Hannah: We can do it LIVE
DO IT LIVE
Edward: OK BILL
Remember the last time we were in Fan Tang?
Hannah: Yes — for the CAMPAIGN.
Edward: It was Obama HQ!
Hannah: It was indeed. They sure niced it up for the restaurant!
Edward: Yeah, it’s real purty inside now!
So you order and pay at the counter, get your number, and get a table. Presently, food arrives. Basically your Pei Wei model.
Hannah: The end.
Yes, menu above the register. Interesting model…you can get all these “traditional” chinese dishes, and add your choice of protein. Is that how Pei Wei does it?
Edward: Yes. But this place is classier than Pei Wei.
Hannah: Really! Really?
Edward: I mean, Pei Wei isn’t fast food, but it has that kind of “classy chain” look and feel.1
Hannah: Fan Tang is very nice inside. I really liked the look, and I like the open kitchen. Everything seemed very clean, too.
Edward: Yeah, and the room is airy and elegant, tables are clean, and the chairs are comfortable.
I guess because of that protein + preparation model, the food comes out pretty quickly. A real plus if you’re looking for a quick lunch during the workday.
Waitstaff maybe a little overzealous with the clearing of plates, though. It can make you feel rushed if they’re yanking plates off the table without even asking.
Hannah: I agree about the whisking away of plates, but I totally appreciated timely water fills and considerations like “do you want chopsticks and hotsauce?” Which, often, must be requested.
Edward: Yeah, so the service was basically good — I could see the owner and staff keeping an eye on the tables and everyone seemed to really be hustling.
So, the food!
Hannah: So, the food. We ordered a couple starters they call “snacks,” and a couple entrees.
Hannah: Salt and pepper calamari.
WHY in an Asian restaurant won’t they just say squid??
Why the Italian language??
Edward: Does anyone say “squid” anymore??
Hannah: Salt and pepper squid is a perfect name, and a perfect food.
But sadly, Fan Tang’s wasn’t my favorite…it was respectable, but slightly too breaded for my taste.
Edward: Too bready…a little too chewy. However, I liked their way of preparing it overall, with some chopped up fresh peppers and bits of sauteed ginger sprinkled on top. If the breading had been lighter, like maybe just dusted in corn starch, it would have been delicious.
Hannah: Exactly. What did you think of the spring rolls?
Edward: Hmmm…well, I had mixed feelings about those. On the one hand, I liked the crispy skins and the filling, which was mostly cabbage. The flavor and overall texture was light and fresh (even though the skin was a little oily). The sweet ginger sauce was tasty, too.
Hannah: I really liked that sauce. It had an honest ginger flavor.
Edward: BUT, the way they’re sliced and presented is all wrong. With the “butt” side down in the sauce, you kind of have to start eating them from that end, which means that the filling starts falling out as you make your way to the “pointy” end. I think they did it that way because it looks nice, but it makes them hard to eat.
Hannah: Yeah, weird. But the filling was crispy hot cabbage, the outside was crispy wonton skin — albeit oily. And the sauce was delish.
Edward: Yeah, the sauce is great. I wouldst dip everything in that sauce.
Hannah: Hmm, as we chat I realize this place is a mixed bag. Some excellent points, but some real misses too.
Edward: Yes, but overall I feel like we “ate well.”
How’d you like your Sichuan Green Bean w/Beef?
Hannah: I liked the green beans very much, Sichuan green beans is one of my favorite Chinese dishes. The beef was ok, but I think next time I’d try it with a different protein, just to see if there’s something that goes better — maybe shrimp.
Edward: I bet it would be good with either shrimp or tofu. I liked how they cooked the green beans, and the ingredients were all pretty distinct — it wasn’t just a big glop — the beans had nice color and texture. I did think the sauce was a little salty.
Also, I chose white rice since I wasn’t going to really eat much rice, and it was super mushy. Sad! Fan Tang, don’t let your rice sit in the steamer or steam table…it’s sad when the rice is so bad!
Edward: Oh, yeah, the rice was a real disappointment! Too much water.
Hannah: How did you like your Mongolian Beef?
Edward: Well, Mongolian Beef is my favorite Chinese dish, so I’m really picky about it. I’ve only ever had one completely perfect Mongolian Beef, and it was at this place in Bellevue, Washington. So, uh, I’m picky.
This was a solid B for me. It was good, but not cooked in the style that I like, where the beef is more seared, and served on top of crispy rice noodles. (Or even better, topped with crispy rice noodles.) I don’t know what the traditional preparation is of this dish, but the way I like it is everything quick-seared in a very hot wok.2
Hannah: One thing that’s true is that when our dishes came out, they looked very similar, and I was worried that they would have Indistinguishable Brown Sauce flavor.
Edward: Oh, yeah, true.
Hannah: But no, they each tasted different from the other.
Edward: Yeah, I liked that.
I don’t take points away from the Mongolian Beef either, because I get this style of it at most Chinese restaurants, and this one was very tasty. The beef-to-onion ratio was good, too. Oftentimes Mongolian Beef ends up being just a gigantic bowl of onions with some beef on top.
Hannah: So, for me, the hits were the ginger sauce on the spring rolls, the cook on the green beans, and the thoughtful server beforehand. What were your hits?
Edward: For me, the pepper on top of the
calamari squid, the texture of the spring rolls and that awesome ginger sauce, and the overall flavor of the Mongolian Beef.
Hannah: My misses: that rice — come ON. Also, the chewy squid and too much breading. Everything else was pretty ok. Solid B, I would say.
Edward: Yes, solid B. I think it’s a superior alternative to Pei Wei, and I’d definitely be willing to go back and try some of the other dishes they’re known for, like the Walnut Shrimp and the Coffee-Rubbed Chicken. I had to order the Mongolian Beef this time because that’s just my traditional first-visit tryout dish, but I’m curious to try those other dishes, and the service was competent enough to bring me back.
I felt like the prices were good for the quality of food, too.
Hannah: I felt like the starters were a little pricey for the quality. I mean, the spring rolls were cabbage. That’s a high ROI dish.
Edward: Hmmm maybe — $3.50? But they tasted fresh, and unlike most other cases, the sauce I think was actually part of the value of the dish.
Hannah: Oh, that’s all they were? I take it back. Wasn’t the squid like $7?
Edward: Yes, but you get a pretty decent amount of squid. The entrees, maybe a tad on the expensive side at about $9.
Hannah: HM. Fine!
What do I care, I didn’t pay!
Hannah: Well, would you say we’ve eaten well?
Edward: ONCE AGAIN WE HAVE EATEN WELL