On a recent Thursday night dinner trip to our favorite Mexican restaurant with Bob and Sandy we were joined by friends Dennis and Connie and had a great time. One of our conversations revolved around good Chinese food and how hard it was to find in the local area. Dennis and Connie mentioned they had just experienced a great Chinese dinner in a small restaurant called First Wok in Ocala. They gave us general directions to get there and assured us it was the best they had had in this area.
On the way home the four of us decided we go try it out. We discovered that the First Wok is primarily a take-out establishment. There are five small tables with chairs available for patrons to wait while their orders are filled or for those, like us, who decide to eat in.
I noticed on the door that it was a New York style take-out restaurant. I grew up in New York but never ate Chinese while there. My mom, however, loved Chinese food. She would send me up to Fourth Avenue to pick up two of her favorites; egg drop soup and fried rice with pork. I searched the internet for an answer to the question, “What is New York style Chinese Food”. The answers varied but I found several on Yahoo Answers that seemed to answer it well.
I began to acquire a taste for Chinese food sometime in the eighties while living in Virginia. My very favorite dish is Kung Pao Chicken. I have learned over time the dishes I have come to love are served many different ways. For instance, I like my Kung Pao Chicken with a great deal of heat with plenty of peanuts and sauce. I have found that many restaurants have toned down the heat, include only a minimal amount of peanuts and the vegetables vary from restaurant to restaurant.
There was a large variety of dishes and combination dishes to choose from and the prices were very reasonable. The restaurant also offered diet luncheon specials, house specialties and special Chinese American dishes. One very important selling point for Randy was the restaurant does not use MSG. This was welcome news for Randy as he has developed an allergy to MSG over the years. We all ordered different dishes. I ordered the Kung Pao Chicken, Randy the Sweet and Sour Chicken, Bob the Chicken Chow Mein and Sandy the Roast Pork Egg Foo Young. According to everyone at the table, all the dishes were just what they expected and all were delicious.
My Kung Pao Chicken was packed with a wonderful variety of vegetables, which I understand is very typical of traditional or New York Style Chinese food. Also, there was a generous amount of peanuts in the dish; there was plenty of heat, as well as a plentiful amount of sauce to moisten my steamed rice.
One of the things I thought very interesting at First Wok was the way in which they served the food. All the dishes are served in rectangular take out bowls with lids. So, if you do not finish your meal, just snap on the lid and take it home. What a great idea!
As we sat eating our dinners there was a steady stream of people coming and going ordering and picking up packages of food. We loved the food and apparently so do many others!
Full and satisfied we decided to walk around a bit and discovered a breakfast and lunch diner at the end of the strip mall called Darrell’s Diner and thought perhaps we would try breakfast there one day. On the way home all four of us made a decision that 2013 would be our year to discover new restaurants. It should be a fun year of tasty discovery.
Thank you Dennis and Connie for a great suggestion. If anyone out there has any really good restaurant suggestions, send them along and we will add them to our list.