DIRT: A Modern Market
4 weeks ago
Everybody needs a decent neighborhood Chinese restaurant that you can go to when you’re feeling lazy or take out from when you’re in a rush. In search of such a place, we tested out First Wok by the Bigg’s in Hyde Park Plaza..........We’re still looking for our neighborhood Chinese restaurant.
We should have known from the empty tables when we arrived that everyone else had figured out that First Wok leaves a lot to be desired, but we were foolishly optimistic.
The menu was pretty large, although I always get the feeling that these restaurants make it that why by listing every possible “Sweet & Sour [X]” dish separately. We started with veggie spring rolls, which were fine, but far from impressive.
Then we moved on to entrees. I ordered “Silver Chicken,” which is white meat chicken and snow peas in a sweet & hot brown sauce with silver noodles. What the description left out is (a) that the portion is enormous and (b) that the chicken is lightly fried. The dish tasted fine. Just fine. I was neither repulsed nor excited about the dish. The chicken wasn’t the quality of meat I had hoped for (though in fairness, it rarely is high quality at a neighborhood Chinese joint), the “spicy” facet mentioned on the menu was nonexistent, and the taste just wasn’t all that impressive. But other than that, it came out quickly, it didn’t make me sick, and it was relatively inexpensive.
All in all, we’ll keep looking for another Chinese restaurant in the area. Any suggestions?
We were looking for a quick dinner on a recent evening, and hoping to find a new neighborhood gem—one of those inexpensive, quick places with remarkably good food. We headed over to First Wok in Hyde Park Plaza with high hopes.
When we walked in, we noticed a few things right away. There were about twenty tables. Including us, three were occupied. Granted it was a weeknight, but that was not encouraging. There was, however, a booming takeout business going on at the door. There was almost a constant flow of people in and out collecting their brown paper bags.
Hungry as always, we started our meal with the usual vegetable spring rolls. They were decent enough, but not particularly memorable. I suppose I should look for a new standard dish to order as an appetizer at Chinese-style restaurants, because spring rolls are seldom better than okay, but for now, they are a safe choice—and if I find really good ones, I’ll know I’ve found a winner of a restaurant!
I was a little disappointed with First Wok’s menu. Most Chinese restaurants are very flexible, and almost any protein can be put into almost any sauce, so that even if there is a wimpy vegetarian section (as there is at First Wok), I can ask for tofu and/or veggies in a sauce that appears elsewhere on the menu, and it’s no problem. That was not the case at First Wok, as the waitress told me in her limited English, which leads me to wonder whether their dishes are pre-made. In any case, I ended up ordering the Szechwan Tofu, which comes with white rice. They don’t have a brown rice option as so many places do now. The dish was far more boring than I expected. The menu claimed it would be spicy, but it wasn’t. I expected tofu and vegetables in a sauce. Instead I got a giant plate of tofu and sauce, with a few vegetables. They might as well have been garnish for how few there were, and I don’t think I have EVER complained about a lack of vegetables in my life. It’s on the record now (mom, are you listening?): there were not enough veggies in my dish at First Wok.
It’s sad, but I was even disappointed in the fortune cookies. They were pre-wrapped, destroying even the illusion that they were made on-site.
If you’re still considering a visit to First Wok, it looks like they also have a relatively inexpensive lunch buffet, and perhaps they do take-out better than eat-in, given the number of people who chose that option. But I don’t plan to try either of those options there any time soon.