Plano is Full of Hidden Surprises (Tasty Wok)

3 Oct

I’ve driven through the Plano Parkway and Coit Road intersection hundreds of times thanks to Central Market and never given a second thought to that washed out green sign in the Enterprise Rent-A-Car parking lot.  With a generic name like Tasty Wok and a generic location in a strip mall next to a liquor store, this little eatery appeared to be one of a million General Tsao’s chicken lunch combo plate with eggroll and egg drop soup type places.  Why bother? 

With limited seating and counter service, Tasty Wok does brisk business serving exactly that, affordable generic lunch combo plates.  But dig a little deeper and you’ll find another side to Tasty Wok.  The restaurant is a split personality with a regular menu (in lunch and full versions) and a Chinese menu (in lunch, full, and weekend dim sum versions).  Out of the Chinese menus, only the lunch version is available in English.  So yes, there is an English Chinese menu, if that makes sense. 

I’ve tried out the Chinese lunch menu, limited to mostly noodle and rice dishes, on two occasions in the hopes of finding another closeby, affordable (yes Tasty Wok is cheap!), and delicious option for a workday lunch.  My first attempt was a to-go order of brown sauce and beef over flat rice noodles ($5.50).  I called in 30 minutes prior to pick up and yet, when I arrived 30 minutes later, was informed that my order wasn’t quite ready.  A little irked, I sat down and observed the business in action.  Tasty Wok is a true mom and pop shop.  The wife takes orders at the cash register, answers the phone for call in orders, and rushes around to wait on the five or so tables in the front dining room while the husband works the kitchen in the back.  With the phone constantly ringing, a steady stream of walk-in customers for to-go orders, and a full dining room (even if it is small), Tasty Wok was clearly shorthanded on this visit.

When I finally received my food, the beef in brown sauce was in a tall styrofoam cup and the flat noodles and bean sprouts in a separate container.  After assembling my lunch by pouring the beef and the sauce over the noodles and doing a little stirring to combine the separate parts, I took a few bites but wasn’t impressed.  The beef was tender but the sauce was a little bland.  Not too bad for a cheap lunch, but not memorable either.

A couple of weeks later I decided to give Tasty Wok another chance, this time dining in with a companion.  I stuck to ordering off of the Chinese lunch menu.  On this visit, Tasty Wok had additional help in the form of a kitchen assistant in the back and an extra waitress in the dining room.  Service was noticeably faster.

For lunch we ordered two noodle dishes.

Shrimp in Lobster Sauce over Flat Rice Noodles ($5.95):

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Shrimp in a lightly flavored sauce with slivers of egg (like in egg drop soup) over a bed of chewey, semi-transparent wide rice noodles.  The perimeter of the dish was lined with stems of quick stir fried baby bok choy, also covered in lobster sauce.  I love wide rice noodles, but they’re often paired with heavier black bean or peanut-based sauces.  The delicate lobster-egg sauce was a nice change of pace, and the bok choy added that unexpected finishing touch.  The shrimp were a little on the small side, but at a mere $6 and with enough food to feed two, this dish is a remarkable feat of low cost versus high flavor and quality.

Braised Vermicelli with Shredded Duck ($4.95): 

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I had assumed that at the low price of this dish, duck would be a figure of speech like lobster in the previous dish.  I was wrong.  There were indeed small pieces of skin-on duck in this dish, which didn’t add anything to the noodles other than an odd, hard to chew texture.  The vermicelli rice noodles were paired well with the shiitake mushrooms and seasoned nicely.  As much as I love duck, the noodles would have been better with just the mushrooms in this dish..

Tasty Wok isn’t a pretty restaurant with vinyl table clothes, bare walls, flourescent lighting, and cafeteria style furniture.  Additionally, language can be a barrier if you require special requests.  But if you’re simply hungry and looking for an affordable lunch, Tasty Wok can fill that void with a generic lunch combo plate or something a little more exciting off of the Chinese lunch menu.  Some of the dishes border great (i.e. shrimp in lobster sauce over flat noodles) and others are just decent, but none will offend, particularly at Tasty Wok’s low price. 

