, like I said, it was all very average and the focus of his entry is more on the customer service rather than the food itself.
Oysters with “two colour sauce” (which was actually XO sauce). Everyone knows that Sunday is the day where one shouldn’t order seafood but the others on the table were keen. I wasn’t expecting uber-freshness but still, I didn’t think they would be THIS bad – bland, rubbery, small, disgusting.
Steamed barramundi + one of those mints that come in those rectangular tin containers
The cold meat platter (chicken feet, duck feet and octopus. I really tried to make this photo look good but I failed…)
Roadkill Spicy peppered quail
Roast meat platter (roast duck and roast pork… check out the amount of fat still left on the pork)
Honey peppered beef ribs with broccoli
Tofu and vegies in oyster sauce
Okay, I’m not going to dwell on the food because it was honestly very average. Actually, just below average I reckon because my throat was later parched thanks to the huge dosage of MSG that came with it. The cold platter (duck’s feet, chicken feet and baby octopus marinated in nothing more than vinegar and pepper or something to that effect) remained untouched because well, let’s face it, they’re not the prettiest-looking things on the menu as did most of the roast meat platter as the char siu had way too much fat on it.
We were all about 80% full (we probably would have been 100% full had we been able to stomach the clammy chicken feet still remaining on the platter) and not even five seconds after our desserts arrived did the manager came to dump the bill in front of us. $223. While that was pretty cheap for the eight of us, I couldn’t help but think that had we been allowed to order off the a la carte menu and actually CHOOSE the food we liked, we would have only paid $180. And that would have included the crab and the fish too.
So here we are, slurping our mung bean soups when a group of Westerners rock up and sat at the table next to ours. They were given the same red set menus as us and as I watched as they started whinging about how “weird” the food was and that they wanted “real Chinese food.” Then to my surprise, the waiter then gave them PINK MENUS. Yes, they got given the a la carte menus! And moments later, I saw a soup tureen filled with, yup you guessed it, chicken and corn soup land on their table. As the waitress was dishing the soup out, a plate of spring rolls landed on their table. And then some fried rice. Yep, while us folk had to deal with overpriced sub-standard set menus, the white folk got to order whatever the fck they wanted.
Oh boy, you could imagine how I was feeling right at this minute. The money thing wasn’t the problem. We got ripped off about $40, which was bad enough, but that did not compare to the fact that the table next to us got favourable treatment compared to us. Just because they were so fcking small-minded about not wanting to try mud crabs … and fair enough, some of the dishes on the set menu were wtf but if they were allowed to order from the a la carte menu, why couldn’t we? Was it because they were white and hence, the staff at Fu Long wanted to suck up to them? And what was that thing that the manager told us before? Something about the kitchen staff being under so much pressure if anyone dared to deviate from the set menu? I wanted to complain to the manager but I think that none of them would have understood me because their English effing sucks. I asked Adam to complain on my behalf but he was too much of a wuss to do that isn’t the type to cause a scene. In the end, our mums told us to leave it at that and head home. At least we now know not to come back here ever again. Just before stepping out the door though, I decided to take one peak at the piece of paper on the white folks’ table to see exactly what they ordered. Lemon chicken, sweet and sour pork, cashew chicken. Real Chinese food, my arse .
I’m not usually in the habit of persuading people not to go to a restaurant that I’ve been unhappy with because there are many factors that attribute to a less-than-satisfactory experience on my behalf (e.g. waiter PMSing, me being fussy, personal taste buds etc) but please, do yourselves a favour and DO NOT EVER GO TO FU LONG HOUSE.