Entering a market already flush with western-style Chinese eateries, Wok Star Express’ founders needed more than some musical shtick to stand out. Fortunately for them, Bangkokians are singing the praises of their food.
Wok Star, on Pan Road in Silom, is neither American- or British-style Chinese food, but an amalgam of both. There’s no General Tso’s Chicken (a totally American invention), but there is Chop Suey (another Yank creation). There’s both Orange Chicken (again, American), but there’s also Lemon Chicken (British). There are spring rolls (U.K.) but nothing Americans call egg rolls.
Co-founder Kirk Stucker said Wok Star “serves a combination of ‘Kung Food Eats’, serving the best Chinese from the U.K. USA and Australia combined with a nostalgic, home-cooking style from each of those regions”.
A few years ago, that would have been a novel concept in Bangkok. But Wok Star took the stage after Golden Bowl, Lazy Panda and Fortune Cookie all have found fans of westernized Chinese fare.
“We never knew of the others until we came to Bangkok,” said Stucker, who has been in Thailand for 22 of his 43 years, mostly in Koh Samui’s food and beverage industry. His two partners also hail from Samui and Phuket. “So for us, it was all about us doing our thing and seeing what Bangkok and the city liked. We can’t please everyone, so I presume having a few options helps.”
Twitter – where Wok Star oddly has no presence – has exploded with positive tweets about the food, and for good reason. Each dish is lighter and fresher than Lazy Panda and has less sweetness and heavy sauce than Golden Bowl.
Just “Imagine” the Kung Pao chicken that’s spicy, despite the dried chilies sprinkled throughout the box, nor especially sweet despite the thick, sticky sauce. It’s only once you’ve savored the dark chicken that you get the guitar twang of spice.
Likewise, the Black Bean Beef may sing “I’m on Fire” on the menu but it’s only the flavors of the fresh vegetables and incredibly tender, fresh beef that explode. Wok Star never uses frozen meat, Stucker said.
All dishes comes with a side of Szechwan sauce for those who like things spicy. And the menu actually has eight different sauces to choose, from Sweet & Sour Hong Kong to spicy Kung Pao.
The dishes are creations of Wok Star’s Thai-Chinese chef who Stucker only identified as “Walter White”.
“He has traveled abroad and spent time learning the Wok Star ‘Kung Food Eats’ as we call it,” he said.
Another popular dish is the “Hey Jude” Sesame Prawn Toast (140 baht for four pieces), minimally greasy fried bread covered in savory toasted sesame seeds with an ample prawn filling.
Equally is good is the “Wok This Way” Yangzhou Fried Rice (160/200 baht) with chunks of roasted red pork, shrimp, peas, carrots and egg.
What sets those Wok Star dishes apart from others is that none are overly anything. Not overly sweet, salty or spicy. The only exception to that was the Lemon Chicken (200 baht) which had us singing “When Doves Cry” over the overpoweringly sweet and pungent sauce.
It actually comes with a side of said sauce, but there was plenty in the box already. We also had to check the menu to see what meat we were eating as the battered, deep-fried chicken breast really had no taste. Is it chicken? Fish? We couldn’t tell.
But with literally dozens of options on the menu, there is something everyone will like, including vegans, at a price that won’t break the bank.
While there are a few tables at the Silom restaurant, 99 percent of the business is delivery, Stucker said. Wok Star currently is on Food Panda, Line Man and Get Food and hopes to have its website ready to take orders directly by month’s end. Wok Star also takes orders via its Facebook page.
It’s still early days for Wok Star, but there already is interest about opening new locations in Chiang Mai and Pattaya.
“We arrived in Bangkok on June 1 and opened Wok Star on June 17,” Stucker said. “Due to the obvious worldwide crisis, we knew that the islands of Samui and Phuket wouldn’t sustain much work, so we knew we needed to launch in Bangkok where expats, Thais and a much larger population would appreciate and take to the Wok Star menu and concept.”
Wok Star Express is open daily (except Tuesday) from 12:30-9:30 p.m. with longer hours coming soon.
This review is not sponsored but based on a hosted delivery.