I've always dreamed of being able to walk into a restaurant and have the head chef come out and greet me, and then enjoy the personally cooked meal made just for me, by the head chef himself. While I still have to keep dreaming of having my favorite chefs do this for me some day, I was able to experience a wonderful meal at Fountain Valley's Fu Wing Low Cantonese Restaurant.
Thanks to my fellow Chowhounders, I learned that Kenny Sue, the head chef was part of the famous old-school Chinatown restaurant known as Man Fook Low. I've never been to Man Fook Low, but there was this excitement about the place, and then thanks to CH'er Lau, he mentioned that Kenny Sue had opened up his own place in Fountain Valley, and that while the restaurant was Americanized Chinese food, he was willing to cook anything "authentic style" if asked.
Given the fact that Orange County has pretty mediocre Chinese food compared to the SGV and Taiwan, HK, China, I was anxious to see if we had finally found a true gem in OC. I called up Fu Wing Low on Friday morning, and spoke with Kenny. He was surprised but also totally accommodating, agreeing to cook some authentic specialties for us for lunch that day! I discussed the special menu I wanted to try out, he agreed and it was set! :) I gathered up my OC Chowhound group and we ventured to Fu Wing Low for lunch.
AMBIANCE / DECOR
Make no mistake about it, Fu Wing Low is an *old-school* / straight outta the 1980's Americanized Chinese restaurant. Pleather booths, simple tables, and forks & knives on every table, with not a chopstick in sight. I was worried, and I could feel my OC CH group's eyes burning a hole in my back. :)
But as soon as we stepped in, I asked for Kenny, and he came out immediately to greet us. He was an older gentleman, really amiable, and greeted us warmly, asking us to be seated. He confirmed our menu and went back into the kitchen to prepare. I was nervous, but after tasting my first bite, I realized I had nothing to worry about!
* [Dish Name (Cantonese / Mandarin)] *
* Salt & Pepper Pork Chops (Jiu Yin Pai Gwut / Jiao Yen Pai Goo) *
This is a classic standby dish of Cantonese cuisine (and a guilty pleasure of mine :). This is also the only dish we tried that is on their regular menu, but Kenny made sure to cook it "authentic style" for us. While their cut of pork chop was a little on the fatty side (but nowhere near as bad as Sam Woo), it was excellent! By far THE best Salt & Pepper Pork Chop in Orange County.
* Water Morning-Glory with Fermented Tofu (Foo Yook Ong Choy / Foo Roo Kong Hsing Tsai) *
This popular Chinese vegetable is officially known as Ipomoea Aquatica(!), and Kenny went out that morning to the local markets to buy it fresh just for us! Since it was hand-picked by the chef, we got extremely fresh, wonderfully tasty Water Morning-Glory! Depending on your luck, many Chinese restaurants in the SGV and OC may have wilted / older Water Morning-Glory, but it was perfectly cooked here! And he used the perfect amount of the Fermented Tofu to give it a touch of pungent flavor without being overpowering. Wonderful!
* Boiled Chicken with Green Onions (Tsong Yoh Gai / Tsong Yoh Jee) *
Another favorite traditional dish. Chef Kenny warned us that he stocks a leaner whole chicken, since (according to him) "Americans are more health conscious" :), so it's not as fatty / plump as he would normally like it. This dish is a Half or Whole Chicken (you can specify) boiled to just cooked-through, and then cut-up into bite-sized pieces, topped with fresh Ginger and Green Onions, and served with a wonderfully scrumptous Dipping Sauce of fresh-cut Green Onions, Ginger, Salt and Oil. One bite of this dish and it was ALL OVER! This is the best Tsong Yoh Jee I've had in the past year, in the SGV or OC! Most restaurants these days may serve you a "leftover" chicken that wasn't sold the day before; or just stock an older chicken. The chicken here was FRESH, and when combined with the dipping sauce, it was instantly our favorite dish of the day! Everyone in the group loved it (as they did everything this day :).
* Steamed Marinated Ground Pork with Salted Duck Egg (Hahm Dahn Jin Yoh Bang / Hsien Dahn Zhen Roh Bing) *
This is an extremely "homely" / rustic dish, not very fancy, and more of a comfort food for families. As a result very few HK / Cantonese restaurants serve this any more, and most of them are too oily. As with the previous dishes, Kenny personally went out that morning to buy Salted Duck Eggs from the local market to prepare this dish for us. It's basically marinated Ground Pork, topped with Salted Duck Eggs and Green Onions and steamed until cooked through. And? Seriously, the best Steamed Marinated Ground Pork w/ Salted Duck Egg in OC, easily, and on par with some of the best ones in the SGV! Tender, meaty chunks of marinated ground pork, with a great flavor combination from the saltier duck egg yolks and balanced by the green onions. Perfect with some steamed rice! :)
The personally-prepared, custom meal by the chef cost us only $15 per person (with tax & tip *included*!), which is ridiculously fair in my humble opinion. I didn't know Chef Kenny Sue nor Man Fook Low in Chinatown, but I'm so glad that I found him now. Thanks to Lau and the other CH'ers that mentioned him, we've now found THE best Authentic Cantonese Food in Orange County, on par with the better ones in the SGV!
Disclaimer: Fu Wing Low's regular menu consists of Americanized Chinese food, so I can't vouch for any of those dishes. But with Chef Kenny Sue being willing to personally cook whatever authentic dishes you ask for, I'll be coming back again and again whenever I feel like great Cantonese food in Orange County! (^_^) (pictures below)
Fu Wing Low Restaurant
16545 Brookhurst Street
Fountain Valley, CA 92708