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February 19, 2006

Review from San Francisco Chronicle!

The morning before Valentine's day on Monday, I got a call from Khanh from the restaurant, telling me a woman, Carol Ness; called about a write up from SF Chronicle. "Oh my God!" When did she come and how did I do? I wondered...

I couldn't quite called her back yet. I needed some food in my system first before I fainted in the middle of the conversation. Tony and I were actually just about to go to Cafe Fanny for breakfast. So we decided we would have breakfast first, or at least some coffee before calling her back.

I called her right after breakfast. She asked me lots of questions. I guessed she liked my food? She sounded very nice and very "real", just like a friend one could have! After an about 15 minutes conversations where I mostly answered to questions that she had, before we heng up, I asked her should I be worried? "Oh no, not at all." she old me. However how could you not!?

I called all my friends right away and told them about the news! We were all very exciting and antipating for Friday to come. It's going to be a loooooong week!

Friday finally came. And God loves to play jokes! While I was driving Tony to bart super early that morning, we stopped on our way as we saw one of those newspaper box. We picked up couple papers, waited the whole time as I was driving, so that we could read together. We parked and opened the paper... What!? It's Thursday's paper! Tony ran into the station and picked up another one, ran back to the car(thank goodness he's a runner), and we read silently...

I guess I just didn't know what to react!? I remembered I was very quiet. Was it real? That I was on the paper? My restaurant was on the paper? Me of all people? Someone who barely knows what she's doing? Who's nobody in this industry? Who only has a restaurant that's merely 7 months old? And it was a pretty good review too!

I must say credits go to all my friends and my staff! Thank you for making this happen for me!


<br /> REVIEW / Inventiveness fills menu at Asian-inspired Furenzu<br />


SF Gate


Return to regular view

Inventiveness fills menu at Asian-inspired Furenzu

- Carol Ness, Chronicle Staff Writer

Friday, February 17, 2006

furenzuoutside.jpg shrimpinnest.jpg

Furenzu is the rare rosy gleam in the gray, commercial heart of

Around this little Asian tapas place, the landmarks are Home Depot and a
sooty Interstate 580 overpass. Cookie-cutter condos -- the kind that let you
drive in and out without ever setting foot in your neighborhood -- are
proliferating. The area seems cold.

But inside Furenzu, copper sheets wrap the walls and cast a warm, reddish
glow. The metal serves as the backrest for the dark wood bench that hugs two
sides of the tiny dining room.

Hanging on the dusky pinkish-red walls are old advertising posters from
Hong Kong, with pretty, smiling Asian women. Star-shaped lights twinkle in the
corner windows. A tall, black-lacquered birdcage provides a visual centerpiece.

The feel is cozy and creative, without straying to precious or fancy.
And it perfectly suits chef-owner Cynthia Fung's menu: Asian-inspired small
plates of sauteed pork tenderloin with plum-chili sauce, wok-fried edamame
with chiles and black bean sauce or an oyster omelet with garlic chives.

Except for a few dishes, the menu changes monthly. Fung brings the same
inventiveness to her dishes that she and an artist friend did to the decor.

At its best, this is Asian fusion the way it started out, before
unimaginative cooks drove the genre into the ground with too much overpriced
wasabi this and sesame oil that. Not everything at Furenzu succeeds, but there
are more hits than misses.

This is Fung's first restaurant after eight years as a programmer in San
Francisco. The idea evolved as she noticed that every weekend her Richmond home
filled up with friends and family waiting for her to cook.

"I found myself using Chinese ingredients and French techniques," or vice
versa, Fung says.

She looked for a place for five years before moving in where a Chinese
takeout place used to be, on Adeline Street near 40th Street. The name, she
says, comes from a Japanese word for friends and is also a play on her Chinese
name, Fung Yan Shuen.

The space -- 26 to 35 seats, depending on how many tables Fung puts out
-- seemed small enough to be manageable while still testing the waters, she

On each of my three visits, a couple of dishes flat-out delighted me,
starting with salty snacks that proved irresistible: Lourdes' chips ($3.50),
crisp-fried slices of fresh lotus named for Lourdes Guzman, the Albany artist
who helped with the decor, and the salty, spicy and garlicky edamame ($4.50).

