Sunday, 21 May 2006

Golden Wok [Restaurant Review]

What, I ask the captain, would he recommend? He looks puzzled. I rephrase. What’s popular, special kya hai? He hesitates. The place is still very new, he confides, and they haven’t quite figured out. Charming.

But true, that. The place has only been around since the beginning of April. And not too soon for me. Vashi and its environs, as far as I know, had only one Chinese restaurant which doesn’t pander to the Hindi-Chini-Bhai-Bhai palate, so I’m here with high hopes.

Atmosphere? Golden Wok is spacious, but uncluttered – two floors, ten tables on top, eight below. Not a red wall or a paper lantern in sight, though there are a few vaguely oriental prints on the walls, and spotlit shelves have little pots and thingummies as thematic concessions. Next to our table, nestled in a large urn, is one of those tennis-racquet-shaped thingies that electrocute bugs while improving your backhand. Way too much shiny glass for my taste, even, for some strange reason, a very large mirror covering one wall. But the cacophony that could result from all those hard reflective surfaces is muted by the sound of an indoor waterfall, and 80s disco music, played softly enough to be inoffensive. The seating, I’m afraid, isn’t conducive to long, lounging repasts.

A warning sign, for both the aficionado of genuine Chinese cuisine and the ones who prefer theirs bastardised: the table accessories include that trio of pungent sauces that no self-respecting Chinese cook would permit in his premises, which means that they’re kind of expecting you to smother all taste out of their food. I prefer the ones who look like they might throw you out if you ask for chilly sauce.

The menu has a fair mix of the usual suspects, plus some more exciting looking stuff. You have pages based around fish, prawns, squid (just a few items), lamb, chicken (a couple of pages worth), and a largish vegetarian selection. Strangely, no pork, which practically disqualifies a place from calling itself a Chinese restaurant.

We pick a soup and a starter. The Golden Wok Special (Rs 95), a thick soup loaded with fish, prawns, crab, tofu and mushrooms, is delicious, though a tad over-salted, but satisfactorily fishy. The Crispy Thread Chicken (Rs 120), chicken pieces wrapped in noodles and fried, is also very good, and quite a substantial serving for a starter.

(Chinese tea to sip between dishes and cleanse the palate isn’t on the menu, but it is served if you ask for it. Default cutlery is spoon, knife and fork. If you want chopsticks, you must ask. )

My Prawns in Orange Sauce (Rs 190) is delightful; just the right tang and not too sweet, the taste of the prawn getting through. The Chicken Hakka Noodles (Rs 110) that the staff suggest as an accompaniment is a bad idea. Oily and bland. Steamed rice or noodles work better.

From the other dishes we ordered, the Chicken Burnt Ginger Garlic Rice (Rs 110) was my clear winner, even if a little too oily. The Roast Lamb with Mushroom and Bamboo Shoot (Rs 140) seemed to have lost an argument with the soya sauce, and the lamb was stringy and tough.

Dessert has limited options if you want to stay true to the mission. We picked the Honey-glazed Noodles with Ice-cream (Rs 70) and Date Pancakes (Rs 80). The noodles win hands-down, crisp, not ultra-sweet, and blending beautifully with the ice-cream.
The verdict: Food, decent. Excellent value for money in terms of serving sizes. A starter and a main course are more than enough for two moderate eaters. We ate heavy, but still got change out of thousand. The clincher? Warm, very friendly, attentive service. I’ll be eating there again soon.

~ Peter Griffin

The Golden Wok, 1 & 2, A Wing, Prithvi Park, Sector 30, Vashi. (Near Sanpada Station, next to the Lokmat building.) Phone: 27632312/3.
Open for lunch and dinner. Make a reservation on the weekend, or you could wind up waiting for nigh on an hour, swatting mosquitoes as the trucks roar past on the Sion-Panvel Highway.

Published in TimeOut Mumbai, issue dated May 19th, 2006 edition.

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