Restaurants & Reservations: Dining in Cincinnati

What happens when a rabbi and a lawyer walk into a bar? We'll let you know in a few years, but until then we'll do our best to share with you our favorite (and not-so-favorite) Cincinnati restaurants and hope you'll share some with us, too!

First Try, Last Try: First Wok

First Wok3870 Paxton Avenue • Cincinnati, OH 45209 • (513) 321-8388

His Take

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?

First Wok on Urbanspoon
Her Take

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.


FoodHussy said...

It's not amazing - but for a solid chinese place in that neighborhood - I always go to the chinese buffet on Ridge (near home depot). I mean - it's a chinese buffet - but it is the 2nd best one in the city...

The best is on Buttermilk Pike in NKY next to Remke...

But yeah - if you find a good cheap place in the HP area - I'm interested! I had always wondered about First Wok - I'll cross it off my list!

Anonymous said...

Technically it is "1st" Wok, but i do agree with your review. It is rather underwhelming.

TD said...

The Blue Gibbon is definitely the best I've had in this area (although that's not saying much, but still). It's over on the east side of Norwood so not technically the "neighborhood" everyone lives in, but only a few minutes away - and worth the trip in my opinion.

WestEnder said...

Try Doodles in Hyde Park.

lauren said...

I used to live down the street from Doodles and the only time I ever saw it busy was on the weekends. There were weeknights I'd walk by in the middle of "dinner time" and every table would be empty and the staff would standing around, bored looking. But it is has stayed open, so it must be better than the emptiness implies.