Most American Jews have a general idea of what to expect when they order Chinese takeout. Along with pizza and sushi, American-style Chinese food is generally ubiquitous in larger kosher-keeping Jewish communities like Teaneck, Fair Lawn, Passaic and Highland Park. What these communities don’t have, though, is Chinese restaurant chefs whose command of ingredients coax an array of flavors into the food, who can also provide a made-to-order, higher end culinary experience.
This summer, Wok 18, a new takeout restaurant on Queen Anne Road in Teaneck, seeks to fuse high-end Cantonese Chinese food with the more accessible pricing of a takeout and delivery service.
“This is classic Chinese-American food that everyone knows, but 2020 style, with our unique flavors,” said Tuvia Levine, an experienced Teaneck restaurateur who has worked in RCBC-certified eateries for many years.
“Our head chef, Chef Jack, has 30 years experience in Chinese restaurants, but this is his first time ever doing takeout. He has only previously worked in upscale, non-kosher, eat-in restaurants. I had to explain to him what kosher was,” Levine explained.
Wok 18 features classic standards with made-to-order options, paired with snappy fresh vegetables and next-level sauces. Chef Jack has introduced mei fun, a thinner rice noodle dish similar to chow mein, but with more delicate, Chinese-curry-style flavors with fresh herbs. The noodles are narrow, like angel hair.
Chef Jack’s version of General Tso’s chicken, sesame chicken, beef with broccoli and other classic Chinese standards, are all quickly and efficiently made to order, with white or dark meat chicken options, and with mild or spicy options. For those who love chow mein, the choices are as broad as they are enjoyable.
Levine explained that during the restaurant’s soft opening, the menu has broadened to include more choices and made-to-order items, based on feedback from diners. “Tofu dishes have just been added, and we are adding new and unique dishes that we can't wait for our customers to try.”
“We had a slip of paper in every takeout order with my email address, asking for feedback. We have been listening and have been improving the menu options based on that,” he said.
As an example, my first takeout experience with Wok 18 was characterized by comfort food-style chicken noodle soup, super-powered garlic wontons, savory yet safe chow mein and standard yet perfectly cooked sesame chicken. I asked Levine if he had any spicier options available, and he directed me to many menu options at wok18.com that included a chili pepper icon, which indicated a spicy option. With my next order, Levine encouraged me to try a variety of dishes that I thought had earlier been prepared with mild spicing. I chose exclusively from among the chili pepper icon options, and I was wowed by both the complexities of the flavors and the expansion of tastes in seeing what Chef Jack could do.
For example, in the first order I really enjoyed the wontons, fried, in garlic sauce. The sauce was delicious and zesty, and was paired with a wonton filling that was delicate and herby. For the second order I received two more versions of wontons, both steamed, as per my preference. The first was in a version of the garlic sauce I had already really enjoyed, now made with a fantastic kick of slow-burn heat, and the other with a Szechuan wonton sauce, a delicate blend of coconut milk, fresh herbs and spicy pepper sauce. Paired with the same fresh-herb-filled, non-spicy wonton filling, the overall experience was one of my best bites in recent memory.
Follow Wok 18 Teaneck on Facebook and Instagram, for specials and new menu items. Try Wok 18 by visiting http://www.wok18.com, available 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. for takeout or delivery. Wok 18 is under supervision of the Rabbinical Council of Bergen County (RCBC). Located at 1443 Queen Anne Road, Teaneck. Call 201-357-5795 from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, Friday 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.
By Elizabeth Kratz