Tan Cang Newport Seafood, Garden Grove (photos by Brad A Johnson)
There are two restaurants in Orange County named Tan Cang Newport Seafood, and they are not affiliated. At least not anymore. Nor is either still affiliated with the original team that created them and still operates two Chinese-Vietnamese restaurants by the same name in San Gabriel and Rowland Heights. So it’s easy to get them confused. Keep that in mind when you invite a group of friends to whichever one you’re going to.
At the moment, my pick is the one in Garden Grove. It’s not as nice as the ones in Rowland Heights or San Gabriel. It’s a total dive, and you’ll want to lower your expectations for service. If you need another beer, it helps to stand up and wave your arms. But the food is outstanding.
The menu is vast, with more than 100 choices, but there are really only five things you need to order.
1. The New Port Special Lobster. This is why you’re here: stir-fried lobster with green chilies and scallions. Get the 7-pound lobster platter and prepare to make an epic mess.
2. Crisp fried squid with spicy salt. This is essentially salt-and-pepper squid with fresh jalapeños. And they serve it with an extra-fine powderized salt. Don’t neglect the salt.
3. Clams with spicy hot sauce. The clams are big and meaty and perfectly steamed in a light broth that’s not as spicy as the name might suggest. You might want to get two orders of these because they disappear fast.
4. Yang chow fried rice. This is a classic kitchen-sink fried rice, with chewy caramelized nuggets of Chinese sausage and plump shrimp.
5. Beef luc lac, French style. I have no idea what makes this dish French. This seems like a classic Vietnamese shaking beef to me. The sauce has been cooked down to a syrup, almost black in color, like tar, and the meat is delightfully tender.