I had never been to a casino in my life. I don’t know whether this was due to my upbringing or an aversion to partaking in things that result in losing money, but they have never appealed to me. I’m equally suspicious of the people who frequent such places. Surely there are only two types of people who go to casinos; geniuses who know how to win (0.01%) and morons (99.98%)*. So, being a miserable cynic, I assumed that any restaurant established within a casino could only be terrible. After all, it is simply there to cater for idiots. Literally. This was my hypothesis.
Naturally I had to find out if my hypothesis was correct, so I decided to visit FuLuShou, a Chinese (predominantly) restaurant in the Casino and the Empire, Leicester Square. In the internet cafe at the front of the casino a young chap was watching a video on youtube entitled, “How to hack an ATM, 100% works”. This was an unmistakable sign that idiocy was present in the building. I blundered forward into a twinkling dystopia of debt-machines.
Emerging on the other side, my finances intact, I found myself at FuLuShou. The restaurant is very much part of casino (‘fulushou’ means ‘good fortune’), without proper walls closing it off from everything around it. As a result it feels like an accompaniment to the casino as opposed to a ‘destination’ restaurant. It seems to have its regulars, with a number of people coming in, ordering, eating and leaving very quickly. Nevertheless, our waiter was professional and welcoming.
FuLuShou makes a big deal of the fact that the head chef is formerly the sous-chef at The Dorchester, and so my expectations were high. The decor, and the menu design were all a little worn around the edges, with a typically ‘Oriental’ flavour. Having been here for around five years, I think a refurbishment may be worthwhile. These slight disappointments noted, I browsed over the menu. It contained few surprises, both in terms of the dishes available and their price (averaging around £8-£10). We made our selections and the ensuing quiet drew our attention to the music coming through the PA system. It was a typical playlist of noughties pop and rock which served to further distance the reality of the restaurant from the image it seems keen to portray.
Our food arrived promptly, and we tucked in. We chose prawn tempura, BBQ and Salt & Pepper ribs, and pork dumplings as starters. The ribs were fantastic, with great texture and flavour, and the dumplings were also very good, though they could have had a touch more seasoning. The tempura was a disappointment with far too much batter that quickly got soggy. In some ways this was a blessing; we had mains still to go and I was already reaching capacity so leaving a few tempura was an easy decision.
The main courses arrived shortly after our plates were cleared, the sizzling beef announcing their arrival with a hearty sizzle. It was accompanied by Chinese roast duck and some Morning Glory which is a vegetable and bean curd dish. The beef was the highlight, with a melt in the mouth texture and a slightly pink middle which was impressive given this was thinly cut steak. The duck and the morning glory were both very tasty but were not much different to what one would expect from any Chinese restaurant and this lack of creativity in the menu is ultimately where my problem with FuLuShou lies.
The food is very good and the service was without fault, however this is surely what one should expect from any restaurant. Having a chef from the kitchens of The Dorchester should, in my opinion, bring something different to a restaurant. In this respect, I think that FuLuShou has great potential, but its location within the casino probably limits its ability to achieve it. The quality of the cooking was excellent, but the menu and the surroundings just don’t match the potential pedigree in the kitchen.
Nevertheless, if one takes the identity of the chef out of the equation, FuLuShou serves its purpose excellently. It serves reasonably priced, very tasty Asian food, and its location ensures a steady flow of customers who clearly are not too concerned about spending money. It isn’t going to compete with Chinatown but then again, it doesn’t have too.
*I’m being deliberately provocative.