I am interested in visiting Tasty Wok for the weekend dim sum menu since the items are cooked to order.  When you’re not in the mood for the whole long wait, loud restaurant dim sum experience but still want a few items to nibble on, this might just be the perfect affordable place to call in an order.

Rating: 3 / 5

Tasty Wok
4004 W Plano Pkwy
Plano, TX 75093

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9 Responses to “Plano is Full of Hidden Surprises (Tasty Wok)”

  1. foodczar 10/05/2007 at 11:39 am #

    Hi again, Donna! Once again, you did a very good job. How? As I was explaining to my lovely wife, The Rock Star, a good review consists of at least two parts: description (of restaurant, food, service, etc.), and opinion (whether the reviewer liked it or not). With this review, you came through on both counts, and I was able to decide for myself that I probably should look elsewhere. Why? Well, a telling little comment you made: the staff doesn’t speak very good English. I applied the usual rule in this case: if the staff doesn’t speak good English, and the food is mediocre at best, DONT GO! It’s only worth overcoming the language barrier if the food is sensational or at least excellent.
    Keep up the good work!!!
    Food Czar

  2. donnaaries 10/29/2007 at 12:56 am #

    A large group of Chowhounds met up at Tasty Wok last Thursday for a special Chef’s dinner. We enjoyed off the menu specialties like Cantonese style salt-fried calamari, spinach egg drop soup with minced meat, scallion and ginger lobster, frog legs with celery, clay pot short ribs with pineapple, tiger prawns in XO sauce, spicy water spinach, and ended the meal with mango jello pudding. A menu like this is BYOB heaven! George, the chef, expressed that he enjoys cooking these specialties if the customers request them. So anyone can go to this little unpretentious restaurant and enjoy an almost personalized meal of Cantonese specialties.

    Tasty Wok is a small operation, so if you’re planning on doing a dinner for 15 like the Chowhounds did, please call for a reservation. George is happy to oblige during dinner hours, but Tasty Wok does too much regular lunch business for a special meal like this to work.

  3. luniz 11/02/2007 at 11:38 am #

    ahh you forgot the chicken and spinach dish that was in the same sauce (I think?) as the frog. WTH is the name of that sauce? Also I really liked those crab rangoon things (seemed to have something different inside than normal “crab”), the wrappers were really light and crispy.

  4. donnaaries 11/02/2007 at 12:21 pm #

    Luniz, you’re right, I forgot about the crab rangoon (which I think had tiny chopped up black mushrooms inside?) and the chicken and spinach dish. My memory’s only so good after a couple of glasses of Cab 🙂

    I’m not sure if there’s a name to the sauce you’re thinking of. It’s just a standard light stir fry, I’m sure the chef used some rice wine or sherry, garlic, and salt.

  5. Matthew 07/26/2008 at 12:55 pm #

    Hi Donna,

    I wanted to try the Dim Sum at Tasty Wok, but I speak no Chinese. Do you have any recommendations on how to order?

  6. donnaaries 07/26/2008 at 1:35 pm #

    Matthew, you can be crazy adventurous and just ask for the dim sum menu and point to a few items and see what comes out of the kitchen 🙂
    Or, read this informative article about dim sum: http://www.coffee.net/articles/dim-sum/4.html The article includes descriptions of common dim sum dishes as well as pronounciations for them in Chinese. If you browse to previous pages, it has an introduction to the dim sum tradition, dim sum etiquette, etc. Tasty Wok is not a banquet style dim sum restaurant though, so etiquette probably won’t be an issue.

    For a more comprehensive listing of dim sum dishes (with photos), refer to this nifty web tool: http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/gourmet/dimsum/dimsum.jsp Keep in mind Tasty Wok is a small operation so they probably won’t have all these items available (the tool is intended to help English-speaking visitors in Hong Kong).

    Good luck! And please report back.

  7. donnaaries 08/17/2008 at 4:11 pm #

    Drove by Tasty Wok on the way to Central Market today and noticed a change in signing. Looks like Tasty Wok is closed and a Mexican grill is opening in its space.

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