Also well done are shrimp in a nest ($8), a menu mainstay. Six shrimp are
wrapped in superthin noodles then fried until the noodles are brown and crunchy
and the shrimp are just done.

The other permanent dish, honey ribs with Thai basil ($8), brings
inch-long bites of tender, fun-to-gnaw meat and bone. The coating is sweet and
needs a savory or spicy edge. The same goes for the honey-glazed squid ($7),
although the tubes and legs were perfectly grilled and tender.

Some dishes that sounded less than exciting on the menu turned out to be
the best.

One was the eggplant and smoked tofu flatbread ($8.50). It sounds like a
bland pizza but turns out to be a crepe, the kind served with mu shu pork,
topped with thin slices of lightly smoked tofu that played well with the
hoisin-flavored eggplant.

Likewise, the oyster omelet with garlic chives ($7.50) turned out to be a
subtle umami dream, the egg tender and fresh oysters just cooked. I only wish
I'd known the tiny ramekin of a clear brown liquid was almost undiluted fish
sauce before I poured it on; a few drops add just the salty oomph needed.

Another surprise hit is the homemade chicken longanisa with a fried egg
and garlic rice ($10). The plump, pink sausage gets a splash of white balsamic
vinegar, which cuts the rich egg yolk and garlicky rice. I'd eat this any day.

The misses didn't lack for invention, but the flavors veered too far in
one direction, as with the oversweet squid and ribs. Another dish, stir-fried
unagi with yellow chives and bean sprouts ($12), needed more ginger or another
strong seasoning to balance the muddy taste of the eel.

And the pig's feet salad ($8), a chop with celery and red and green bell
peppers, needed more bigger chunks of the pork to offset the garlic vinegar

A better menu description would have changed my expectations for the flank
steak with spicy garlic sauce ($12).

I pictured rare slices of chewy steak, but the meat came in small pieces
coated in cornstarch and deep-fried, then sauced with hoisin and chile. The
dish works, but it was more like Chinese barbecued beef jerky.

Fung's beverage list goes well with the food. Along with soju and sake
cocktails, Furenzu offers 13 sakes and 17 wines, many by the glass.

It would be a mistake to skip dessert, especially the flaky, gingery pear
tart ($5), with a cooling daub of creme fraiche. The ginger milk custard ($5)
is light, warm and barely set. It contains no eggs, just sweetened milk and
enough fresh ginger juice to make it gel. Fung's father loved to make it for
the family.

The Tinarone semifreddo ($5), with a sesame-honey filling and
pistachio-toffee topping is very sweet, and best to share. Its name is a play
on torrone, the Italian honey nougat, and Fung's friend Tina, whose family gave
her the recipe.

"The whole family is asking to be on the menu," Fung says.

Maybe the neighbors in those new condos will be asking, too. Furenzu is
inviting enough to make that happen.

E-mail Carol Ness at


3986 Adeline St. (near 40th Street), Emeryville; (510) 601-1882. Lunch 11:30
a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; dinner 5:30-10 p.m. daily. Beer, wine and sake.
Reservations for parties of six or more. Credit cards accepted. Easy street
Overall: TWO STARS
Service: TWO STARS
Prices: $$
Noise Rating: TWO BELLS

Pluses: Creative space and inventive Asian fusion small plates. Lots of
sake choices.
Minuses: Some dishes miss the mark.


FOUR STARS: Extraordinary
THREE STARS: Excellent
(box): Poor

$ Inexpensive: entrees $10 and under
$$ Moderate:
$$$ Expensive: $18-$24
$$$$ Very Expensive: more than $25
Prices based on main courses. When entrees fall between these categories,
the prices of appetizers help determine the dollar ratings.

ONE BELL: Pleasantly quiet (under 65 decibels)
Can talk easily (65-70)
THREE BELLS: Talking normally gets difficult (70-75)
FOUR BELLS: Can only talk in raised voices (75-80)
BOMB: Too noisy for normal conversation (80+)

Chronicle critics make every attempt to remain anonymous.
All meals
are paid for by the Chronicle.
Star ratings are based on a minimum of three visits.
Ratings are updated continually based on a least one revisit.

