Established in 2009, Hotel Fullerton has gone though many changes, from the name of the hotel to the restaurant menu. More recently Fredie Garcia became the new Director of Food and Beverage, and Zach Geerson became the Executive Chef. Local foodies may recognize the chef, who was formerly of Tempo Urban Kitchen in Brea.
Griswold’s Bar and Grill is located inside the Hotel Fullerton. The menu is quite eclectic, and we decided to let Chef Zach select for us the more popular or recommended dishes. While we waited for the first course, manager Fredie started off my friend with a cocktail, a secret menu item which was a lemon head martini. I took a sip and really liked this cocktail. It wasn’t too lemony, and had just enough of a tang. It was a rather refreshing martini, and an excellent choice.
Chef Zach chose for us the following:
- Parsnip Soup
- Grilled Octopus
- Duck Confit Salad
- Asian Paella
- Pork Meatball Ramen
We started off with a soup, a parsnip soup with apples. I was not too familiar with parsnip, but I went along with the suggestion. I was quite amazed at this end up being my favorite dish for the whole evening. The soup had the consistency of a butternut squash but the apples really gave the soup a refreshing taste. If you get this soup, mix it up so you can taste all the flavors.
The next course was the Grilled Octopus, with onions, capers, lemon and salsa verde. At first I wasn’t that excited to try this dish, but my friend really liked octopus. My experience of octopus has been usually from a sushi bar and it’s chewy and fishy. Not so in this case. I was quite surprised that this grilled octopus had a nice smoky flavor to it. In fact, I had no idea it was octopus, and it could have passed for a meat from a Japanese Izakaya grill. Another excellent selection.
The next dish was the Duck Confit salad served with radicchio, smoked beets, picked walnuts, fennel and pear. Chef Zach warned us that that would be more on the salty side, and he was right. He explained that the was beets, fennel, pears, and walnut would create a tartness and sweetness to compliment the saltiness. Unfortunately, our order did not have the pears and walnut (we didn’t realize this until later) and sadly we were not pleased with the salad.
As we dug deeper in the salad, we did find slices of peeled oranges at the bottom, and I had wish that there were more, as the sweet citrus really balance the salty duck. Later, we did tell the Chef we were not pleased with the selection and wished he had added more pears. He looked at our salad and realized the restaurant forgot the pears. Embarrassed, he said that the texture and the sweetness from the pears would have complemented the salad. Sadly, I’m a huge fan of duck, but wasn’t a fan of this particular dish, and quite possibly because it was missing two key ingredients.
The Asian Paella came out next and this dish had a very good flavor to it and served in a traditional Korean bowl (similar to that of a bimbimbop). It had a good mixture of scallops, calamari, and shrimp, but I wish it had fish also. The rice had a hint of saffron, so you can call it a paella, but I was surprised that there were olives in it. Chef Zach said he wanted to have a Mediterranean part of Paella with the Asian inspired part of the dish. I wasn’t a huge fan of the olives and thought that part could be omitted. The Sambal Aioli on top gave it a nice kick, bringing just a light heat to the dish. If you like some spiciness to your food, this is a good choice.
Our final entree was was the Vietnamese inspired house made pork meatballs with fresh handmade ramen. When we receive the dish, I was expecting the traditional thin ramen noodles, these were a little thicker cut like linguine. The noodle was nice and chewy, and the broth was excellent. In fact, I told the chef that I wish my bowl had more broth.
The meatballs were nice and dense, and was filled with some sort of herb. In the middle of the bowl was a perfect pickled, five-minute cooked egg where after the first bite, the hint of pickled flavor came through. Unlike the previous dishes, which they were all suitable sizes for sharing, this bowl is really a dish for one. My one disappointment was not enough broth to enjoy.
To end our evening, we decided to try the house donuts and coffee. This seems to be the restaurant’s signature dessert, and the donuts were more like beignets. These small bites of airy pastries were lightly covered with cinnamon and sugar, topped with a lemon zest and a dash of salt.
The donuts were served hot, and paired with a side of cold coffee sauce for dipping. Chef Zach said the irony of this dessert was normally you would have hot coffee and cold donuts, so they chose to give you hot donuts and cold coffee. We decided to have both, and paired it with a cup of hot coffee and it was a perfect ending to our meal.
I would’ve never guessed that a hidden gem will be located in a hotel off the 91 freeway. With the exception of the meatball ramen, the portion sizes are shareable. The place is tiny, so I would recommend making reservations, especially if you want to come as a group. Plenty of parking on site, but use your GPS to find the hidden street that takes you to the hotel.
The Hotel Fullerton is located at 1500 S. Raymond Avenue, Fullerton, CA 92831