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Furiwa Seafood Restaurant - Garden Grove, CA (Review w/Photos)

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To read the full review with photos, please visit - http://epicurious-wanderer.blogspot.c...

Furiwa Seafood Restaurant lies in the heavily Vietnamese belt that runs along the border of Huntington Beach, spanning the cities of Westminster and Garden Grove. In addition to its excellent pho and bahn mi shops, this area is also known for some of the best Cantonese cuisine restaurants in Orange County. Furiwa itself is a relative unknown, having garnered very little attention from the Chowhound community in North OC. Cat and I were turned on to it by the catering manager for our wedding site. Furiwa came highly recommended as a licensed and bonded wedding caterer, and was one of the few restaurants the hotel would permit on its grounds. It was also the *only* hotel-approved vendor that served Chinese-style wedding banquets. Hey, it pays to be the only game in town.

On the plus side, due to its unique relationship with the hotel, Furiwa is allowed to bring its own wok burners and fryers to set up in the hotel's kitchen. They hook their wok burners directly into the hotel's main gas line, thus allowing them to prepare and serve restaurant quality food in a banquet setting the way is was meant to be served; hot out of the wok, one or two dishes at a time, using just-in-time delivery. This will hopefully result in higher quality food than might be supplied by a vendor required to transport the finished product to the wedding site and reheat it.

Since Cat and I both work in the part of Huntington Beach bordering Westminster, Garden Grove, and Fountain Valley, Furiwa is ridiculously convenient for us. Cat and I already stopped by for an undercover preliminary tasting last month. Last night’s visit was with Cat's parents to finalize the menu.

We arrived at the restaurant at around 6:50pm. The first thing I noticed was the lack of clientele. At prime dinner time on a Friday night, there were only two occupied tables in a dining area large enough to seat hundreds. I had noticed the same low number of guests the last time Cat and I had visited, but had hoped it was just a fluke. Still, since we were doing a tasting for a catered event, it was all about the food.

While the exterior of the restaurant is a little run down, much like the strip mall that hosts it, the interior is actually fairly posh, with lacquered wood furniture, white linen tablecloths, and monogrammed china. Of course, the restaurant has obviously seen better days. An area along the back wall is being used as a storage area for extra tables, chairs, ladders, maintenance supplies, etc. The carpet and wall decorations are tasteful, but have clearly been around for a while. The wait staff's uniforms are clean, but visibly worn. The linens are also very clean, but not exactly fresh or new. In terms of its decor, Furiwa isn't a first-class Cantonese restaurant by any stretch. However, it observes enough of the niceties that I would consider it a top, mid-scale dining locale.

The service at Furiwa was quite good. The wait staff was fast and efficient, and did a great job of making sure dishes were cleared away and leftovers were packed up. At one point, my water glass remained empty for over half an hour. However, that's a quirk of service at most Chinese restaurants. You rarely get more water unless you ask for it. The teapot, on the other hand, was always full.

We started off with the Seven Star Appetizer Platter, which consisted of the following "delicacies".

* Cuttlefish marinated in a spicy chili sauce - Tart and spicy, this was one of my favorite items. The cuttlefish slices were nice and tender. The marinade was just sweet enough to counter the heat of the chili sauce without being cloying.

* Jellyfish marinated in a sweet and sour vinaigrette - The strips of jellyfish were appropriately crunchy. The vinaigrette, made with rice wine vinegar and sugar, was quite refreshing, if a little stronger than I would have preferred.

* Bamboo clams in a Chinese mustard sauce - Another favorite of mine from this platter. The clams were firm, yet soft and easy to chew. The sauce was probably one of the best Chinese mustard-based sauces I've had. Mayonnaise had been used to soften the impact of the peppery mustard while adding subtle flavor.

* Ham sausage - Made with seasoned pork that had been whipped into a paste and steamed, the texture was similar to Spam. I wasn't particularly impressed by this dish. Since it was resting on a mound of Chinese pickled vegetables, the subtle flavors of the ham sausage were completely overwhelmed by the sweet and sour flavor of the pickles.

* Chicken sausage - Similar to the ham sausage above, this dish was made with seasoned chicken meat which had been whipped into a paste and steamed. Once again, the flavors of the meat were drowned out by the pickled vegetables, although I could taste the faint presence of the chicken as it struggled to be heard.

* Head Cheese - Some sort of meat suspended in aspic and thinly sliced. From the looks of it, pork and pig ears were involved. I was told by the manager that there were also pickled oysters in there. If the pickled vegetables hadn't so successfully overwhelmed the flavors of the cold cuts, I might have been able to deconstruct the item better by taste.

