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Oct 22, 2013 05:12 PM

Tan Cang Newport Seafood – One Of My Favorite Restaurants In Orange County

**For full post and pics**:

Tan Cang Newport Seafood is basically an institution at this point in Little Saigon (Santa Ana and Garden Grove) and the San Gabriel Valley (San Gabriel and Rowland Heights). They are known for several dishes, but famous for their lobster. I’ve been eating here for several years now, but a recent really good meal prompted me to write a post about it.

To clarify the SGV restaurants are still affiliated with each other, but neither of the OC restaurants are affiliated with any of the others. According to their SGV restaurants’ websites the Orange County ones are the originals, but were sold. According to the Santa Ana restaurant’s website they are the original and the others are imposters (their site is no longer up). This review is for the Santa Ana branch which I think is excellent. The Garden Grove one is not as good. The San Gabriel one was similar to the Santa Ana branch in quality. I have not eaten at the Rowland Heights one.

Now that we got that out of the way, the food they serve here is billed as Teochew (Chao Zhou / Chiu Chow) food. Teochew are Chinese from the Chao Shan region of China, which is eastern Guangdong. They have their own language and their food is known for their fresh seafood and generally light cuisine (not a lot of oil, lots of steaming, braising and poaching). It’s one of my favorite types of Chinese cuisine although it’s quite rare in the US. Anyhow, this is not traditional Teochew food but rather is a mix of Teochew, Cantonese and Vietnamese. The people who run the restaurant are Chinese from Vietnam and they speak a ton of languages (I’ve heard Cantonese, Teochew, Mandarin, English, Vietnamese and an Asian language I couldn’t figure out what it was).

The restaurant used to be smaller, but they renovated and doubled the size of the restaurant. While it’s not going to knock your socks off its not a total dump like it used to be before. The servers are generally reasonably nice although service is quick and brisk. The short Chinese boss lady who I believe is the owner is really nice if you talk to her.

On to the food:

Kung Pao Chicken:
Most people associate kung pao chicken with Americanized-Chinese food, but it actually is a real Sichuan dish. However, this is Tan Cang’s own take on the dish, which resembles the Americanized-Chinese version, but it’s drier without any gloppy sauce. The chicken is very tender, slightly crispy on the outside and the sauce is a bit sweet and spicy. I find it quite delicious. 8/10

Fried Tofu:
This is battered fried blocks of tofu topped with sautéed onions, green onions and chili. It served with a dark soy sauce and a dish of salt and white pepper. You can also squeeze a lime on it, which I recommend doing. The batter is quite thin and while it looks really oily it’s actually not that heavy. The batter is nicely crispy while the tofu retains a great soft texture. By itself it’s rather plain, but with all the toppings, soy sauce and salt and pepper it’s delicious. 8/10

Spicy Basil Clams:
This is another popular dish, but I’m not that big a fan of it. The clams are generally decent although not amazing quality. However, but I find the sauce rather bland; it’s a brown sauce that is slightly spicy with black bean, basil and green peppers in it. It’s an okay dish, but a bit of a dud. 6.75/10

Sauteed Snow Peas:
This is a classic rendition that is snow peas leaves sautéed in oil, salt and garlic. The thing that is different is they use the really small skinny snow peas, which is not that common. I like these small skinny snow peas more than the regular one. 7.75/10

Salt & Pepper Squid:
This is classic Cantonese style salt and pepper squid, which is squid battered in a salt and pepper battered and fried then topped with jalapeno. Most of the time this dish is pretty decent with a good crispy batter and reasonably tender squid, but occasionally it can come out too oily. 7.75/10 (7.25/10 when they make it too greasy


Salt & Pepper Shrimp:
Same dish as the salt and pepper squid except with shrimp. They also give you a lime and a mix of salt and white pepper. They do a better job on this dish as it’s always pretty delicious and never seems to be too oily. 8/10

Bo Luc Lac:
This is the French style beef in a black pepper sauce. They don’t always cook this the same way; sometimes it’s more sauce-y and sometimes it’s drier. The beef is nicely tender and the sauce is slightly sweet and peppery. I like the version here better than most versions I’ve had in Little Saigon and it’s quite tasty with white rice. 8.25/10

House Special Lobster:
This is the house specialty and you will see it on every table. You order it by the pound and the lobster are big ranging from 4-6 lbs. They are battered in a sweet and spicy batter that is really delicious. The lobster meat is sweet and tender and I really love the sweet roe (they are the red stuff in case you’ve never seen lobster roe). The quality of the lobster can vary a bit; sometimes you get a great lobster and sometimes it’s just a decent lobster, but the way it’s prepared it always ends tasty. 8.5/10

