Yes, dear readers, I ventured deep into Kentucky for this one. Oriental Wok is a restaurant that many, many friends have recommended. They have three locations, two in Kentucky and one that just opened in Hyde Park. I ended up at the Buttermilk Pike location, which is considered by many to be the “main” location. Right off the Buttermilk exit, it’s a huge structure, with vaulted ceilings with lanterns and the number “33” hanging from the ceiling. We were greeted by the owner, Mike Wong, who basically wrote this article for me. He ushered our party in (complimenting my friend Brian on the fact that he was the only male among a party of “such lovely ladies”, cute!), giving us the overview of the menu, with stories about many of the entrees, informed us that Sapporo and Tsingtao are both the names of Japanese and Chinese cities, and also the home of their beer namesakes, made small talk, asking us about what our business was—all sorts of things. One of my dining companions informed me that this was how he was with every table (and that he’s even better towards the end of the night, when he’s had a drink or two—I can imagine!). It was the most welcome I’ve ever felt going into a restaurant—and seeing that he’s had regular customers for decades, I understand why. It was like we walked into his home, and that he was thrilled to have us there.
We started off with Crab Rangoon, which were stuffed with cream cheese and actual crab and served with a spicy, but sweet sauce. They weren’t purely sweet (a la Lu Lu’s Noodle Bar) or savory but crabless (like every other Chinese restaurant in town), but a little complex and very good. The entire table loved them.
I was the only person to venture outside of pad thai for my lunch—everyone else got a variation on chicken or shrimp, while I took a walk on the (not really) wild side and tried General Wong’s Chicken. I figured that this would be some variation on General Tso’s—breaded chicken, a spicy, sweet sauce, a few vegetables. I was partially right. The chicken was sautéed, not breaded, and covered in a sauce that was more spicy than sweet, not the corn-syrup based stuff of most Chinese restaurants. The vegetable medley was crisp and well cooked, not soggy. Delicious!
Judging by the empty plates, the pad thai was good too. There was a generous amount of shrimp or chicken on top, and for lunch, the portions were very generous—we all left food on our plate purely out of fullness.
I am very excited to try the new location that is a little closer to me, in Hyde Park, but if I hear that Mike Wong spends more time at the Buttermilk location, I’ll go there—his enthusiasm took the meal from just a pretty good Chinese experience to a great one.