Dining review: Tang Dynasty, a taste of China
Our scrumptious dinner at Tang Dynasty consisted of a variety of different dishes. Gargoyle photo by Jie Han (click to enlarge)
Published: Tuesday, December 18, 2007 - 9:37pm
A view of Tang Dynasty from inside Lincoln Square Mall. Gargoyle photo by Jie Han (click to enlarge)
- Location: 140 Lincoln Square Mall, Urbana
- Sunday thru Thursday hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Friday & Saturday hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- Appetizer prices: $2.50-$6.95
- Main dish prices: $8.95-$27.00
- Recommended: Stir-fried beanstalks, soybeans with preserved vegetables, salt-water duck
- Jie's Rating: 9/10
- Phone: (217) 384-0799
WITH RESERVATIONS IN hand, my family and I arrived at Tang Dynasty, 140 Lincoln Square Mall, in time for a late dinner.
We waited a couple minutes before being greeted by a maitre d', who seated us at a round table with a spinning top.
Paintings adorned the walls and the tables were well arranged. The atmosphere was quiet, and soft chatter emanated from the other diners.
My first impression of the restaurant was its character. There were entryways with dragon latticework, various artworks of Asian scenes, and a small Buddist display at the corner of the reception. Red, the color of luck and wealth, was ubiquitous. It was unmistakably Chinese.
Once the rest of our party came, we deliberated on what items to order from the menu.
At Tang Dynasty, there are two menus — the American and Chinese. The American menu contained mostly “Americanized” items, while there were more traditional Chinese items on the other.
Since the latter was written in Chinese, my dad was put in charge of ordering. After all, the best items are usually found there.
In the end, we all shared seven items from the Chinese list and two dishes from the American. White rice is usually served without having to be ordered, unless you specifically tell them that you want fried rice.
The first dish was served within six minutes of ordering; the rest came within the next quarter hour.
My favorite dishes were the stir-fried beanstalks, soybeans with salted vegetables, and salt-water duck, which were on the Chinese menu.
The beanstalks were young and fresh, so they weren’t very fibrous or chewy — on the contrary, they were quite crunchy and leafy. Unlike those from other restaurants, they weren’t oversalted and had a slightly sweet taste to it. If you ever get tired of eating lettuce or spinach, this is a very good alternative. The only problem I had was spooning masses of the leafy material from the dish to my plate without taking most of the serving and dripping it all over the table.
Soybeans with preserved vegetables were my second favorite dish. It was a simple dish, more of an appetizer than an entrée. Sesame oil and ginger produced a pleasant aroma; its dark swamp green and light pale green were quite appealing. Salty preserves were mixed with fragrant soybeans, creating a balanced harmony for my taste buds.
Chopped and arranged beautifully on an oblong plate, the salted duck looked appealing from the beginning. The mostly completed duck was a cold, light pinkish brown color. Each slice was about an inch wide and two-and-a-half inches long, though each had its share of bones.
Contrary to what it would seem, the duck wasn’t too salty. There wasn’t much fat, except on the skin, so I didn’t feel too guilty about consuming several pieces. It wasn’t as aromatic as the Peking duck from my trip to Chicago, but the salt-water duck can most certainly hold a candle to it.
The spicy chicken and shrimp with scallop dishes were also quite good. The chicken dish was made of small pieces of meat, green onions, and various spices. At first, I had to scramble for the glass of cold water because it was so hot.
The initial peppery taste lingered on my mouth for some time, rendering my taste buds unusable for a minute or two. But as my tongue adjusted, I found that it was actually quite flavorsome and partook in some more afterward.
The seafood dish was less exciting, but the shrimps and scallops were tender and had a delicate seafood taste to them, almost like popcorn shrimp without the batter.
The water chestnuts, sliced bamboo, and baby corn complemented the dish well, adding in texture and flavor. Being a seafood lover, I thought that this dish was reasonably acceptable, though I’ve had better in places where fresh seafood is easily obtainable, such as in Chicago or Boston.
The service was quick and efficient, which is always a bonus. Having delivered all our dishes, however, they mostly left us alone and came by once to fill our water glasses. Also, it took them awhile to clear away empty dishes, but it didn’t take too long to flag down a waiter.
I left with a good impression of Tang Dynasty. Not only was the food excellent, but the service was also pretty good. The quiet hush and semiformality of the atmosphere makes it an excellent place to take someone out for a Chinese dinner. Just make sure that one of you can read Chinese.
More Photos from the Tang Dynasty
The restaurant has a wide collection of art hanging from its walls. Gargoyle photo by Jie Han (click to enlarge)
The corridor behind the reception room has several tables for small parties. Gargoyle photo by Jie Han (click to enlarge)