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Asian Plus: Fan Tang offers true Far East fusion, and more

When Fan Tang calls itself a fusion restaurant, it’s not messing around.

The menu at this small, family-run wok-style kitchen in Nob Hill features dishes from Singapore and Vietnam to South Korea and everywhere in between, and the beer and wine menus cover even more ground, with options from California, Italy, Belgium and South America.

There’s even a chicken dish with French coffee.

That’s a lot of fusion streaming into central Albuquerque, but Fan Tang delivers it with huge portions, intense flavor and a great price. For a $10 entree, it’s as good as casual Asian cuisine gets.

The beef rolls at Fan Tang are made with finely cut steak and a hint of green onion. (Jason K. Watkins/For The Journal)

But first, the appetizers: The beef rolls ($3.50) are out of this world. They’re made by hand, not frozen, and stuffed with finely cut steak and a hint of green onion and more than a hint of cilantro, then they’re fried and cut in half, then served in a little boat with a dipping sauce in the stern.

Unless you’re dining alone, get two orders. They’re that good.

The beef is tender and perfectly seasoned and cooked, delicious if not entirely health-conscious. Unlike most fast-food Chinese restaurants, Fan Tang serves egg rolls that aren’t soggy or cold in the middle, and they aren’t mostly vegetables. These are fresh, steaming-hot egg rolls made that day using high-quality beef, with a homemade peanut and wasabi sauce that perfectly complements the beef and cilantro.

One could make an honest meal out of two or three orders of just the egg rolls. Seriously, they’re that good.

Fan Tang would have a hard time topping the appetizer with an entree, but they come close with the orange-peel chicken with brown rice ($9.79). Small chunks of chicken breast are pan-fried with onions, red, green and yellow peppers, and then coated in a sweet citrusy glaze with fresh orange peel.

The chicken is richly sweet and crispy on the outside but tender on the inside, and chunks of Sichuan pepper add just a hint of spice (unless you accidentally eat one, in which case they add a ton of heat). It’s intense and delicious and worth every penny, especially if you’re a college student on a budget.

Because you order at a counter and your meal is brought to your table by the wait staff, Fan Tang’s has a fast-food vibe, but it’s anything but: The ingredients are much fresher, they don’t taste like they’ve ever been frozen, and they’re cooked to order.

As for designing the interior, Fan Tang chose traditional over flash. The focus, decidedly, is on the food.

Entrees come with a generous portion of fresh white or brown rice. The brown rice, together with the sweet orange chicken, reminded me of a Southern California chain called Pick Up Sticks, but Fan Tang is slightly more formal and less formulaic – and more affordable.

A hearty meal costs less than $15, not counting a tip. You can even have it delivered when you order online through Grubhub.

Another plus: The service is great. The wait staff is mostly students or locals, and during a recent weekend visit, the food arrived still sizzling about five minutes after I ordered, so it seems like a good bet for a quick weekday lunch.

Some tips: The restaurant has menu options for kids, you have to ask for the Wi-Fi password, and the egg rolls had a faint taste of seafood, so if you have any serious allergies, let them know ahead of time.

Nob Hill has plenty to offer diners, but if you’re in the mood for an intensely flavorful meal inspired by much of Asia and a few places beyond, the indie Fan Tang at Central and Carlisle is probably your kind of place.