Page E - 15


©2006 San Francisco Chronicle

Finally a day off for me, but...

After the rush on Valentine's day, Tony and I had planned a day off on the 16th to go away and hide away from the restaurant and work. Though I still had to take care of couple things for payroll...etc. I was able to manage not to show up for a whole day was a big step!


We stayed at the Beach House in a one bedroom loft, with a penthouse ocean view. It was gorgeous! Though it was very cold, we still would like to keep the door open most time during the day, just to listen to the ocean. It was truely peaceful and beautiful!

However one thing led to another, it wasn't the most enjoyable day. I think part of the reasons also was because I was already quite stressed out from Valentine's day, getting pressure to create a menu for a private party for that sunday, anticipation of the review, and last but not least worries of the restaurant while I was so far away...

It was interesting to learn how a body react to your mind! It was nice to take a day off, but I think one day was really not enough and might have caused my body to get in shot? It turned out to be quite a stressful day and I was restlessly dreamed the whole time about disasters happened to the restaurant, mistakes that I made... Then the next day I was more tired than before I took the day off and woke up with severe stomach cram on a busy Friday. I hope I would be able to have 3 days off if I planned for a getaway next time. 1st day to try to slow down and relax, 2nd day to do some physical activities or anything fun, and 3rd day to rest up and gather my mind again to prepare going back to work?

We were both quite stressed out just trying to get out of town the night before. Though we had a really good meal in the city at the House! We ordered so much food(surprised?) that the manager who's serving us kept trying to stop us. Actually none of us had any food the whole day, I could have eaten a cow! The mussels was a disappointment, the quail was undercooked while the pork chop was overcooked. The flavors was very good though! Overall I like it and sure will go back, but I think it feels a little more French than Asian to me.

While we were at Half Moon Bay, I was really disappointed while I was suggested by two persons to check out the Moss Beach Distillery. Well afterwards, they both said just to be there for the view at the patio, not the food! We actually were seated by the chef-general manager, who told us the steamer was what people go there for. "We'll take that!" He also told us to get the Nori wrap shrimp, which was shrimps wrapped with seaweed and deep fried serving with chips...

Then I tried to ask our server about 3 wines that were on the menu. Obviously he didn't know anything about it, so he said he would go ask the bar tender for samples. He came back with a "cheat sheet" and started reading to me like a kid being asked to stand up in class to read a chapter from a book the descriptions of the wines which must have been written by the winery itself. ("You're kidding!" I thought! "In such a well known place?") He then asked me if that helped? "Not really, may I have samples of them?" He came back empty handed, and told me the bar tender told him there's a policy of only two samples could be given out. I started loosing my patience. I chose two and already knew most likely I wouldn't be back unless the food was really good! This time when he came back, I really knew I wouldn't be back! He brought back two samples of wine in two water glasses!!?? I wouldn't blame him, but blamed the bar tender and the chef-GM, who's sitting at the bar. Wouldn't they know better?

When the food came. I was ready to walk out. The $24 "steamer" was tasteless, with about 1/4 lb clams and 1/4 lb mussels only. And it tasted like the shellfish were already cooked, put into a pot, pour the diluted sauce on top, hit it up and served. Then the $16 Nori wrapped shrimp only has 6 shrimps, and the fries tasted just like ordinary fries you can get from a burger joint.

I started asking Tony, was I really spoiled by all the good food in the bay area? Was I really that picky? Or was the food there was really bad? I wish I had taken Tony to the fish market diner that I usually go, with really cool servers who're passionate and proud of what they serve.

Then that evening, we were back in the city to try out Fleur de Lys. I had high hope that I would experience the "Jean George" kind of service again... I was disappointed. We had already choosen the 2nd seating at 8:45PM, which there shouldn't be any rush to turn our table; I felt rushed the whole evening!

I watched other tables, so to be fair, I think it's just our server. She talked fast and I felt very rushed every time she showed up at my table. And when I have questions, I felt I was troubling her time too much. There were also couple times that she brought wrong utensils to a course that Tony had, and didn't bring utensils to me for a course that I had. The back server was the same, and it was surprising to me that it was the back server who not only dropped off the plates for us, but also introduced the food to us. However again, she was rushing and spoke so fast that I really wanted to ask her everytime, "I'm sorry, what am I having again?" However I was a bit hesitated to trouble her time!