Boiled Live Prawns:
This was a special from my latest trip. These were classic Cantonese style boiled prawns served with a dark soy sauce with sesame oil and sliced jalapenos in it. The prawns were live, huge and very fresh. The meat was sweet with good texture and tasted great with the sauce. I prefer slightly smaller prawns, but this was still quite good. 8.25/10

Geoduck Soup (Part Of Geoduck 3 Ways):
This was part of a special that was actually the reason I wrote this post. The waiter told me they had live geoduck and the quality was especially good that day (I got upsold for sure). The first way they served it was in a light soup where they had boiled the geoduck parts along with cabbage, mushrooms and other vegetables. The result was a broth that was very light and tasted similar to a clam broth. It was a nice light flavored soup, but it definitely needed a little white pepper to kick it up. 7.75/10

Spicy Geoduck (Part Of Geoduck 3 Ways):
This was sliced geoduck that was very quickly blanched then topped with a hot and sour sauce with basil and bean sprouts. Everyone at the table was shocked at how good this was. The hot and sour sauce was light and paired perfected with the basil and didn’t overpower the geoduck at all. The geoduck meat was nicely tender and it was just generally a really good dish. 8.5/10

Geoduck Sashimi (Part Of Geoduck 3 Ways):
As a disclaimer since this was the only time I’ve had this dish here, I can’t say that it wasn’t a fluke, but wow this was amazing. It was the standard geoduck sashimi that is sliced, put on ice and served with soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger. This geoduck was so fresh; it had a good crunchy texture and tasted briny with no fishy taste whatsoever. It was honestly a lot better than the geoduck I’ve had at top sushi restaurants in NY and LA. It’s so simple that I can’t tell you much more to describe it other than it was really good. Also as a side note, the geoduck 3 ways was $35 per lbs and we got 4 lbs, so it wasn’t cheap. 8.75/10

Overall, while it’s certainly not fancy, I really like the food at Tan Cang. It’s always just delicious and really satisfying. I highly recommend coming here.

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  1. How dirty is it these days? I told my parents I wanted to revisit this place for the first time in 20+ years, but they were like "no way, it's too dirty". Your pics and text make it appear cleaned up quite a bit.

    thx for clarifying the ages/ownership, I always thought the santa ana one was the OG.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ns1

      after they renovated about a year or two ago it feels alot cleaner and less hectic than before. I think your parents will be fine with it now

      I think the santa ana one is the OG one, which you could gather from what the SGV website and the now defunct santa ana website (only the website is defunct, the restaurant is still there).

      However, its unclear as to which one is run by the original owners. If you read the SGV restaurant's website then the SGV restaurants' owners are the original owners, if you read the Santa Ana one then the Santa Ana owners are the original

    2. Welcome back. Love this branch also.

      Don't forget to try Shunji.

      Give the special chicken shoyu ramen or tsukemen at Zetton a shot if you have free time. A welcome change from all the tonkotsu broths out there.

      7 Replies
      1. re: Porthos

        this from when i was home like a month or so ago, well part of the pics are from then and part of the pics are from a meal about a year ago. My meal there about a month ago was so good i had to write about it. There will be more CA posts coming soon. I'm going to rotate back and forth between NY and LA (may finally do my tokyo and KL posts too)

        shunji is def high on the list to try next time im in LA

        have you tried kokekokko? a friend was telling me its the best yakitori (better than torihei which is the best yakitori ive had in the US)

        1. re: Lau

          Yes I have. You are probably aware of kokekokko's black plate system where the regulars get a black plate with better cuts and service. Saw a guy get up and kiss the chef's out stretched hands at the end of the meal (a big presentation was made leading up to the gesture). No joke. Favor can also be curried by offering the chef premium wines.

          I've been once. It was good. Torihei was better. Specifically the chicken soup, soboro rice, chicken meatballs, chicken wings, of course the torihei egg with salmon roe, and the special chicken heart (not available at koekekokko to non black plate diners). The excuse of course is that the black plate stuff is better. If your friend is part of the black plate club, go with him/her and report back comparing the two.

          1. re: Porthos

            i wasn't aware of that actually, but i doubt he's a member of the black plate club bc he doesn't even live in LA anymore as he moved to bay area for work. The special chicken heart at torihei really blew me away last time and their oden is really good. I'd love to try both back to back, too bad I'm in OC more than I'm in LA

            1. re: Lau

              shin sen gumi fountain valley has special heart all the time (until it sells out)

              1. re: ns1

                yah ive had it there, its good, but not as good as the one at torihei which was really good

                i like shinsengumi though...i eat there with my mom all the time

            2. re: Porthos

              Love those fucking chicken meatballs with that crazy sauce at Torihei as well as the cabbage with the ramen sauce or chili sauce. Great stuff.

              Too bad Horon has closed.

