May be the best way to narrate this blog is to start at the end. A table that resembled nothing less than a battlefield with soiled chopsticks and straws, dipping sauce splattered like blood and a few beheaded steam baskets, an infantry of gluttony marched out with chin up, an accomplishment of conquering 'Wok Express', making sure every wok in the kitchen was operational this evening and not one person who worked there was spared for a minute, not even free for a leak.
In a nutshell, it was a pressure test for the kitchen and service to keep up with the numerous orders of many curious minds at work mix-matching flavors like Khao Suey Chicken with Udon or Basa in Toban Sauce with Rice or even making an all vegetables rice meal in Pumpkin Curry.
Capable of catering to not only the hipster couples, but also to an entire household, Wok Express occupies a supreme real estate right on the busiest junction of Pali Hill, Bandra. Minimalistic furniture in shape of rectangles and squares are a perfect fit for this marriage of Pan-Asian cuisine and the QSR nature of their business.
The evening began with glasses of Bubble Tea, not one, not two, but all flavors. A perfect moment for a bunch with sosphisticated cameras and half a dozen sealed Tapioca dashed Ice-Tea plastic containers finding creative ways to arrange it or rightfully 'pyramid' it, reshuffle it according to personal color preference and click the hell out of it. The 'Boba' or 'Bubble' Tea is funky, trending and a good time to be cashed upon, until its novelty lasts. The unanimously liked flavors were Peach, Strawberry & Thai. Ideally the Peach to start a meal, Strawberry to provide respite during halfway through the meal and a Thai infusion rather than the dessert to seal the meal.
A fracas broke every time a double-decker bamboo steamer arrived at the table, followed by customary circulation and snapping of the food until the conscious brain matter okayed the frame. First arrived the vegetarian duo of Crystal Dumpling and Edamame & Truffle Dumpling. Delicately enclosing the carrot and mushroom filling, the Crystal Dumpling carries a bit too much crunch at once, while the Truffle Oil infused humble Edamame beans paste sitting inside the elegant flower-like pillow looks and tastes lavish. The pleated Har-Gau dumplings arrived next with a pair of Chicken Buns. The Har-Gau were simple Prawn flavored, no downside whatsoever. The rather oversized pair of 'man tao' buns disappointed almost everyone with its illiberal filling, leaving a lot of dough in every bite. Not sure if the actual serving comes in just a pair since a price tag of 250 bucks for these plump dough will definitely be too much.
By now everyone had made an opinion on the Tea & Dumpling, while ruminating over the possible combinations they could build inside a Meal Box under the guidance of a ninja clad wok specialist.
Woks were fired up and tickets were flung into the kitchen. Noodles : tick, Rice : tick, Condiments : tick, Proteins : tick, Veggies : tick, Sauces : tick. While many a combination were called for, the Teriyaki, the Toban, the Black Pepper & Khau Suey were the sauces that stood out in terms of providing a great flavor to the noodles, rices, veggies and proteins. For example, my box of Flat Noodles with that super moist and delicate Basa cubes in Toban Sauce gave me a descent kick of hotness that I usually prefer to stay away from while the Teriyaki based Chicken Ramens gave that instant familiarity of Soy Sauce with hints of sweet and salty flavor, and should also be the safest bet for anyone who does not like to dwell into unknown flavors of the far east. Passing around and digging into furthermore boxes, Khao Suey noodles was yet another neatly rendered meal as it's quite difficult to imagine saying 'Khao Suey' and not having that abundance of slurpy creamy coconut sauce. Further ahead, Black Pepper Noodles greeted the palate with its abundance, strong pervasive peppery crunch to blow one's roof off, yet somehow was liked by a few including myself.
With the mouth and intestinal tract drenched in heavy Asian savoury sauces, the single dessert item on the menu looked like the only way to cleanse the system. 'Wok Kachang' which was quite inspired from a Singapore Street favorite 'Ice Kachang' , was a tad too watery than being shaved ice. The Water Chestnut at the base of the glass proved to be quite a saviour in what came to be a close relative of the Ramzan favorite - Falooda. This dessert is worthy of a skip in its current form. As I mentioned quite earlier, end your meal with a Thai Bubble Tea.
For sure, Wok Express has enough firepower to serve a small infantry at peak hours with abundant taste and pleasant ambiance, that's been tested. What will keep the people coming back for more should be the inquisitiveness of how the other sauces and proteins taste with ramen, flat wheat, udon or rice. There's always that curiosity in us of how would that combination taste ? Someone with an average appetite or little more can easily be satisfied with a medium sized box, while those are built like a tank might want to call for the larger box. It's a new age quick service restaurant that just needs to stick to the quality and not compromise once it has settled in its place, unlike the other wok eatery not too far that asks you to pay upfront, hands you a cheap plastic bowl while standing in a queue and serves an obscene meal-in-a-box made with sub-standard ingredients. Samajhdaar ko ishara kafi hai !