Sunday, October 19, 2014

Magic Wok Restaurant

Last night, my wife and I were invited out to dinner by a good friend of ours.  Our friend suggested we go to Magic Wok, a popular Chinese restaurant downtown St. John’s.  Magic Wok Restaurant has been in business for quite some time and has built up a great reputation in the city.  I remember first going there years ago with my parents for dim sum, at the old Magic Wok, which had burned down in 2001.  It was a great old charming building and a friendly atmosphere.  The new building is larger, more open and bright with modern yet distinctly Chinese décor.  The friendly atmosphere remains as warm as it ever was. 
The Menu

We arrived to the restaurant at 7pm to find the dining room buzzing with activity.  “Is there a special occasion tonight?” I asked the waiter, to which he replied “no, this is a typical Saturday night”.  Our host had called ahead a few days prior and reserved a table, so we were seated immediately.  The waiters came over and took our drink order immediately.  We looked over the menus, which had pictures of the signature dishes and were written in English and Chinese.  Our friend had pre-ordered the Peking Duck, which came as 3 courses (You need to order this dish in advance).  The first course was crispy duck skin with shrimp chips, pancakes, scallions, cucumber, chili sauce and hoisin sauce.  The second course was a duck bone and vegetable soup and the third course was a delicious duck stir-fry.  We also ordered flambé beef, captain chicken, shrimp and broccoli stir-fry, braised beef, a pork rib dish, won ton soup and steamed rice.

At the beginning of the meal, the waiter brought out our roasted duck for our approval before bringing it back into the kitchen to prepare into the 3 courses.  It looked elegant, with silver frills on the feet.  We were so in awe that we forgot to take a photo until the duck was brought back into the kitchen.  The first course that came out was the duck skin course.  This course is a fun dish you make your own duck skin pancake rolls with.  First you take your pancake and place the skin in it, then veggies then sauce, roll it up and enjoy.  It is a social dish best enjoyed with friends. 
Crispy duck skin

The crispy duck skin course

The next course was the soup course, where we enjoyed duck bone soup and won ton soup.  The wonton soup was good, but the duck soup was excellent.  The baby bok choy in the soup complimented the subtle flavor of the duck.  The broth was flavorful, but not too salty or overpowering so it could bring out the duck flavor.

duck bone soup

The captain chicken is Magic Wok’s take on sesame chicken, a sweet and tangy but less spicy version of General Tso’s Chicken.  The noodles were crisp and light, and the chicken was crispy yet sweet and tangy.
Captain Chicken

The shrimp and broccoli stir-fry was next to come out, the shrimp were juicy and the broccoli was tender but not too soft.  The sauce had a nice seafood taste to it, but was not too salty.
Shrimp and Broccoli
The braised beef was next.  It was so tender that it melted in our mouths.  This is one of my favorite rustic dishes that I enjoyed as a child.  I was not disappointed with this dish.
Braised beef
We then tried the pork rib dish.  The pork was very flavorful and the veggies were grilled to perfection.  The onions and choy had started to carmelize, but were still juicy with a hint of sweetness.
pork ribs
The last dish to come out was the most impressive; flambé beef.  With this dish, you get a little bit of a show with your tableside service.  The waiter brings out the beef on a sizzling platter, then pours vodka on it and lights it on fire.  After the flame burns off the alcohol and died out, the waiter then adds the sauce.   The beef was delicious, juicy and sweet.

Flambé beef
Our last course was dessert, we had coconut balls.  They were unlike standard dessert fare and reminded me of dim sum dessert that we would get in Toronto, sweet but not as sweet as Western desserts.  The homemade treats were coconut, fried in a crisp shell and rolled in powdered sugar.  The waiter told us that they were not ordered often, so they were a sort of best kept secret at Magic Wok.
coconut balls
The signature dishes ranged from about $10-$20 each, which is quite good for an upscale Chinese restaurant.  The flambé dish, which would have to be my favorite, was $18.99 plus tax, and worth it, given the little show and tableside service you get.   You also get decent size portions. There were 6 of us in our party, and there was plenty to eat and leftovers to take home.
We were served by multiple servers over the duration of our meal, this proved to be very effective during peak hours; instead of waiting for our section waiter to become available to bring us our food, as soon as the food came off the line, the next available person would bring it out asap.  The servers were also all very friendly and fast. 

I would recommend Magic Wok for anyone wanting to not only have a tasty meal during an evening out, but who would also enjoy the unique dining experience of dim sum and flambé during the same meal.  I definitely recommend the flambé beef, it will not disappoint.

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