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Restaurant Review: Fujian Grand China Buffet, Austin

This entry is part of a series, Restaurants»

Gu Lang Yu

I’ve been to Xiamen, China several times, and enjoy the food there very much. (Xiamen is in Fujian Province, for those without a China map handy.) Because of that, I watched with interest as the Old San Francisco Steakhouse in Austin morphed into the Fujian Grand China Buffet, over a couple of agonizing years (it seemed).

In some respects, the wait was worth it. In others, I was sorely disappointed.

There are no visible signs of the old restaurant remaining. Everything is done in wood and tile, with lots of big windows and indirect lighting. The high ceiling dome is a great feature. The exterior and landscaping are nice, although I think the parking lot is small relative to the seating capacity.

Because the Old San Francisco was a large place, there’s lots of seating inside in booths and tables for 2-6 diners. The serving area is huge as well. There is a small sushi preparation area, a “Mongolian Grille” style station, and eight large buffet tables. You pay when you enter, not your normal procedure, but given the high traffic load it works well. Lunch buffet was $8 after taxes, and without a drink; comparable to many places in town.

On to the food!

Chinese Meal

When I visited Xiamen I had wonderful meals, like the one shown above. The Fujian Grand China Buffet has “Fujian” in the name, so I came hoping (but not expecting) to get some dishes a lot like I enjoyed in China. At first, it even seemed possible. The wait and support staff were all Chinese in appearance, and indeed, the “buffet pit boss” was ordering buffet line replenisments through a wireless microphone to the kitchen, and she was speaking Chinese! Recognized a few bits, actually, which made me smile; my pidgin Mandarin was still working, a little.

The actual food was less authentic than that, however.

I give the place high marks for variety. The ingredients at the Grille station were all fresh, with crisp veggies and a nice selection of meat and seafood. The sauces were a bit problematic, however; which was which? No labels in sight.

The sushi bar is small, with one preparer working like crazy to keep up. The beauteous PJ, who accompanied me on this trek, tried several pieces (I don’t eat bait), and she said it was mostly okay but not great. I’ll take her word on that.

Five soups were offered, including the required Egg Drop Soup, Wonton Soup, and Hot & Sour Soup. I went for the last of these like a thirsty sailor goes for beer; I believe the first, true test of any new Chinese restaurant is how well they can make soup. They passed the test, although I would have enjoyed a zestier version. There was a nice tingle on the front of the tongue, and the required pungency as the liquid enjoyment went down the hatch. The mouth feel was what I expect as well. A good start!

Time to test the buffet lines…

Gu Lang Yu

The main buffet tables had everything from fresh salad fixings to kiddie stuff (pizza, chicken nuggets, etc.). The range of Chinese dishes offered was very broad, including egg rolls and other fried goodies, seafood dishes, chicken and beef items, and vegetarian goodies. Only about a third of the dishes were labeled, however, so you had to have a discerning eye and experience with Chinese food, or be willing to take a chance now and again.

I found many dishes I recognized (more or less), and I sampled several. General Tso’s Chicken, Pepper Steak, Sesame Chicken, Steak With Broccoli, Twice-Cooked Pork, Lemon Chicken and many more. Even Buddha’s Delight on the veggie row, but unlabeled so I couldn’t be sure. All tasty, but no better than I can find in other Chinese places around town. (We do have a good selection in the Austin area, to be sure.) And nothing that was clearly Fujian style, or Cantonese for sure. More “typical” stir-fry, which are fast and easy compared to the more complex dishes I tasted in Guangdong or Fujian provinces.

Several of the spicy dishes were labeled with red markers, which was a nice touch. These entrées weren’t that spicy, in my opinion. Very Americanized. The fried items I tried (including onion rings) were more rubbery than crispy, and some were not very warm. Seems to me they’re not using hot enough oil, and/or taking things out too quickly. Maybe a learning curve issue? This is their first week, after all.

The fruits were fresh and tasty, and the desserts were varied and colorful. If you’re a fan of hot mustard or garlic chili sauce, you find those on the salad bar, in the dressings area. No small cups were provided, however there were some bowls of about four ounce capacity that did quite well for my zesty sauce needs.

One last quibble: You had to ask a table server for chopsticks. I hope they get that figured out soon, as the wait staff were overloaded trying to seat folks and clear tables, so it was difficult to get their attention. And we were eating well after the expected noon rush; but of course, everybody’s trying out the “new place” in town, so the rush is pretty much continuous right now.

I snagged a takeout menu on my way out. These folks serve over eighty items in conventional paper cartons, most available in pint or quart servings. There are lunch and dinner specials too. Just call it in or fax your order! Convenient. I think the prices are reasonable too, from $4 (some pints) to $10 for quart-sized entrées and specialty items.

It’s clear that this new eatery is trying to compete with the Buffet Palace locations in Austin and Round Rock. However, it seems the Buffet Palace isn’t yet in any danger, either in variety of cuisines represented or in quality of the food and dining experience.

