Surprise! New Favorite Takeout Salad Resides at Wok Town
The "Stir Fry Miso Beef Salad" ($8.95) is a fresh and crisp unexpected find at an Asian takeout place
Forget everything you expect from and dislike about Chinese takeout. If you're having trouble, let us shed some light... Greasy, saucy, gloopy, wilted, and one-note flavor.
Now imagine a menu with light options like crisp salads, low oil stir fries, noodle soups, finger-licking edamame tossed in a creative selection of light sauces, and house-made -- I repeat -- house-made dumplings and spring rolls.
Add back the customary late night hours, Chinese cooks manning the kitchen, convenience, and fast service, and you have an unusually hard to find, though simple at its core, Asian fast food concept. Welcome to Wok Town, in downtown Miami.
The "Stir Fry Miso Beef Salad" is labeled with a daisy icon on the menu, meaning "low oil" i.e. a smaller amount of oil than usual is used for the dish. The only stir-fried component is the beef, making this salad crunchy and refreshing on a backbone of both raw and blanched vegetables, including strips of red and green bell pepper, white onion, and carrots, on a bed of chunky squares of iceberg lettuce topped with bean sprouts. The ringer could be the greens of leeks, which are known to be discarded in favor of their caramelization-friendly white base. After a quick shock in boiling water, these tops become your new go-to salad topping, with a pleasant snap and supremely mild onion flavor. The sesame, ginger, and scallion dressing brings it all together. It could get addictive.
Come to mama, 'mame.
Although menu grammar leaves something to be desired -- they're dubbed "Have it You're Way" edamame -- how clever to offer these soy bean snacks with a light coating of flavor! Wok Town offers them steamed and finished with basic salt. But why not have them tossed with either garlic soy or chili ginger sauce ($3.50)? The chili ginger hits the spot, setting lips a-fire in all the ways we heat-lovers crave. The true pow of flavor is released after a customary shower of kosher salt at home.
available in chicken or pork and steamed or fried ($4.95/4 pc.), are
the restaurant's dumpling offering, but nothing like the typically puny
ones you know from sushi joints. These, pictured above in the steamed
chicken variety, are plump, as light as a feather and tender as can be,
holding up for the tote home without falling apart in their
post-steaming heat. Without the tart assault on your tongue like most,
their dipping sauce is the perfect balance of sweet and savory, soaked
up ever so slightly by the moist, ground chicken filling -- not mushy
in the least. Stick with these babies... The vegetable spring rolls
are also made
on-premise, but are low on filling and heavy on fried wrapping,
with a candy red syrup for dunking.
As for noodles, it's nice to find Singapore-style sans gritty curry and yellow oil pool at the bottom of the bowl. Wok Town's noodles are soft without being over-cooked, with a mild curry flavor. Not a hint of sediment (if you've had this dish, you know what we're referring to!) At $8.95 for the "Tofu and Vegetables" (chicken, beef, pork or shrimp are also available, up to $10.95,) it's a both cold weather-friendly or pre-marathon carbohydrate load option.
Of course this pleasant mix of offerings isn't just a fluke, some
fortunate crack of a cookie. Israeli restaurateur Shai Ben-Ami and
Columbian-born handbag designer Nazly Villamizar (his wife, who is
preggers and working the register, too!) own and operate Wok Town.
Arriving in Miami in 2001, Ben-Ami began at News Cafe on Lincoln Road,
working for Mark Soyka and then Asian eateries, Miss Yip and Domo
(previous tenant in the Sra. Martinez space.) The idea for Wok Town
was hatched about six months ago.
Ben-Ami and Villamizar (left to right) peek through the only "Cuban Coffee" Asian pick-up window.
"Downtown needed something Asian, that was takeout and delivery-driven," explains Ben-Ami.
The menu is designed to be simple, with a few sections like "Start to Wok" (appetizers,) "Positive Wok" (healthy options like salads and steamed vegetable bowls,) "Boxes & Bowls" (fried rice items, and noodle soups and stir fries,) and "The Main Wok" (classic Chinese and Thai stir fries like proteins or vegetables in black bean sauce, orange peel, and coconut curry.) It appears basic, but amounts to about 30-40 items when you take into account all possible combinations. For an extended lunch hours (11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m., Monday - Friday), a $9.99 special offers one selection from Positive Wok, Boxes & Bowls, or Main Wok, plus an Asian coleslaw, cup of soup, or veggie spring roll, and brown or white rice. A "Happy Hour" menu of group-priced food, not alcohol yet, aims to draw crowds during 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. They're open until 10:00 p.m., a rare find in our city center.
In the future, the couple plans to add a website, a beer and sake license, outdoor seating (permitting is in process,) Sunday hours, and Friday and Saturday late night service (open until 3:00 a.m.,) to capitalize on the business La Moon solely enjoys.
Ben-Ami adds, "After a night out, what could be more amazing?"
119 S.E. 1st Ave.
Villamizar designed Wok Town's vibrant, industrial look.
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