If You Can’t Talk the Talk, Don’t Wok to Walk
Fast-casual: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the food blog Midtown Lunch. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new corporate-coined food terminology, to seek out cheap food and restaurants, to boldly eat where no one has eaten before. Our mantra (which I just paraphrased) or Prime Directive (stay undercover, do not reveal you’re from the internet, and be honest) is constantly in play. When Wok to Walk came in out of nowhere to eat up half of Roll & Go’s space, an eyebrow was raised. Now that it’s open, it’s time to see if the assembly-line construction of fast-cas food (think Chipotle or similar cook-to-order assembly lines) can be applied tastily to Chinese food.
It’s a return to the 1960s style of ordering Chinese food (or pseudo-Japanese, pseudo-Thai, etc.): one from column A, one or two from column B, and one from column C.
The line forms so everyone passes the assembly line. Three woks mounted over what looks like three of the engines that powered the MiG-25.
Here’s their eight sauces, and a container of fresh eggs that get cracked in with everything but the veggie dish.
Look at that jet of flame. There’s literally a warning on the glass not to touch it – you’re basically stepping into the danger zone.
$9.04 after tax got me this: whole-wheat noodles with bacon and fried garlic. I gotta say, given the density of this stuff, it feels like $9.04 just for the right to have the option to make jacked-up combinations. Inching close to the ML limit, I’m glad I didn’t add an extra protein or, God forbid, pineapple. I opted for the Shanghai sauce for this one in hopes that I’d get a nice garlicky black-bean dose.
The noodles come from the prep area, but I think they were boiled very swiftly to loosen them up. They load up well. The Shanghai sauce (made with real, natural Shanghais fresh from the vine, I’m sure) did have a nice tart sharpness to it and definitely lots of garlic. The kind that comes more or less pickled in oil. Blech.
It’s an indistinct morass, and the egg was overcooked. Additionally, the veggies were basically half a handful of Napa cabbage, five bean sprouts, and about 1/2″ of thinly sliced scallion. If you were a good little boy or girl and squinted, maybe there’s a shred of carrot. They were perfectly stir-fried and still had a nice crispness, but they needed a LOT more variety and color. Look, this isn’t Top Chef or even Hell’s Kitchen (unless someone gave Goats a bullhorn and bleached his hair) but can we get something to put color into this? So much monotone brown.
Yeah, see that? That’s as big as the bacon got. Here I was, hoping that it’d be something like the “fresh bacon” at Chef Yu (really just pork belly) and that it’d be a savory, porky experience. Instead, the bacon as a protein just added a bacony essence to the dish. For the $2.30 they charged for it, I’ll just stick to vegetables or tofu (the chicken looked like dessicated Astronaut Ice Cream-esque hunks of pre-cooked white meat) and spend my money on a pack of bacon at Stop & Shop, it was that disappointing.
I dunno. With New Li Yuan/Ming Du/Ying Du literally four doors down (if they haven’t been DoH’d by the time you read this) there’s really no excuse to get this close to the ML limit unless you’re in it for the novelty. Yeah, okay, that’s a roaring jet of flame that looks like it merits wearing aviator sunglasses and a bomber jacket as you order up, but is there really anything beneath the novelty here? This is Asian noodles/rice writ Qdoba, just a step or two above generic deli prices with generic dragon fare. You can see your food and indeed know what’s going into it, but who CARES?! For what you get it’s not a great value. If you’re in a rush, go for it – you can have all your Asian chow in one place – but just don’t expect the greatest ever and your expectations will be set well.
The + (What the power-wokers would say):
- I like that I can get fresh stuff fast that isn’t from a generic deli.
- Bacon mushroom pineapple stir-fry is awesome – fusion isn’t always awful!
- Hot jets of flame two feet away are always AWESOME.
The – (What the New Li Yuanderers would say):
- It’s $5.50 before you start adding stuff? When did Chinese get so damn expensive?!
- The sauces are too damn indistinct and culinarily all over the place.
- These aren’t veggies, they’re uncolorful filler.
Wok to Walk, 570 8th Ave. (at 38th St.)