* Shrimp - Not pictured since they'd all been eaten at that point. This was probably my least favorite item. The poached shrimp had a rubbery, chewy texture and were completely covered by a sweetened mayonnaise. Like the cold cuts, they suffered from being paired with the pickled vegetables.

As part of the fairly impressive presentation of the plate, the cold cuts and shrimp were displayed as part of a dome tureen with pickled vegetables in the center. From the flavor, I could tell the tureen had been prepared well in advance. As such, the juices from the vegetables had been fully absorbed by the meat, resulting in overwhelmed flavors and funny textures. I would have preferred to have tasted fresher preparations of these items. The general consensus at the table was that while the presentation had impact and the items were novel, the platter was probably too adventurous for a number of the guests. Furthermore, I wasn't fully satisfied with the quality of the tureen in the center. We decided to replace this platter with a Chinese barbecued meat platter that would accommodate our less adventurous guests, guests with food allergies, and guests who didn't like seafood.

Next up was a Crabmeat with Asparagus Soup. Large chunks of crabmeat were simmered in a thick, gentle seafood broth with pieces of tender, peeled asparagus stems. Beaten egg whites had been swirled in the hot soup to add additional texture and flavor. This soup has an instant hit with everyone at the table. However, it had some competition.

A thick and luxurious Fish Maw Soup was made using a deep-fried fish head, which had been simmered in a soy-based broth to make the soup. The head had been removed before serving, but small pieces of the batter and thin shreds of fish meat filled the soup, adding flavor and texture. It was a tough call.

The base menu set that we were working off of offered a Shark Fin soup, which hadn't particularly impressed me when I'd had it during my last visit. These two soups were our replacement options. Cat's mother really liked the Fish Maw Soup, which both Cat's father and I also liked. However, Cat strongly preferred the Crabmeat with Asparagus Soup to the Fish Maw Soup. Her father and I both agreed that the Crabmeat with Asparagus Soup was slightly better and would appeal to a greater number of guests. Crabmeat with Asparagus Soup was added to our menu, but I highly recommend both soups to anyone who visits the restaurant. Stay away from the Shark Fin Soup.

After the soups, we moved on to the Honey Walnut Shrimp. It was very good, no doubt about it. The shrimp were battered, fried, and lightly coated in a sauce made using honey, mayonnaise, and orange juice, so they were nicely crunchy. The walnuts were crunchy as well, with a thin layer of caramelized sugar and sesame seeds that blended well with the bitterness of the walnuts, helping to cut the richness of the shrimp. The overall effect was very balanced.

Cat's father was very impressed by the shrimp. I also thought the dish was very good, but not much different from other Honey Walnut Shrimp dishes I'd had in the past. Cat and her mother had no strong opinions either way. Since Cat's father liked the shrimp so much, the dish was added to our menu.

This French-style Crispy Beef was my dish of choice for our more terrestrially inclined and seafood challenged guests. Pieces of marinated filet mignon were diced, floured, and flash fried before being tossed in a sauce made with soy sauce, butter, course ground pepper, and other spices. The resulting dish combined the tastes and textures of a well prepared French filet mignon with a distinctly Cantonese flare. While Chinese chefs are known for being able to transform tough cuts of meat into delicious food, what they can do with high quality ingredients can be absolutely extraordinary. The dish was a hit and was added to the menu by universal agreement. As far as I'm concerned, this is a must-have dish at Furiwa, and one that I'll probably return time and time again to sample.

As an alternative to the French-style Crispy Beef or Honey Walnut Shrimp, the manager suggested that this Orange Peel Chicken might appeal to larger number of the Caucasian guests. The chicken was quite good, and similar to one of Cat's favorite dishes from the Red Onion Cafe, albeit of higher quality.

http://epicurious-wanderer.blogspot.c...

Floured pieces of chicken were deep fried, then tossed in a mild sweet and spicy sauce made with Chinese fermented orange peels. But, no matter how well made it was, Orange Chicken was still Orange Chicken, and we felt that it would be too reminiscent of steam table Chinese takeout. Don't get me wrong. Comparing Furiwa's Orange Peel Chicken to the Orange Chicken offered by say Panda Express would be like comparing a Honda Civic to a Lexus LS; they're both cars but what a difference. Still, not quite the flavor we were looking for in our wedding menu.

