The day Kenny Tang decided to shred a duck and cook it to tender perfection inside a hot-and-sour soup is the day I became a fan of soup at a Chinese restaurant.
That delicious soup represents the work of the 50-year-old chef, who adds distinctive though not radical enhancements to traditional Chinese fare. Tang opened his eponymous restaurant this past May, the latest move in a career that has taken him to no fewer than three Chinese restaurants in western Broward County, and made him a sought-after caterer for the Breakers, Ritz Carlton, Boca Raton Resort, Mandarin Oriental and the Four Seasons. He has catered dim sum for presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama when they passed through South Florida.
The relatively small restaurant sits in a quiet shopping plaza off Atlantic Boulevard in Coral Springs, with a modest, easy-to-overlook decor. The entrance features an attractive wall with elaborate stonework. An enormous open kitchen is visible from every table. The main dining room is plainly decorated and warmly lit, accented by crimson and gold seat covers. The tables are mostly set in two-seat units, and they are easily combined to accommodate bigger groups. Two large, round tables are provided for parties of five or more. The setting is comfortable, save the 1990s Muzak that's piped into the dining room.
While the decor doesn't pop, the food most certainly does. Start with the aforementioned shredded-duck soup ($5), prepared with tender shreds of roast duck with the right amount of spice and a saucy broth that's like a cross between Brunswick stew and hot-and-sour soup. If you're into creamy soups, you'll enjoy the shiitake mushroom ($4).
Tang specializes in dim sum. The staff here is encouraged to try as many variations of plating arrangements as they can imagine, Tang says. His dim sum preparations combine gracefully with the various bold sauces. For the best value, go for the chef's choice dim sum sampler ($12), featuring eight pieces of whatever is on tap. Don't be shy about asking for a particular item if you really want to sample it.
Of the pieces we sampled, we most loved the pork pot stickers ($9 for four), nicely browned but still moist. The rich edamame dumplings were outstanding ($9 for four).
My experience ordering beef at Chinese restaurants has ranged from bland to flat-out distasteful, so I salute Tang's kitchen for its outstanding beef offerings, arguably the strongest meat on the menu. The restaurant uses fresh flank steak with a surprisingly tender preparation.
The orange-peel beef ($15) had a perfectly crunchy exterior, tender meat you can cut with a fork and a semisweet sauce that goes easy on the citrus. Mongolian beef ($15) is spot on, with those same tender strips of beef in a bold but not overly salty sauce.
The dishes here are prepared with light sauce, a good thing when high-quality ingredients are used. Extraneous sauce is used as a garnish for those diners wanting to pile on some more. The best example of this is the outstanding house fried rice, worth every penny of the $14 price and prepared with beef, pork, shrimp and chicken, and a bit of thickened soy sauce. The rice is prepared in house, so it's not particularly mushy.
Less outstanding is the curry chicken breast ($15), which was fouled by some rubbery chicken despite an enjoyable, delicately flavored sauce. The restaurant's light touch underserved the honey-glazed miso sea bass ($28). While the fish was cooked perfectly, its exterior was all but devoid of seasoning and oil, resulting in a plain-tasting dish despite the miso sauce.
Barbecue pork in stir-fried noodles ($15) is another great get, with a semisweet sauce that had us devouring those strips of pork.
For dessert, you have the option of banana rolls ($8 with green tea ice cream, $6 with white or regular chocolate) and sesame-seed balls ($8 with green-tea ice cream, $6 alone). We enjoyed the fried bananas, served wrapped like a roll, though we would have preferred a small saucer of chocolate for dipping rather than having to scrape it against the chocolate garnish. Sesame-seed balls featured a traditional, tasty preparation, though the restaurant was out of green-tea ice cream. While I wouldn't request that Tang's add the ubiquitous cheesecake tempura, the dessert menu did feel limited. It use an additional option or two.
While Kenny Tang's continues to evolve, it is well worth a visit for the kitchen's way with dishes that are clumsily handled at many other restaurants.
10615 W. Atlantic Blvd., Coral Springs
Cuisine: Pan-Asian with Chinese focus
Hours: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Wednesday through Monday; 5:30-9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday; 5:30-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Tuesdays.
Bar: Wine and beer
Sound level: Quiet
Outside smoking: No
For kids: Highchairs
Wheelchair accessible: Yes