The food was good, but...

I love truffles. Therefore when the first couple courses came, I was very happy to taste the truffle and the truffle oils. However after 3 or 4 courses from both mine and Tony's, I was totally truffles out. Too many courses with truffles/oil, and too generous in each course which it overpowering the food itself.

I think I would like to give it a second try, but won't be anytime soon. And as for Tony, he didn't seem interested at all.

Again was it because I was too spoiled? Or was I too picky?

A real Furenzu day!

It was a great success on Valentine's day! Big thanks to all my staff and my friends, who came in and help out that day! Our gross was 3 times of our maybe busiest Friday. And I think people had fun, "the place's very festive and warm", said one of our customers!

It was a hard day for my staff, running a new demanding menu, 5-course classic and exotic chef menu with wine and sake matching. This is very new for them and with this demanding boss requesting them to provide a at least 3 stars restaurant service... They deserved a big round of applause!

Then here came my friends who all helped out again! Elizabeth started two days ago, testing and starting to make the chocolate ganache mini cakes. Tony started the night before and made the pasta, then came in again around 6pm on the day and became my assistant cook! At first he didn't quite know how to move around in the kitchen and was pretty much in everybody's way, but very soon he was on the stove already and was a fast learner, making pasta, quail, flank steak, soft shell crab, eggroll, and placing salad and ceviche! Wow! Did he do that much!?

As usual, there's Lourdes and all the beautiful flower arrangements. I'm sure everyone loves it. And when it got really busy, she was in charged behind the counter to play host and calculating all my tickets! She did such a great job and was able not to turn a single table away even some people has to wait for close to 45 mins! I had no idea this would get so hectic, therefore I had told Vivian to dress up and enjoy herself in the front and maybe help out in the dining room. What was I thinking? Our chef tables were splited into two since 5:30 and were filled at no time. I had to call her in to help me in the kitchen afterall. She and Josephine then in charged of the bar and made all the sake and soju cocktails and coffee.

vivian&michael.jpg During all these crazy actions, and at the peak of 8:00PM, a photographer from San Francisco Chronicle came in to do a photo shoot for our review! We were all so excited and couldn't wait until Friday to come when it would be published!

Nobody was able to leave before 12:30AM and for myself it was close to 1:30AM when I could finally locked the door while Tony was snoring on the bench.

I owe you all for this! Truly appreciated all of your friendships and all efforts from my staff! This was our first year, though it was not as organized and well planned as I wish, it came together at last, and it's all because of everybody had put their hearts into the restaurant!

Deep from my heart... THANK YOU! And love you!

Following was our menu for the day. The concept behind it was even if you were two very different people, "classic and exotic", they could still match and mix together. And at the end you would both united with one shared dessert!

Chef's 6-course Classic & Exotic Menu

Classic pri-fixe

Crab eggroll and endive w/ sweet & sour chili sauce
Varichon & Clerc Blanc-de-Blancs

Sashimi & cilantro salad w/ garlic vinegar & mustard soy dressing
Jurancon “Cuvée Marie”

Carrot, ginger and orange soup
Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc

Pan seared prawns w/ lemon garlic sauce
Flying Fish Merlot

Shiso leave wrap flank steak w/ green rice & miso glaze
La Pialade Côte du Rhône

Exotic pri-fixe

Pan seared wild scallop w/ wasabi chili sauce
Onigoroshi Wakatake

Tomato & squid ceviche
Katana Jyunmai Ginjyo

Mushroom miso soup
Kurosawa Jyunmai Kimoto

Golden soft shell crab w/ coconut curry sauce
Shirataki Jozen

Pan roasted quail w/ Tony’s 3:24AM hand rolled wasabi pasta in soba & chili sauce


Scharffen Berger chocolate ganache mini cake w/ Tinarone semifreddo on raspberry coulis

February 14, 2006


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Finally I pulled the menu together and tried a few items last night on the gang. One of the items on the exotic menu is Pan Roasted Quail on Wasabi pasta with soba sauce. Since Tony made such wonderful pasta last time at the restaurant, I asked Tony to help me make the pasta. He's so nice to also trying to get off early to get to the restaurant by 5PM to help me on Valentine's day, he told me he'll have to sleep early the night before in order to leave and go to work at 4:30AM.

