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
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.
4411 W 1st St
Santa Ana, CA 92703