Wok Box Fresh Asian Kitchen is Canada’s first-ever Asian quick service restaurant. The company, founded in Alberta in 2004, has grown to included 58 stores nationwide, an international location in Lebanon, and will soon add franchises in the United States.
Wok Box’s Corporate Chef, Don Letendre, is a well-known Vancouver chef and former Executive Chef of Opus Hotels in Vancouver and Montreal. Letendre recently left the world of high-end cuisine in order to share his expertise and culinary insights in the quick service industry. Drawing on his experience as a chef in Asia, as well as his travels across the region, Letendre developed his signature dishes using tastes and flare of street food from across the continent.
Wok Box’s speedy meals are inspired from North and South East Asian countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, China, South Korea, Thailand, Japan, etc. Similar to The Noodle Box, Wok Box offers stir fry noodles in boxes for take-out or delivery, but with unique names like Bang Bang Chicken Salad (served chilled) and Jungle Noodles. However, their menu doesn’t stop there. It also lists rice boxes, soups like pho and wonton, butter chicken with naan, bulgogi, and even appetizers such as spring rolls, eggs rolls, and samosas.
Eating In Vancouver was kindly sent a gift card from Wok Box’s PR company to dine at one of the six Wok Box locations around the lower mainland, and the nearest one to us is their North Vancouver restaurant on Marine Drive. It’s easy to find, as it is nestled in the same complex as Thrifty Foods and across the street from Capilano Mall.
Upon entering, we were warmly welcomed into the restaurant by the counter staff, asked if was had ever visited a Wok Box, and then were explained their menu. Their noodle boxes are well priced at lunch (all around $6), but the dinner menu items becomes a lot steeper in cost. This location is nicely decorated with dark warm colours on the walls, Buddha paintings, and bamboo plants. Two flat-screen TVs were playing Rogers Cup tennis, so we happily watched Djokovic while we devoured our noodles
There was a slight problem with our gift card at the register – apparently the machine wasn’t reading it properly. While this was happening, I snagged the last remaining booth in the restaurant. The manager came out to rectify the problem, and ask my hubby (by calling him “sweetie” lol) where he obtained the card. Not to risk blowing our cover, as we wanted to see how food and service would be without employees knowing they were being reviewed, Gary told her he’d received it “from a friend”. Anyway, my hubby was quite amused by the comment as it’s been decades since he was last called “sweetie”!
Although you order and pay at the counter, your meal is delivered to your table, and you’re given a choice of forks or chopsticks. Quality-checks, coupons enticing customers to return, and fortune cookies were all provide to each table in their busy restaurant. Service was quick, helpful and friendly, and our noddles were served to us within roughly 8 minutes!
I decided on their most popular dish, Singapore Cashew with chicken: Sriracha peanut sauce, fresh veggies (red onions, tomatoes, celery, broccoli), cashews, cilantro and hokkien noodles. All Wok Box noodle dishes are served with bean sprouts, a lime wedge, green onions, deep-fried crispy onions, and your choice of protein. Although Sriracha is generally very spicy, this dish was mild to medium on the heat level. Its sauce tasted very unusual, like a combination hoisin or plum sauce, but was very tangy and borderline overly sweet. On the upside, natural, preservative-free ingredients are used, and noodles are made locally in Vancouver by top producers. Since we dined in, our noodles were served in bowls as opposed to their signature paper take-out boxes. My bowl was overflowing with ingredients so it was a little cumbersome to consume. Evidently, I would have preferred enjoying the dish from a larger bowl.
Gary opted for Jungle Curry with prawns: Bold yellow curry sauce, fresh veggies, cilantro, pineapple and hokkien noodles. It tasted much like a Thai creamy coconut curry, with lovely lemongrass aroma. Five prawns (we counted) were included in bowl. These are definitely fusion dishes, with chunks of celery (not usually considered an Asian vegetable) making an appearance. It was actually quite a flavorful curry and I enjoyed this dish more than the Singapore Cashew noodles.
Overall, Wok Box provides friendly, top-notch customer service for a quick-serve restaurant, well-priced lunch dishes, and a comfortable environment. Their dishes aren’t entirely authentic, but do appeal to a broad range of clientele.