He tried his 1st batch of pasta at the restaurant, and it tasted quite good. We were then trying to figure out when could we make the rest of them? We decided to make it in his house, otherwise it'd be too risky to make it after his work day.

We added quite a bit of wasabi powder into the flour to make the pasta. During the whole process, we both cried and cried for our nose! That's right, it's the wasabi! I'll be honest that at one point while Tony was working on the pasta, I was working on the computer, finalizing the menu and then... I fell asleep. I didn't think he knew about that and must have thought I was working so hard like him!

It was already 1AM when Tony was kneading the dough, and it's a lot of them! By the time we started cutting the rolled out pasta sheet, it's already closed to 3AM. I felt really bad but also very appreciative to Tony's help. However the poor guy wouldn't be able to have any rest before driving to work. To keep himself stay awake, he started singing, and talking... "Okay, half an hour, we'll finish it in half an hour by 3:30AM, then I can still have an hour sleep!"; "'s killing me! The wasabi!"; then more singing, and then more "The wasabi! Is killing me!"

The next thing we found ourselves started singing... (from the tunes of "Killing me softly with his song"): Dah dah dah dah(we couldn't quite put the words together at the beginning).... killing me softly, wasabi, killing me softly...wasabi! Dah dah dah....

We looked at the clock and it's 3:24AM! What was Cynthia and Tony doing at 3:24AM on Valentine's Day 2006? Cutting pasta and singing "Killing me softly wasabi!"

And why am I blogging at 6AM? I better get back to bed and get couple more hours sleep!

February 12, 2006

Valentine's Day menu

It was since last month, I have been trying to think what am I going to do with Valentine's Day? Oh yes, I wish I can have that day off, to be away and maybe on a beach just lay there, listen to the ocean and watch the sunset... Oh no, but what I meant is what will I be serving at the restaurant?

First question in mind, will I get any reservations? At first I thought I would do two seatings, one at 6:30pm and one at 8:30pm. And I would be serving a chef's tasting dinner... However I haven't got any reservations until last week of January. Since this is my first year, maybe I would take it easy and see how my customers response? So I decided I'll still offer my regular menu while I will have a chef classic and chef exotic menu, with sake or wine matching. I must admit this idea came from Jean Georges.

It was about 5 years ago, when I was still working as an engineer. I was sent to the New York office for a week to train a new guy, and to implement a back up system. The first night I was there, I met a chef, King Phojanakong at the Beekman's kitchen. He's such a friendly and nice guy. He stopped by to ask how was I doing and we started talking. Turned out he was working in Berkeley for Fatapple the whole year before. The next few nights and days on the weekend, he had taken me to so many good restaurants, which really opened my eyes to food that serves in the east coast. King now has opened his own restaurant, Kuma Inn; in the lower east side. If you're in NY, be sure to stop by and say hi to him. You won't be disappointed.

If I remember correctly, it was lunch on a saturday that we went to Jean Georges. We ordered the chef's tasting menu. When our food came then I found out they had prepared a classic tasting for me and an exotic tasting for King. I love that idea! So I actually can taste more! The service was classic French, and my experience was wonderful! Until today I'm still in the mission to find a restaurant in the bay area that offers that high level of service!

Alright back to the menu...I think I would like to play with sauces this time and using different ingredients to create that differences between classic and exotic. So now is Sunday almost 10AM, and I still don't have a concrete menu yet. I wonder if any chef would operate like me(so last minute)? Oh well... guess it'll all depend on what I can find at the market, but I can promise you I'll try my very best to make you feel darling after your meal!

February 10, 2006

Oh yes, fresh pasta

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Back in 2001, it was the week after 911. Philip Chiang, Cecilia's son; opened his new restaurant Lucky Duck in Los Angelas. However due to the 911 incident, no one could fly out. Therefore Cecilia and I drove down for the opening.

