Step past the elephant statues and through the gold double doors of newly opened Tang Yuan restaurant and it’s hard to believe the spot was once a Blockbuster video store.
Inside the Chinese restaurant at Palm and Bullard avenues in northwest Fresno, which opened Saturday, June 18, there is a lot to take in: Huge murals with koi and peacocks, red velvet chairs, chandeliers, gold and white table cloths and a giant 155-inch TV screen.
When I admired the interior an employee responded with a “no big deal” shrug. She is used to seeing restaurants like this in China.
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But for Fresno, it’s something different.
18number of months it took to transform Blockbuster into upscale restaurant.
This is no take-out spot. In fact, the food we’re familiar with from Chinese restaurants isn’t what people in China eat. Instead, it’s an Americanized version of Chinese food.
But Tang Yuan is a mid-range to upscale restaurant, with entrees costing between $15 to $20. The focus is on traditional Cantonese cooking, especially seafood. Nine tanks line the back wall, holding live lobster and other seafood that is plucked from the water when a customer orders it. Abalone, Alaskan king crab, sea cucumbers and a leopard coral trout are on the menu.
With advance notice, customers can order a whole roasted piglet or Peking-style duck.
There are chicken and beef dishes and vegetarian friendly dishes on the menu, too.
Tang Yuan also serves dim sum – small portions of food served from a cart wheeled through the dining room. But it’s served in the morning hours, when dim sum traditionally is served in China, says manager AJ Chu.
That’s why the restaurant opens at 8 a.m. and will close at midnight.
The restaurant itself can be divided with a temporary wall for large groups wanting a private venue. There is a karaoke machine, and private banquet rooms available, including one with a mahjong table that automatically stacks and shuffles tiles used in the game.
A separate entrance is set aside for takeout, where customers can get barbecue pork ribs, roasted chicken and other dishes served in combo plates.
The restaurant’s name translates to something along the lines of “spirit of China,” the workers say.
It’s owned by the same person who owns the 1920 Tea Club in the same center. Separately, another nearby restaurant Lahori Tikka, which serves Pakistani, Indian and Halal food, is making a name for itself, too.
Tang Yuan is at 760 W. Bullard Ave.