Yan Can in Santa Clara
Any updates on this restaurant?
I'm not sure there's a lot to update. Yan Can was a prototype for a "premium counter service" style restaurant, positioning itself against Panda Express the way Chipotle, Wahoo, et. al. position themselves against Taco Bell. Since it's so far failed to actually become a chain (there's only two locations, the other one in Pleasant Hill) it still qualifies as a Bay Area local restaurant, I suppose. And I think they succeed in being better than Panda Express. But that's not a very high bar, and not very "chowish."
FWIW, I think they could do a lot better even in the limited context they're operating in, i.e., Chipotle and Wahoo's are better than Taco Bell by a much bigger margin than Yan Can is better than Panda Express. Martin Yan sticking his name on their food is a lot like Tyler Florence sticking his name on stuff at Applebee's. Whether or not the recipes may have once been interesting, what ends up on the plate in front of you is pretty much all Applebee's, you know?
Actually they're going in the wrong direction, though, since there used to be quite a few more locations in the Yan "chain." All of the Southern California locations closed down, perhaps because most of them were far off the beaten path in places like Oxnard and Rancho Santa Margarita. On the one hand I'm wondering why this hasn't been turned into a successful franchise. On the other hand I did stop by the Santa Clara location last year and found the food to be highly uninspired.
There were two in the South Bay and one closed, although I can't remember which one. "Highly uninspired" is a good way of putting it. There are some chains, even quick service ones, I do like (including the one that shares my handle, although I was using that name before I knew about them!), but I try to be careful mentioning that, lest people inundate me with impassioned "but there's so much better!" responses. (Sometimes you're not *near* anything better, even here in the Bay Area. And I moved out here from Tampa Bay, where P.F. Chang's, oft-maligned by 'hounds as it is, was a marked improvement over all but a couple Chinese restaurants in a fifty-mile radius. ...but I digress.)