Since we were considering dishes without seafood, manager had a tasty duck dish brought out to us. An entire duck had been butter-flied, de-boned, breaded with panko crumbs, and deep fried. Served with steamed buns and a sweet and sour duck sauce, it captured the heart of Cat's mother. I liked it as well, although I couldn't help thinking of it as a giant duck katsu and imagining it with curry sauce and rice. My only complaints were that the duck meat was a little dry, that the skin had been removed, and that frying process had rendered out most of the tasty fat. Still, enough excellent duck flavor remained in the meat to satisfy me. Cat was not particularly enamored with the dish. Cat's father thought it was good, but not wedding menu good, and I agreed. The dish wasn't selected for our wedding menu.

The last dish we tried was Cat's personal favorite, and her dish of choice for the wedding menu; Crispy Boneless Chicken with Shrimp Paste. An entire chicken was butter-flied, de-boned, and coated with seasoned shrimp paste. The skin side was seasoned while the shrimp paste side was breaded with panko. The whole thing was then deep fried, sliced, and served. Plain, the chicken was awesome, with crispy skin, a gentle, complex flavor, and a springy texture from the shrimp paste. With either of the two condiments provided, sweet and sour duck sauce or course ground pepper, salt, and lemon, the dish was amazing. For us, it was a shoo-in. Cat's parents liked it as well, although her mother seemed a little disappointed that we weren't going with the duck. This is Cat's must-have dish at Furiwa. Whenever I go to sample the French-style Crispy Beef, I'm sure she'll be ordering the Crispy Boneless Chicken with Shrimp Paste.

Furiwa is an excellent restaurant. I must say that after tasting the food, I'm even more surprised at how empty it was on a Friday night. In my opinion, its cuisine is being overlooked in favor of, and overshadowed by, some of the better known restaurants in the area. The service from the manager and the wait staff was superb and the food was wonderful. The prices were highly competitive. The average dish on the regular dinner menu was around $12-$15, and the labor-intensive Crispy Boneless Chicken with Shrimp Paste was only around $20. I would recommend Furiwa for anyone looking for high-class Cantonese cuisine at a reasonable price. It's not the best Cantonese food I've ever had, but for it’s certainly one of the best I've ever had with that price point, creativeness, and flavor. It deserves some Chowhound consideration. Have dinner there and order the French-style Crispy Beef and the Crispy Boneless Chicken with Shrimp Paste. I guarantee you'll love it.

Bill:

Since we were doing a wedding tasting, we were dealing with a lot of half orders and whatnot, so the bill I paid at the end of the evening wasn't indicative of their standard prices. Just expect to pay around $12-15 per dish for dinner, and around $20 for their more intricate items. Here's what we ended up selecting for our wedding menu:

* Five Star Appetizer Platter
* Crabmeat with Asparagus Soup
* Candied Walnut Shrimp and Shrimp Balls
* French-style Crispy Beef
* Crispy Boneless Chicken with Shrimp Paste
* Whole Steamed Fish
* Yang Chow Fried Rice
* Sliced Oranges

For a dinner party of four, I would recommend:

* Crabmeat with Asparagus Soup or Fish Maw Soup
* French-style Crispy Beef
* Crispy Boneless Chicken with Shrimp Paste
* Pan Fried Whole Scallops

Flavor: A- (They lost some points for the tureen in the Seven Star Platter
)Ambience: B+ (As mentioned before, the restaurant has seen better days)
Service: A
ROI: B+ (In the middle range, but cheap when compared to the amount and quality of the dishes provided.)

Overall: A-

Furiwa Seafood Restaurant
13826 Brookhurst St.
Garden Grove, CA 92843
1-714-534-3996

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  1. Glad to hear you had a great meal here. I had tried it once a couple of years back for dim sum on a Saturday afternoon, and it was probably one of the worst dim sum experiences I've had ever. It was about as empty as you described for your dinner. Skimpy selection, items were lukewarm, no unique items to select. If a dim sum place is good, Chinese people will flock to it consistently, which seems to be why China Garden and Seafood Paradise are always the busiest dim sum places in OC.

    It is nice to know that Furiwa can deliver on the cooked entrees for a dinner meal, but with our bad dim sum experience, I don't think I can convince the family members to go back.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Wonginator

      Your dim sum experience there completely duplicates mine. The place was empty and the dim sum was awful. The only good thing was the service, not surprising since we were the only customers in the joint. Actually we got so much attention I almost felt besieged. It was the only time where immediately upon seating all of the dim sum carts descended on us.

      1. re: Chandavkl

        Same here, some of the most awful dim sum I've ever encountered and that's saying soemthing.

