Word of Mouth

How the Intimate Fortune Wok to Table Is Dealing With Pandemic Restrictions

Fortune Wok to Table chef CJ Shyr was technically trained in Shanghai. He creates the menu with quality in mind.
Fortune Wok to Table chef CJ Shyr was technically trained in Shanghai. He creates the menu with quality in mind. Katie Alvord

Takeout is great, says Jeff Shi, wine manager of the tiny Fortune Wok to Table in Cherry Creek. “There’s no one staring at you while you eat your noodles. You can listen to your own music.” He’s making light of the situation, of course. Takeout is the only option for now because of current pandemic-related restaurant restrictions. But for a restaurant that prioritizes an environment where everyone is welcome, Shi is continuing to think of the customer’s comfort.

The “Fortune” part of the restaurant’s name comes from the characters fu and tu in Shanghainese. Together they mean "in the fortune of good company" or "in the spirit of good company," Shi explains. “Wok to Table” simply means that every meal is prepared in a wok and served fresh to customer’s plates. Fortune Wok to Table focuses on sharing the tastes of authentic Shanghainese food.

“Americanized, over-sauced [Chinese food] doesn’t come anywhere near to what Chinese food can look like,” Shi explains. “All of our dishes are in the Shanghai tradition.”

In normal times, Fortune is divided into two distinct eating experiences: The downstairs offers traditional street food and the upstairs is reserved for a more formal dining experience. There are only a few tables on each floor, making either experience intimate and customer-oriented. But in recent months, all indoor dining has been suspended to protect customers and staff. “We’ve been really trying to keep safe. If we lose the chef, we lose Fortune Wok,” Shi says.

Chef CJ Shyr, the mastermind behind the restaurant's menu, was trained in Shanghai, and he infuses his cooking with a typical Shanghainese view toward food. “We’re super-picky people as far as our food goes,” Shi says. “This chef is no different. There’s no interest in creating the same dishes through the year. You’re always getting what’s freshest. Quality is always on the forefront. If it’s not fresh, the chef had no issues throwing it out.”

click to enlarge Fortune Wok to Table serves traditional Shanghai street noodles. - KATIE ALVORD
Fortune Wok to Table serves traditional Shanghai street noodles.
Katie Alvord
The menu takes into account seasonal ingredients, so the formal dining menu is always subject to change, and while the street-food menu maintains several staple dishes, what goes into them changes according to what's freshest.

For example, the restaurant currently offers pork, beef or vegetable dumplings along with a winter wonton soup: twelve pork wontons plus cabbage, carrots, garlic, celery, sesame oil and cilantro. The seasonal menu highlights hong sao tofu (sliced tofu prepared in a reddish sauce), bok choy hearts in light garlic sauce, and beef tenderloin and cauliflower with a dark velvet brown sauce.

According to Shanghainese tradition, “You’re supposed to taste the ingredient itself first, and the sauce is supposed to complement it,” Shi says. “When it comes to street food, there’s light noodles: a light assortment of vegetables with your protein. There’s not a lot of sauce involved on those street-style dishes. The dumplings are the same.”

For those noodle dishes, the menu offers only two variations: Shanghainese street noodles and Shanghai noodle soup. Both come with a choice of beef, shrimp or vegetables; for a little more, you can add duck. There’s also fried rice made with the same options. And the restaurant always offers a seafood hot-and-sour soup with shrimp and blue crab.

And while all of those offerings are available for takeout, Fortune Wok is not currently offering delivery, because if dumplings sit in a box for too long, they can get over-steamed. The food is best eaten hot, Shi says, and enjoyed with a glass of wine. Along with the dinner menu, the restaurant offers a rotating selection of fine wines, and the staff is happy to suggest pairings.

Fortune Wok to Table is located at 2817 East Third Avenue and is currently open for takeout for lunch and dinner daily. Visit the restaurant's website for menus and call 303-321-7788 to order.
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Claire Duncombe is a journalist, photographer, multimedia storyteller and musician. She is a recent graduate of CU Denver, and a proud Philadelphia native.
Contact: Claire Duncombe