The west side of Wichita is not at all lacking in Chinese carryout places.
Through the past several years, a whole list of Great Wall-esque eateries have opened west of West Street, including several only a few miles from each other in the past six months.
They all have a similar setup: Basic Chinese entrees created quickly and packaged to-go, although small eat-in dining rooms also are available.
I decided to sample two of the newest options, both of which have the word “Wok” in the title and both of which are second ventures for already established restaurant owners: Chosen Wok, a Great Bend-based restaurant, opened in February in the former Starbucks building at Central and Tyler by Michelle Chin and William Tsao; and Wok Hey, which was opened near 13th and Maize in October by Andy Diec, who also has Kwan Wah in Towne West Square.
ON THE MENU: Both restaurants offer typical Chinese carryout dishes made with beef, chicken, pork, shrimp and veggies. Think General Tso’s chicken, sweet and sour pork, broccoli and beef, and Kung Pao shrimp. They also have appetizers such as egg rolls and crab rangoon and several varieties of fried rice. Chosen Wok also serves bubble tea.
DON’T MISS DISHES: Of the two Wok-eries, the food served at Wok Hey was better and tasted fresher.
At Wok Hey, we put in a to-go order for Mongolian beef ($5.95), Kung Pao chicken ($5.75), Kung Pao shrimp ($6.50) and chicken fried rice ($5.25) and had the food hot, packaged and ready to go within 10 minutes. The beef, chicken and shrimp dishes all were served with choice of fried rice, white rice or lo mein noodles and both a crab rangoon and an egg roll. All three entrees were colorful and packed with veggies. The Mongolian beef was delicious with the slippery lo mein noodles we chose and featured tender bites of beef paired with onions. The bright orange Kung Pao chicken featured chunks of onion and green pepper alongside bite-sized pieces of fried chicken that were subtly spicy and not greasy or heavy. The Kung Pao shrimp was full of carrots, onions, bits of zucchini and crunchy peanuts. The salad-sized sauteed shrimp were a bit wimpy, but that was our only complaint.
At Chosen Wok, our food was ready alarmingly fast — within just a couple of minutes of the order being placed. The restaurant also features a drive-through for another speedy and convenient option. The best of the dishes we tried was the General Tso’s chicken, made with deep fried chucks of chicken. But its sauce was a bit too thick and sticky. All chicken entrees are $4.89. Less impressive — the Mongolian beef, which was underseasoned and lacking in vegetables, and the Chosen Shrimp, featuring large fried shrimp in mushy breading served in a brown sauce and large pieces of broccoli ($5.49). The mini-crab rangoons, $1.19 for three, had a nice filling, with bits of green onion mixed in for color and flavor.
AMBIENCE: Both restaurants are modern, clean and attractive inside. Wok Hey has attractive silver tables and chairs with a gleaming concrete floor and simple wall decor featuring Chinese script. Chosen Wok’s dining room is a little larger and also well decorated. One complaint: An employee’s coat, purse and other personal belongings were tossed on one of the counters in full view of customers filling their drinks at the soda dispenser.
PRICE RANGE: Both restaurants are inexpensive. Chosen Wok’s entrees are all $5.50 or less. Wok Hey’s are $6.50 or less for a good-sized serving with an egg roll and crab rangoon or $8.25 or less for a quart-sized entree.
SERVICE: Service at both restaurants was friendly and prompt.