        However, it supposed to be very good for wedding banquets as the place is huge. Friend did his wedding here.

      2. re: Wonginator

        Hey Wonginator,

        You know, I've heard that about their dim sum. One of the reasons I never went there before the wedding tasting. It seems a shame, though, that their dinner custom should suffer due to a poorly executed product set. I know lots of good restaurants with great cooked food and lousy dim sum.

        You'd think Furiwa would recognize its dim sum as a weak point and take steps to rectify it.

        - CP

        1. re: Chubbypanda

          Chubbypanda, VERY informative review. Thanks, the beef and chicken sound great.

      3. Can you post the price range for the wedding banquets? A friend is considering Furiwa to do the catering for her wedding banquet. Also, what does the catering include (ex. linens, tableware, waitstaff, etc.)

        2 Replies
        1. re: tluu

          tluu,

          The range seems to be between $550 and $650 per table of ten. As to what's included, it really depends on the wedding site. Negotiations will vary if you're working with a hotel or doing it yourself at an outdoor locale.

          I really can't recommend them or not for catering a wedding banquet. As mentioned in my full food blog post,

          http://epicurious-wanderer.blogspot.c...

          while I wasn't terribly impressed with the Shelley and Anne, Furiwa's catering associates, the manager, Ken, is very attentive and easy to work with. I'll have better information after my wedding next summer, but that's probably a little too late for your friend.

          Best of luck.

          - CP

          1. re: Chubbypanda

            Hi CP!

            My wife and I used Furiwa to cater our wedding at the Doubletree Hotel in Santa Ana 3 yrs ago (the one across from Hudson Centre, by First American Corporation). Her older brother had them cater his wedding at the Crowne Plaza in Garden Grove, her younger brother had them do his wedding at the same, and my brother used them for his wedding at the Hyatt Anaheim. We had 500 guests, my older BIL had 700, younger brother in law had about 500 and my brother had 600.

            I agree that the chicken/shrimp paste dish is one of the best that they have. Luckily, we worked with Stacie, the wedding coordinator, before they all got so busy they started pimping out wedding coordination to their relatives. But I'm sure they'll do a great job with your wedding, regardless, as the food is great, and they really listen to your needs. Let me know if you need any other advice re: flowers, limo, etc. I've also got a video of how they set up our wedding, etc. you could look at if you want, I have the DVD but I also turned it into an mpg file.

        2. Hi CP.

          I am looking for alternatve chinese caterer that serve the american hotel or banqet halls. Do you know any besides Furiwa?

          Also, how is your experience with Furiwa thus far? Are they providing you with everything within your expectations?

          TC

          1 Reply
          1. re: tommychang

            Hi TC,

            We used Furiwa for our wedding 3 years ago. My wife's older brother used them for his 6 months prior, her younger brother used them for his wedding last year, and my younger brother used Furiwa for his wedding 2 years ago. So we've had lots of experience!

            There is no other chinese caterer in OC that can serve the american hotel or halls. Furiwa has a pretty good list of hotels they work with, and the hotels allow them to cook on the premises, which is very key to getting good fresh food at your event.

            Other restaurants must make the food offsite, and then bring the food to the hotel. It's not nearly as good, and they can't match Furiwa. When I got married, Stacie Tran was heading up the wedding catering for Furiwa, and she's fantastic. Now that they have gotten so successful, I believe they farm off most of the work to their relatives, so I can't vouch for the level of customer service you may receive.

            YMMV, but for due diligence I suggest you at least go to some other restaurants like Seafood World to check out their wedding packages. It will at least give you an idea of what the competition can provide. They will give you the price list for the various menus, plus how much to have it at each hotel they work with. Furiwa will do this too.

          2. Hi KK

            I have meet with Ken Goh from Furiwa a week ago and discussed about the cost and the participating hotel chains they work with(Hilton, Hyatte,just to name a few). I believe there are few hotels that can accomondate our # of guests, 200 and others have minimum of 300 or higher. They have suggested to talk to one of the upcoming but still under construction banquet hall, "LifeTime" off the beach blvd. We then stop by there and met with one of the coordinator and she seems very knowledeable and sinecere.

            As i mentioned, the hall is still under construction, but they did show us few photos of what it might look like when its all renovated. I have also found few other chinese restaurants that does the wedding from other postings, (Empress Pavilion in Chinatown and Prince Seafood in Cerritos.) Has anyone dealt with them before? I plan to stop by those two places and get more information.