3 Taft Corners Shopping Center, Williston, 878-2850
I love Chinese food of every region, the more down and dirty the better. I spent Saturday slowly eating my way through the New World Mall Food Court in Flushing, N.Y. Knife-cut noodle soup, pork-belly buns, Xinjiang-style lamb skewers and the made-to-order soup bao at right were just part of it. I did it all.
But you know the joke about being hungry again in an hour — when I got home, I was still craving Chinese. I've heard for years from people I trust, including 7 Nights commenters, that while Americanized, Men at Wok in Williston was one of the best places around to get a great, quick Chinese fix...
I don't think the fine Men (and women) at Wok were expecting us. That rainy Sunday night, only a few lights were on outside the kitchen, but we sat as close to the counter as possible so we could see our food. Aside from a few curry dishes, the offerings were pretty firmly of the chicken-finger and Crab Rangoon variety. Well, when in Rome, order the pupu platter.
Not so much a platter, it was nonetheless an almost embarrassing amount of food. Just look at the container to its right for scale.
There were indeed both chicken fingers and Crab Rangoon, a pleasure in their own right, with just-north-of-raw fried dough surrounding the chicken and pleasantly gooey cream cheese in the Rangoons. Teriyaki beef sticks were meaty and less dry than they often are. Egg rolls, though thick, were surprisingly bland, with little taste besides cabbage.
I was fond of the chicken wings. Though seemingly unadorned, they were big, juicy and ultra-crisp. Their subtle flavor appeared to be the result of a light, soy-based marinade.
Finally, I dug out a "boneless" spare rib from the bottom of the extra-large container. But that's not what it was. Instead, I found a lovely specimen of cha siu pork.
Judging from the taste, it could easily have been hanging between a pig's head and a whole duck in Flushing earlier that day. The fat-striped slice of meat was tender and moist inside, with a crisp red jacket that was not too sweet, often the biggest problem with that type of pork. There was just enough sugar in the rub to leave a crunchy, caramelized coat outside, without making it feel like meat dessert.
If I said that the rest of the meal followed suit in authenticity or quality, I'd be lying. The vegetable lo mein seemed to be flavored with little other than soy sauce, and "vegetable" meant a stray pea pod or bean sprout here and there. Points for the al dente noodles, though.
The General Tso's chicken combination plate was certainly a steal at less than $6. Unfortunately, the fried rice followed the same template as the lo mein, with an occasional piece of pork or egg dotting the toothsome rice fried in soy sauce.
The chicken itself was pleasant, if not a revelation. Using thigh meat prevented the fried balls from drying out, but some pieces were less than tender. The sauce was pleasantly spicy —nowhere near Szechuan standards, but more flavorful and less sweet than at many Americanized Chinese restaurants.
For the combo-plate appetizer, we chose Peking ravioli. The dumpling skin was almost as thick as the pork within. Despite this disappointment, its sauce was delicious — heavy on both ginger and rice wine vinegar.
Despite some high points, I'm still on the search for (Americanized) Chinese perfection in Vermont. Or maybe, I just prefer the real thing.
Alice Eats is a weekly blog feature devoted to reviewing restaurants where diners can get a meal for two for less than $35. Got a restaurant you'd love to see featured? Send it to email@example.com.