The North team and I gave this Grant Avenue landmark a try recently. In its day, Kans was THE restaurant in Chinatown. None of us had been here before. A barker on the street level beckons tourists to come inside, luring them with a lead price of $1.28 per plate for dim sum. We had pretty low expectations, not far from the attitude in this post ( [BROKEN LINK REMOVED] ) and ended up being pleasantly surprised.
Autographed pictures of Hollywood celebrities are displayed in the bar. The small dining room is well-kept and attractive with high ceilings, crystal chandeliers and Beaux Arts windows that provide natural light. White-clothed tables were covered with white paper place mats. It was never more than half full on this weekday, and most of the patrons were eating sweet and sour pork or broccoli beef lunch plate specials. Kans is probably the calmest and quietest place weve been to in these trials and that felt truly luxurious. Servers circulate with small trays carrying dim sum. After we skipped over several offerings, we were asked which items we were interested in and these were ordered directly from the kitchen for us. We started off with just a few items to judge the quality, and when these proved satisfactory, we ordered more. One oddity, we werent asked what type of tea we wanted and received the standard jasmine.
First the disappointments only one real stinker this outing, the braised chicken feet were stale and lacking depth of flavor. In addition, the cilantro and shrimp dumpling was pasty and uninteresting.
In the average category, the siu mai were a little dried out and we suspected theyd been reheated. The braised tofu skin rolls were decent but not as soulful and flavorful as some others weve tried. The lo sa tong gow (peanut powder coated mochi balls filled with black sesame seed paste) were freshly made and served hot but werent as chewy and elastic as they should be.
Good items were the thickish xiao long bao which may have been frozen but had nice flavor and a good amount of soup, moderately greasy taro dumplings had a slight sweetness and a darker brown exterior with abundant filling, small bitesize custard tarts with a buttery cookie crust, and a very tender shrimp rice crepe with a sweetish soy sauce.
The best efforts were steamed spareribs cut a little bigger than most yet more tender and juicy with good flavor, har gow with moderately thin skins and well-seasoned whole shrimp filling, and crispy skinned fried soft tofu stuffed with shrimp forcemeat in black bean sauce. None of these items were outstanding or the best weve had, but could hold their own.
Selection was adequate, but not as diverse as Gold Mountain or Great Eastern. Prices were $1.28, $2.28 and $3.28 per plate with most items in the small and medium categories. A few items, such as the xiao long bao, were $5.88. Our price per person was less than $12, inclusive. The service was very good under the watchful gaze of the hostess and manager on alert to whatever we might need and they checked with us frequently. Our water glasses were refilled twice and service plates were removed promptly.
It was a kick for us to sit in this historic spot overlooking Grant Avenue. All in all, considering the above average quality, ambience, and low prices, this represents surprisingly good value.
708 Grant Ave.