Restaurant Review: Restaurant Review
Reviewed by Mick Vann, Fri., April 4, 2008
Golden Wok500 Canyon Ridge, 228-3688
Golden Wok comes to Austin with two successful locations under its belt in San Antonio. It's located in the sprawling shopping center on the southeast corner of Parmer and I-35, with its entrance facing the freeway. The interior is open and modern, faced with warm wood and stone, with an open kitchen, a bar in one corner, and big windows looking out onto a koi pond. The main draw is dim sum, served seven days a week, with cart service on weekends (11am-2:30pm). Of the 35 dim sum offerings on the menu, 13 are only offered weekends.
We've found all of the dim sum we've sampled to be fresh and enjoyable, with portions respectable and prices reasonable. Har Gau (four for $2.85) are sweet, chunky shrimp steamed in a refined tapioca-dough skin. Sin Jok Roll (two for $2.50) is two large, delicious chicken, pork, and shrimp logs wrapped in nutty, dried tofu skin; fried; and then steamed. Law Bark Go (two for $2.50), daikon paste and rice flour, with pork and dry shrimp, molded into rectangles, steamed, and then grilled, has great texture and flavor.
Baked Char Siu Bau (three for $2.85) is golden-brown domes filled with sweet and savory pork and not dominated by dough. Spare rib ($2.50) is steamed with black-bean sauce and garlic, succulent with just the right amount of bite. Ginger chicken pot stickers (six for $5.50) are plump, chicken-stuffed, and delicate, with a golden-browned bottom, served with a nicely balanced ginger-soy dipping sauce. Their roasted chile sauce is incendiary, but we had to ask the server for red vinegar; a rookie oversight charged to inexperience.
Hot and sour soup ($2.95) is chicken, crabmeat, bamboo shoots, black mushrooms, tofu, and egg prepared in a rich, spicy chicken broth. It was balanced in flavor but could have been more assertive. House Special wonton soup ($4.99) is a larger bowl loaded with crisp vegetables, large wontons, roasted pork, and chicken in a rich chicken stock; it is filling and nice.
Golden Wok has a complete menu supporting the dim sum. Garlic Black Bean Fish ($11.99) is tilapia fillets sautéed with green onion and spicy garlic black-bean sauce. The fish was fresh and plentiful, but the flavor was one-dimensional and soy-dominated. We perked it up with a light sprinkling of sugar, red vinegar, and chile paste. The Orange Peel Beef ($9.79) was nicely done: tender beef slices tossed with an assertive citrus-chile sauce, scallions, and orange peel. This dish is often too sweet, but not here.
Moo Shu Pork ($9.59) is four plump wrappers stuffed with tender shredded pork, cabbage, bamboo shoots, scallion, mushrooms, and egg, served with hoisin; no complaints here at all. Ma Po Dofu ($9.79 with pork) was less exciting. The pork had been fried instead of braised with the dish, making it tough. The water chestnuts and bamboo shoots were minced too finely, and the flavor was dominated by thinly sliced garlic. This is a dish that should explode in layered flavors on the tongue; served here, a bland whimper.
For the health crowd, Golden Wok offers a stir-fry bar ($7.50), where you fill your large bowl from a large selection of ingredients, choose between 10 different sauces, and decide if you want to add beef or chicken ($2.75 extra) or squid, shrimp, scallop, or fish ($3.50 extra). The chefs at the line throw it in a wok and cook it to order.
With Golden Wok's dim sum offerings, we are all smiles; with the standard menu offerings, there were hits and misses. Since the fish and tofu were ordered one day and the beef and pork another, maybe we just hit it on an off day. If you go on a weekend for the dim sum cart service, you'd better go early to get a table (and, of course, sit as close to the kitchen door as possible for first grabs).