The Wok-Off: Wok This Way vs Wok Express

The trend of constructing your own wok dish, once popularised by such pan-Asian restaurants as The Noodle Bar chain and All Stir Fry at The Gordon House hotel, has made a comeback thanks to Bandra’s new quick-service joints Wok This Way and Wok Express. We chomped our way through their noodle- and rice-stacked China boxes and compared them on variety, flavour and price.

WokThisWayEDITWok This Way
Wok This Way, which opened on Monday, May 18, belongs to the category of dirty Chinese joints that have nailed the delivery and take-out format. Our meal arrived speedily, hot and generously sauced and spiced. They have, however, improved on the old model by upgrading from plastic containers to bamboo chopsticks and smartly designed China boxes. Another difference is that at Wok This Way, fried wontons and chicken lollipops, the hallmark of Mumbai’s dirty Chinese restaurants, have been omitted from the menu in favour of Thai curry and tempura.

Wok This Way is a two-outlet chain, which launched in Andheri in January. In Bandra, they have an al fresco four-table set-up in a building garage on Chapel Road that overlooks a street perennially jammed with traffic. Unless you like your food embellished with exhaust fumes, we suggest you place your order to go or have it home delivered. Diners can either make their own wok dishes by choosing a base, a protein, a sauce, garnishes and veggie fillers, or pick from a selection of ready salads, appetisers and mains. Our chicken gyoza (Rs195) was sparsely filled and disappointingly thick skinned, and the gado gado salad (Rs125) made up of diced red and yellow bell peppers, zucchini, cabbage and broccoli, was over zealously dressed with a generic creamy and sweet peanut sauce.

Making your own wok dish can be quite overwhelming as you get a choice of ten sauces such as Hunan, red chilli pepper, soy chilli, Szechuan and oyster that are distinguished by degrees of spiciness. Wok This Way offers a comprehensive assortment of vegetables including pak choy, red and yellow peppers, shiitake and button mushrooms, baby corn, bean sprouts and water chestnuts. The protein range spans paneer, soya nuggets and tofu for vegetarians, and chicken, fish and lamb for meat eaters. The spice-averse can bank on the pleasantly mild burnt garlic and ginger sauce with soya that paired deliciously with our veggie noodle wok (Rs160 for a regular portion and Rs210 for a large), which we loaded with mushrooms, pak choy, water chestnuts, spring onions and spinach. Neither the garlic nor the ginger overwhelmed the medley of crunchy veggies and well-cooked noodles.

Our non-vegetarian wok (Rs200 for a regular box and Rs250 for a large one) brimmed with fragrant basmati coated in the hot and sweet Chef’s All-In-One sauce. The dish, however, was let down by tough pieces of batter-fried shrimp. Their list of mains will serve those too lazy to create their own wok dish. Indecisive diners will love their flavour-packed noodles with prawns, chicken and lamb (Rs250). We relished dessert, a tremendous mango with sticky rice (Rs95), which had the consistency of kheer and a lingering flavour of coconut.

Verdict: For its inexpensive and satisfying pan-Asian nosh, Wok This Way deserves speed-dial status.

Prices exclude taxes. This review was conducted anonymously.

Wok This Way, Shop No.5, Pearl Heaven Society, Chapel Road, opposite Salt Water Cafe, Bandra (West). Tel: 022 6555 6051. Get directions here. Open daily, from noon to midnight. Home delivery is free within Bandra and offered up to Santa Cruz West for a minimum order of Rs500.

WokExpressEDIT
Wok Express
Wok Express and Wok This Way opened within a week of each other in Bandra. However the latter has the advantage of being the second outpost of an expanding chain. The operations, from taking an order to delivery, were thus far smoother at Wok This Way. The newly-launched Wok Express was still in the process of working out kinks in the service and the kitchen when we visited a week into its opening. The staff was jittery and fumbled with our picks, half of which we split into a take-away order only to later find that we got home one wrong dish, and that our dessert was missing.

Two weeks ago, the 35-cover restaurant replaced Pinkberry, the frozen yoghurt shop that had a brief run in Pali Naka from 2013 until February this year. The fro-yo store has been made over from a plush white dessert salon into a tidy, functional and no-frills self-service joint with stone walls and wood furniture. Wok Express has a one-sided menu focused on woks and dumplings. The wok selection and system of ordering is almost identical to that of Wok This Way. You fill a China box with your mix of greens and the servers at the counter inform the kitchen of your choice of carbs and protein.

Here, the well-endowed dumplings, served as specials of the day, trumped Wok This Way’s underwhelming pot stickers. The plump chicken coriander dumplings (Rs250), which were packed with a flavourful herbed chicken mince, made for a promising start. Their edamame and truffle dumplings (Rs250) were just as generously stuffed with mushed edamame laced with truffle oil. Our meal somewhat nosedived with the the chili basil chicken noodles (Rs210 for a regular box and Rs280 for a large) that smacked of salt and soya sauce, and not chilli and basil as promised on the menu. The vegetarian rice wok (Rs190 for a regular and Rs250 for a large) was mistakenly sauced with teriyaki and not Thai curry as we’d asked. This error was easy to overlook because the full-bodied teriyaki had the perfect balance of hot and sweet notes. Our third and final wok was loaded with chunks of basa tossed with rice tinged with a bland oyster sauce. To Wok Express’s credit, the portions are huge enough to last you two meals and don’t skimp on meats and veggies.

As they forgot to pack our dessert – which is limited to just one offering, tab tim grob (water chestnuts dunked in coconut milk) – we were glad we took away two iced teas to which they add tapioca pearls. They call these bubble teas on the menu but the Korean drink is either fruit flavoured or milk based. Here, the peach iced tea and the Thai milk tea tasted like the generic Lipton varieties. Yet we slurped them all the way to the bottom of the glass that was loaded with the spongy tapioca spheres.

Verdict: Wok Express’s hefty portions are value for money, but be prepared to face bumbling service.

Prices exclude taxes.

Wok Express, Dheeraj Swapna Building, Pali Naka, Bandra (West). Tel: 98333 80808. Get directions here. Open daily, from 11am to 11pm. They offer free home delivery within Khar and Bandra.

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