Sometimes readers know best. We recently heard from a reader who steered us to China Wok restaurant, a tiny hole-in-the-wall establishment behind the Safeway at Highway 115 and South Academy.
"My wife and I have spent extensive time in Southeast Asia," said the letter-writer, "and until now have been frustrated with the quality of Chinese dining in our town." He did not go on to denigrate local Chinese restaurants; had he done so we likely would have written him off as a crank. He pointed out instead that there are many relatively good ones, but in his opinion there were no outstanding ones, except for his recent discovery. "The food [at China Wok] is every bit the equal of Hong Kong and Singapore family-owned restaurants," he continued. "Their spicy Singapore Rice Noodle and combination Chow Fun dishes are unequaled here or in Denver."
China Wok had been recommended in the past by Fort Carson soldiers, so we decided to try it, and are we ever glad we did!
The dcor at China Wok is minimal and there are only seven tables, all packed with uniformed personnel on a busy weekday at the height of lunch hour. The phone rings constantly with take-out orders, and an inordinately efficient young woman handles all of them, plus the tables. The kitchen, about three times as large as the dining room, literally sizzles with activity and a row of constantly active woks.
Lunch specials are a great bargain at $4.50 to $5.50 for an entree with fried or steamed rice, egg roll or crabmeat cheese Rangoon (two stuffed fried wontons), and soup. There are 36 items to choose from on the Super Lunch menu from Tofu Family Style to Shrimp with Lobster Sauce. We tried the Twice Cooked Pork, which was suitably spicy but not overwhelming -- slivers of boiled, then stir-fried pork, water chestnuts, red and green bell peppers, bathed in a mild chili sauce.
Dinner is also an excellent value as the menu offers special combo plates, which include the same courses as lunch with slightly larger entre portions, for $7.25 to $8.50. We tried the Boneless Spare Ribs and found them tender and warm with a dark soy glaze.
The regular menu offers six vegetarian items, including Moo Shu Vegetable with four rice pancakes ($6.75), and the appetizer menu offers the standards you'd expect to find anywhere, as well as a delicate Scallion Pancake ($3.25) and the aforementioned Boneless Spare Ribs ($5.75).
But our reader was correct: the star of China Wok's menu is Singapore Rice Noodle ($7.25), a delightful, healthful, aromatic dish found in few Chinese restaurants around town. Chow fun or clear rice noodles are soaked until they are soft, then stir-fried with vegetables, shredded pork and chicken, egg, and shrimp, seasoned with curry powder and rice wine or rice vinegar. The result is a light-yellow dish with flashes of green onion and celery, packed with bites of protein, seasoned to perfection -- spicy but not overwhelmingly hot. Don't leave China Wok without trying this signature dish: it's light and refreshing, almost as good left over, straight out of the fridge, the next day.
-- Kathryn Eastburn
6530 S. Academy Blvd., #111A (behind Safeway at South Academy and Highway 115)
Open Monday Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 3-9 p.m.
Call 527-1888 for takeout; they will happily fax you a menu