All in all, not a bad first encounter, just not up to my (perhaps inflated) expectations. I give them a pedestrian 5 Chiles (out of 10). I’ll try them again in a few weeks, after they’ve had time to learn their kitchen and operations better…

Fujian Grand China Buffet on Urbanspoon

Enjoy the (Mega-Buffet) Heat!

Entries in this series:
  1. Cool River Café and Southwestern Poblano Soup
  2. Restaurant Review: Gumbo's Louisiana Style Café
  3. Restaurant Review: Chola Indian Restaurant
  4. Restaurant Review: Fujian Grand China Buffet, Austin
  5. Restaurant Review: Casa Garcia's Tex-Mex Restaurant
  6. Review: Mesa Rosa Mexican Restaurant
  7. Restaurant Review: Truluck's Seafood, Steak and Crab House
  8. Restaurant Review Update: Fujian Grand China Buffet Restaurant
  9. Restaurant Review: Pho Viet Restaurant
  10. Sunday Brunch Anniversary Celebration: Moonshine Restaurant Patio Bar and Grill
  11. Late-Lunch Steaks at the Blue Oak Grill
  12. Mama Roux: So Good There's A Song About It, Sort Of...
  13. Phil's Ice House, an Austin-Weird Place for Great Burgers
  14. Easter Sunday Dinner: A Poor Experience at a Usually Reliable Locale
  15. A Sedate Spring Lunch at Zed’s
  16. Looking for a Taste of Germany? Well, We Tried…
  17. Fresh and Tasty Tex-Mex, Prepared by a Grandma
  18. The HomeField (Grill) Advantage
  19. Dinner for One: Sometimes the Good Stuff is Right Under Your Nose
  20. Smoky Heaven in Round Rock: Johnny T’s BBQ
  21. Tex-Mex, Better’n Sex (Says So on the Menu)
  22. The Quest Begins Anew (Just Pho Me): Mai Lien Bistro
  23. A Little Bit of the French Quarter, Here in Central Texas
  24. Quick Bites: El Caribe Tex-Mex
  25. It’s Good, It’s Italian, and You Don’t Have to Go to Europe to Get It
  26. Casa G’s for Lunch (Hint: It’s Awesome)
  27. Chola Indian Restaurant: A Good Indian Eatery Gets Better
  28. Tacos are Brain Food, and Brainiacs Eat at El Taquito…
  29. Get Your Indian Food Fix the Easy Way: Tärkă Indian Kitchen
  30. Late Lunch at Mandola’s Italian Market; Worth the Wait…
  31. I Didn’t Know Sichuan, China Included Round Rock
  32. Sunday Brunch at Pecan Street Station; Good Choice…
  33. Does Kung Fu Buffet Lives Up to Its Name? My Sample Says…
  34. The Underground Visits Ethiopia for Dinner (and Has a Wonderful Time)
  35. Pho Lee Vietnamese, It’s Total-Lee Pho (and Very Good)
  36. A Taste of Jalisco in North Austin
  37. The Great Pho Quest Continues: Pho Thaison in Allandale
  38. From New Pho to Old: Lunch at a (Nearly) Forgotten Friend, Tan My
  39. Z’Tejas, a Wonderful Place for Brunch and Clan Revelry
  40. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit in Round Rock: Great Meat; As For the Rest…
  41. LongHorn Steakhouse Round Rock: A New Family Favorite
  42. Salt Lick BBQ in Round Rock: More Than Finger-Licking Good
  43. Drinks and Snacks on the Deck at McCormick & Schmick’s
  44. Going Back Pho More at a Local Favorite
  45. Swagat Indian: A Disappointment With a Few Bright Spots
  46. Branch BBQ in Wells Branch: A Local Secret?
  47. Karrrazy, Man: Kublai Khan Crazy Mongolian Stir Fry
  48. VooDoo BBQ & Grill: Their HooDoo’s Pretty Good, Actually
  49. My Fit Foods: Tasty, Healthy Food, Ready in a Flash
  50. Chang Thai, Our Family’s New Favorite
  51. A Quick Trip to Agra, Without Leaving Home
  52. Playing With Your Food (and Your Mom Would Approve): Shabu Hot Pot & Noodle Bar
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3 comments to Restaurant Review: Fujian Grand China Buffet, Austin

  • LadyMing

    Thnx so much Chilie Doctor for this wonderfully detailed review. Just recently I saw tv commericals of this buffet, and I suppose like most people the name Fujian definitely caught my attention. I even called a friend who is from Fujian, she asked if they offer authentic dishes from her region. lol. Now we know.
    I will, however give this place a try, just because I like to eat and I miss the Old San Francisco Steak House. But I will do it with the expectation of a “typical” American/Chinese buffet.

  • LadyMing: Yes, give them a try. I hope your friend isn’t too disappointed! We’ll try Fujian out again soon; by now they should have settled in after their kitchen startup. Time to see what they’ve improved.

    We also miss the old Steakhouse; but times move on. We now have a new favorite steak house: Truluck’s. If you’re looking for a nice replacement, try them…

  • i like reading food blogs because i am always seeking for new recipes.,.’