Of all the restaurants around, Chinese restaurants continuously commit the sin of similarity. Most are formulaic, with nearly identical dishes, kitsch-driven decor, and bushels of fortune cookies stuffed with bogus lottery numbers.
Tangs Pacific Bistro in Fort Worth makes an effort to break away from such predictable typecasting, and succeeds in a few spots.
For one, the restaurant stocks a full bar and a generous list of inexpensive cocktails, like the zombie light rum, dark rum, sweet and sour, orange juice, pineapple juice, and Bacardi ($5.50) poured in a tall hurricane glass. Other cocktails include Patrón-powered margaritas, mai tais, and mojitos.
It seems a bit out of character for a small Asian eatery; but I like liquor and I like eggrolls, so it makes sense to have both in one sitting.
Of course, the lunch menu has some typical fare, like kung pao chicken ($6.39-$7.69), orange chicken ($6.99-$7.69) and sweet and sour chicken ($6.39-$7.69), but theres also the less common pecan chicken ($6.99-$7.69).
Overall, the menu includes a lengthy list of appetizers, fried rice, noodle dishes, meat dishes, sushi rolls, vegetable dishes, chef specialties and even desserts. Its another contender for the worlds beefiest menu.
The whole thing walks a fine line between the common and the uncommon. For every bowl of fried rice, Tangs has something unique, like the ninja chips ($2.59) appetizer. Its a big bowl of lightly fried potato chips covered in a secret spice. Theyre crunchy, with a spicy, sharp punch, and before you know it, youll have downed the entire bowl. And no, I cant tell you the ingredients to the secret spice. (I asked. They denied me clearance.)
But I can tell you whats in Buddhas feast ($7.99): broccoli, tofu, snow peas, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, cabbage and baby corn sauteed in a brown sauce. Id modify it slightly by dialing down the sauce. The vegetables are fresh, extra crunchy and perfect for herbivorous dining companions.
Im sticking with the likes of pepper steak ($9.69) and ginger chicken ($9.99) until my doctor tells me to quit (any day now). The pepper steak, also in brown sauce, includes red peppers, green peppers and onions, cooked just as well as the other dishes; Tangs knows how to handle vegetables. But the dish has a neutral flavor. Fortunately, diners can amp up any item on the menu with spice, from mild to hot. Go all out: Get it hot.
During most meals, theres always at least one dish I repeatedly sample from, and at Tangs its the ginger chicken.
Ginger goes well with food and beverages, but use too much, and its overkill. In the ginger chicken, the amount is just right, as are the green onions and spartan seasoning of only salt and pepper.
Regardless of what you order, though, dont hang around for that tiny paper fortune Tangs doesnt have any. Instead, grab a cocktail, some more ninja chips, and unravel the secret to their secret spice.