During that trip, as usual Cecelia took me to many other restaurants and introduced me to all chefs. One of the highlight was to have the kitchen tour at Spago, Beverly Hills and met with Chef Woofgang Puck. He was telling me a story of Spago and Cecelia. It was some kind of event that many chefs were invited to cook and dine together at Spago, where they already had the menu set for. However at the last minute, Woofgang decided, "let's cook Chinese!" How fun was that! I love that passion of cooking, the spontaneous, and the creativities! That's how I feel about myself too most time.

Back in January, one evening; we did the same thing at Furenzu! The gang came over for dinner as usual. And we decided, let's have pasta! So Tony in charged of making all fresh pasta and hand rolled them all himself, while I prepared the salmon with dill and thyme, and a herbs and organic greens salad with blue cheese, pear and walnut. We tossed the pasta with basil, sweet baby peppers and a mixed of wild mushrooms including golden chanterelle and extra fancy button Shitake. It was a really nice meal. We all had fun and we need to do that more often! Wondering what will that be next? ;)

February 9, 2006

The regulars

the gang.JPG

If you come to the restaurant enough, you may have met some of my "furenzus" already. From the left, Lourdes(as many of my customers would say, "Oh you're the chips!"), Josephine, Vivian and myself :)

Vivian usually hides in the kitchen, because she finds it very therapeutic to work in the kitchen from her regular demanding, fast pace Mon-Fri software sales job. Therefore you can find her in the kitchen from most Fri nights to Sun nights. Or when you see her on the floor will be because we got too many people in the kitchen already and she would be doing what she calls "the floater". Thanks Viv! She's been a great friend and great help to me since the restaurant open.

Lourdes and Josephine, my good friends and family who have taken me in to many of their family functions, celebrations and parties as I was their youngest sister! Can't thank that family enough!! Most of my flower arrangements are from Lourdes...only not when she's running around for her kids too much. And Josephine, we had spent so much time together since I moved to the east bay! She's the 1st link to everything. She brought me into the family, always takes care of me, especially when I'm not in town. Furenzu wouldn't happen without this family!

You'll find them every Fri nights at the restaurant at the "chef's table" we would call! Well, some weeknights too when they're bored, or when they need a "drink".

So please feel free to come by and say hi to them. They're the easiest going, funniest and kindest people. I'm sure you'll have fun and a good chat with them!

February 8, 2006

Pig's feet!


Some years back a dear friend of mine, Cecilia Chiang; took me to the French Laundry's christmas party. After that she said since we're already in Yountville, let's visit another friend of hers' restaurant. So we went to Bistro Jeanty to see Chef Philippe Jeanty. I had his pig feet salad and until today, I'm still thinking of that and as I think I can almost still taste it!

Therefore while I was trying to figure out what I was going to put on the menu for this month, I knew I was going to put a Cynthia version of pig's feet salad. I asked many of my friends what would they think? Some said yes, some said "what?", and some said "are you sure?"

I kept thinking, part of my mission of this restaurant, is to educate my customers about good food! So the answer is yes I will put that on my menu. However what should I call it and not to scare my customers away? Hamhog salad? Pork's nuckle salad? ...etc.

The day of Feb 1(Wed) finally came. That morning I got a call from Vivian and she asked me if I read the paper yet? No I told her, and she told me to go and read the paper. What I found on the food section of SF Chronicle that day, with a big title, "Pig's feet, Chorizo & Chickpea Stew" in the recipe section.

Okay, if everyone can have pig's feet on their menu, why can't I? So I went back into the restaurant that morning, printed my Febuary menu with "Pig's feet salad" and yes it's the chef's favorite! Well I can tell you many of my open-minded friends tasted it and they like it. Even Vivain, the "no feet woman" and my favorite customer, Peter; brought a vegetarian friend who just started eating meat and had her first bite of pork that night would taste it. So please don't think it's the feet and give it a try!? If you really don't like it, okay I'll exchange it to something else for you.

Finally a blog for Furenzu!!

Many thanks to Tony! Restaurant Furenzu finally has its own blog!

I'm so excited! Not that I'm a good writer(I'm sure I can easily prove this as you started reading), but I just love to share my thoughts, my experiences and my moments of this dream place of mine! Hope you all enjoy what you read from here and please come back often(also to the restaurant!)