For the past two years, I've heard that Wok Xpress in Denison was a good place to get a decent meal, with generous portions at a decent price, but until this week I never got the chance to try it. A close friend of mine swears by the place and has made it a weekly ritual to stop there before our weekly gaming nights due to the portions.
By the way, I know I'm not your regular reviewer. I am a reporter for the Herald Democrat who covers the city of Denison and a guest reviewer this week. Theresa Francis will be back next week.
Wok Xpress, located at 1900 W. Morton St. is open from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. daily.
Facility: I arrived at Wok Xpress at about 8:15 p.m. on a weeknight and found that the crowd was relatively light. The outside of the building was clean and presentable, with a brick facade out front and had a welcoming atmosphere.
The interior carried the same atmosphere, while being clean but not overly fancy to the point I might find it off putting. The restaurant gives off a fast-casual vibe, with a counter where patrons can order before taking a seat at a table to wait for their food. It wasn't fancy, but it doesn't need to be.
When I walked in, there was only one other family eating with two others waiting for pick up. Throughout my meal, another three families arrived. I quickly noticed that all the other parties were full families, complete with small children. I quickly got the impression that the place was family friendly and didn't mind the younger crowd.
The only downside during my visit was that the table next to mine had yet to be bussed when I arrived, and it took staff about 15 minutes to clear it. It didn't strike me as incredibly busy, and I saw at least two staff members milling around, so I took note.
However, as my meal progressed, staff seemed to move faster at clearing tables. After I was done with my meal and finishing my drink a hostess asked me if I minded if she took my plate, so perhaps it was a fluke.
Food: The menu board behind the front counter lists about a dozen menu items, with side menus for specialties side items and drinks. Beyond the specialties and sides, the plates all were the same price based on the primary ingredient with pork, chicken and vegetable dishes priced at $6.39 and beef, seafood and mixed-meat dishes priced at $7.39.
To start my meal, I ordered a cup of the chicken wonton soup. Despite, the raving review of the chicken fried rice, I decided to go with an old favorite and ordered the Mongolian Beef with fried rice to round off my meal. It is something I know well and can always order when in a pinch.
The menu listed the Mongolian beef as one of the spicier recipes, but the cashier told me that it could be prepared any way from no spice to full on spicy. Knowing how spicy some Asian dishes can get in the right hands, I decided to split the difference and asked for moderate spice.
About five minutes after ordering, I received my bowl of wonton soup. The soup was served with both fried wonton strips and soft noodles in the broth itself.
The key to a good soup, in my opinion, starts with the broth itself, and in that regard the soup was good. The broth was dark and had more of a savory taste than other soups I've had in the past, but I don't consider that a bad thing. The broth hit the right spot for me after a long day.
However, as ironic as it may seem, I do think there was almost too much wonton in my wonton soup. Between the noodles and the fried wonton on the side, it was almost too much. To add to this, I felt there could have been a little more chicken as well.
While I was still eating my soup, the Mongolian beef arrived. While the old saying goes that you eat with your eyes and your mouth, the first bite of my meal was through my nose. I was immediately struck by the strong, delicious smell of the Mongolian beef.
I was not disappointed once I took my first bite. The flavors were right, and I found that mixture of sweet and savory I've grown to love over the years.
I know some restaurants will use the onion, scallions and peppers that often come in Mongolian beef to hide skimpy servings of beef, but the ratio of meat to veggies was right with my meal and I had no complaints.
Despite asking for medium spice, however, my meal was relatively mild. While I found peppers mixed in with the vegetables, the main heat came from the ample, and very visible, pieces of garlic.
However, I was disappointed with the fried rice that came with my meal. It wasn't anything spectacular and I've had better at similar prices in the past. However, I temper this opinion with the fact that this wasn't a fried rice dish. Perhaps the chicken fried rice, which would come with more to it, would be a better gauge.
As far as portions go, I found them to be plentiful, and I ultimately had to ask for a to-go box.
Final Thoughts: My ticket for the fried rice, Mongolian beef, wonton soup and a drink was $11.88. Considering I was able to take home enough leftovers to make a second meal, I think this is fair and that the reputation for large portions is warranted.
Aside from the fried rice, which I'd give a second chance in a specialized dish, I was rather happy with the dish and would return a second time.