              1. re: kevin

                yah im disappointed horon closed as well

        2. Great review lau. I go a lot but never so deep into the menu. Of course the classics done well but I need to try that geoduck. Did u ever try that beef stew kind of dish I've seen some older fellas eating with French bread? Also would u eat there sans lobster? I also like seeing this tasty spot not in the sgv get some props. Good prices good service and great food.

          10 Replies
          1. re: jessejames

            jessejames - thanks!

            beef stew with french bread: no i have not tried that, but i think i know what dish you're talking about. The chinese-viet places seem to serve it (I've seen it at them in NY too). Have you seen it on alot of people's tables? I haven't noticed it before

            Sans lobster: yes i would still eat here even if they didn't have lobster although the lobster is definitely a big plus, some of their crab dishes are supposed to be good as well but i haven't tried them.

            1. re: Lau

              Yes exactly. I want to try that. If I'm alone I ask for those jumbo shrimp done house lobster style so it's a manageable portion of course with something else. I'm ready for lunch now thanks to your photos!

              1. re: jessejames

                those jumbo shrimps are not cheap btw, they were live and fresh (and i dont think they always have them). i dont remember how much they were per lbs, but they're not cheap (definitely good quality though)

                1. re: Lau

                  Maybe I had other shrimp? Looked similar. Tasty.

                  1. re: jessejames

                    these shrimp were quite big and they were live so the meat was very good quality...interesting idea though to ask for them in the same style as the lobster

                    1. re: Lau

                      I love that fried squid too. Best I know around these parts.

                      1. re: jessejames

                        its good, not the best version ive had, but its definitely good when its on. the only issue is sometimes its a bit too oily (not all the time though, sometimes its just fine too)

                          1. re: jessejames

                            yah as a dish i love it, i almost always order it if a place has it

            2. for some reason, whenever i'm in LA, i forget to make a reservation and since i'm unwilling to wait 1hr+ for dinner, i end up not having a meal here. however, this time i remembered!

              we shelled out for a 12-lb lobster newport style. as good as i remembered it. sweet tender succulent chunks of lobster, coated in that savory, sweet and slightly spicy sauce. and it was chock full of roe. at $17/lb, i think this is a fantastic deal.

              on the converse though, we also ordered the geoduck. It was fine. we had it tempura style and then stirfried with bean spouts. both preps are very good. however, it's $30/lb. that seems insane to me.

              i guess by comparison, at my local ranch, lobsters are generally $7.99 - 8.99/lb, so at newport I pay a 2x markup. but geoducks are also $8.99/lb, so i'm basically paying 3.5x markup. for me, being a value guy, that definitely took away some of the enjoyment.

              34 Replies
                  1. re: ns1

                    yeah, 12 pounds ???? was that for 2 people or more ???

                    i can handle a 5 pounder, maybe 6 on my own, but that's about it.

                    no joke.

                    1. re: kevin

                      Ha. No, family of 8 (5 adults, 3 kids). Unfortunately, I'm not a picture taker but it was a pretty epic lobster and IMO a great deal, especially when you consider how much a steakhouse boiled lobster runs per lb.

                  2. re: FattyDumplin

                    yah like i said the geoduck is expensive, they didnt give it to you sashimi style? that was my favorite prep for sure

                    12 lbs...another bravo from me!

                    1. re: Lau

                      no, and when i read your review, i was pissed because i love geoduck sashimi. never ocurred to me to ask and we just took what they suggested. that beiugn said, the tempura version was really good (it was the creamy parts of the geoduck) and the stirfry with bean sprouts has always been a favorite of mine.

                      however, i paid for dinner this time and i never knew how expensive the geoduck was... i thought it was $30 total, not $30 per pound, so had some sticker shock.

                      i'm still waiting for the day when i can convince my in-laws to do the king crab, but based on the prices / weights, i'm guessing that runs $400+...

                      1. re: FattyDumplin

                        the king crab isn't cheap but for this style of cooking I like the firm flesh of the lobster better...but hell the crab is still dynamite too. FYI Shunji will wrassle up a king crab for you on request and serve it three ways (sashimi, grilled and steamed PLUS brains for dipping and he makes "chips" out of that thin flap in the "skull" portion of the crab body). I believe it was less than $400.

                        1. re: FattyDumplin

                          oh yah i actually mentioned that in my post (it was actually $35 / lbs when i went) as a warning as i know most people would not way to pay that. Not something you do everytime, but i'd do it now and then as i really enjoyed it

                          1. re: Lau

                            i assume its not easy to prep.. was thinking about the lobster and in a sense, its not hard because you're just chopping into chunks and stirfrying. versus the geoduck has to be boiled, skinned and then very thinly sliced. probably not something i'd do at home... then again, not like i'd be able to replicate the newport lobster either, although conceptually, it seems more achieveable for a novice cook to do. which i guess will be how i rationalize the relative pricing differential the next time i want the geoduck.

                            1. re: FattyDumplin

                              i mean i guess i'd want to know how expensive the stuff is wholesale, i have no idea whether they're just marking up alot bc its perceived as a special expensive item or whether its just really expensive in the wholesale market

                              but yah to your point i think it'd actually be difficult to recreate either item in your household. in fact alot of chinese dishes tend to be bc you need an extreme hot wok that cooks at temperatures far above anything a household kitchen can do

                              1. re: Lau

                                yeah,i was just comparing retail at my ranch. Geoduck and lobster are about the same price per lb, yet at newport, the geoduck is nearly double the price of lobster.

                                the heat is definitely the gating item. we have a new range with 18k btus and its not enough.

                                1. re: FattyDumplin

                                  yah although i will say that the geoduck (at least the one i had) was really very good just from the standpoint of tasting very fresh and briny, far better than what ive had in most restaurants. however, i see your point on the retail price pt vs this price pt which is massive

                                  1. re: Lau

                                    ha. this is true. the geoduck was quite good. as it was my first time paying and thus paying attention to the bill, i was just shocked. made the lobster feel like a darn bargain :)

                                    ha, i don't have a range or wok big enough for a 12 pounder. in all seriousness, i'd love to see them prepare this dish with that lobster.

                                    1. re: FattyDumplin

                                      ive cooked hundreds of lobsters in my days but I don't think I could recreate the magic they have in that wok. one of my favorite meals in la

                                  2. re: FattyDumplin

                                    im not good at math - but how many btus for a 12lb lobster? good problem to have!

                                    1. re: jessejames

                                      More interesting to me is a 12 lb lobster.

                                      As an estimate I'm going to guess that a 12 lb. "Maine" type lobster is probably 50 years old.

                                      That has to be a very rare lobster I would think.

                                      1. re: Servorg

                                        are you sure it wasnt like two 6 lbs? i would think that was actually the case

                                        1. re: Lau

                                          they should show the lobster off before cooking so I guess the OP will have to clarify.

                                          I'm a little sad about eating a 50 year old lobster. Poor pinchy.

                                          1. re: ns1

                                            yah they always show me the lobsters to you

                                            1. re: ns1

                                              ha. my now passed away father-in-law (rest in peace) used to say in Chinese what basically translated too - this poor lobster... he escaped the man for so long and then one day, in a moment of carelessness, he got grabbed. that man loved himself a good lobster and introduced me to this place and the giant lobsters... up until then,i'd always thought the bees knees was a 2 - 3lber prepared ginger scallion style.

                                              1. re: Lau

                                                definitely one big lobster. the head "case" was ginormous. i think they actually pretty regularly have 9 to 10+ lbers... whenever ive been, the "mediums" are about 5 - 6lbs. and the "larges" are 9 - 10. and this time, when they asked, there was this one giant.

                                                1. re: Servorg

                                                  trust me, i wouldn't believe it either unless i saw it. that being said, at some level, it's impossible to tell how much it truly weighs. it was clearly a big dude... but i'll be damned if i could truly tell if it was 10, 11, or 12lbs.

                                            2. re: FattyDumplin

                                              Talking about burners - I recently bought a 60K BTU outdoor camping burner. Amazing heat - perfect for wok hey. Now I need to get a larger wok with handle!


                                              Available online at Amazon.

                                              1. re: suvro

                                                how hot does it get? the real woks i believe kick up to like 800-1,000 degrees, they have either a foot pedal or this pedal sort of waist level that really kicks up the heat. if you watch a master on the wok they're constantly using this pedal to kick the heat up. It's quite an art to get real wok hei (its so awesome when u get it right)

                                        2. re: Lau

                                          lau this is one of my favorite spots too ... I know not related to the one in the SGV but will be interesting to see if the BH edition has the same viet influence as santa ana. some of the cheaper stuff really nice too-I really enjoy that beef broth that they serve free (when you have a group and order a lot) with the various bones etc also, and did also get back and enjoy the beef stew and bagette -- really beefy simple and delicious.

                                          1. re: jessejames

                                            yah i just find the food really tasty, no frills kind of stuff...ive yet to take anyone there who wasn't like whoa this is good

                                            1. re: Lau

                                              Relatives from Singapore/Malaysia proclaimed the house lobster>chili crab.

                                                1. re: FattyDumplin

                                                  I was surprised. People from there often blow off so much of the food here. Either renditions back home are superior, or flavors over here just not for them - not here. We've taken two groups from that part of Asia for dinner here and both killed the lobsters.

                                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                                    Lobster is the international language of good eats.

                                                    1. re: bulavinaka

                                                      ive said many times that this lobster is as good as what u get in asia at least preparation wise (seafood is unbelievably fresh and good in asia)