I must admit, when I first saw the sign in the window of Best Wok, the old Pace salsa commercials were playing in my head — “New York City” said with a Texas twang. My curiosity was piqued to say the least. What is NY style Chinese food? To get to the bottom of this I had to travel to NYC and do some checking, virtually of course. It turns out there are 8 Chinatown neighborhoods throughout the NYC area, so maybe they have developed their own style.

Due to the expansive nature of Best Wok's menu, I needed to bring in two reinforcements. We began with a Pu-Pu platter ($10.95). I’m pretty sure this is more of a Hawaiian/Polynesian thing…nonetheless it had a selection of fried wontons, chicken wings, spring rolls, teriyaki skewers, and krab sticks (note the spelling). It was all great, but I can do without the krab sticks, a textural thing for me. To round out the appetizer round, we sampled krab Rangoon (4 for $2.99) and fried dumplings (8 for $4.95). Both were very tasty and what I expect from typical Americanized Chinese restaurants.

Moving numerically higher along the takeout menu, beef lo mein ($8.45) arrived next. The amount of beef was a pleasant surprise and an excellent value. The taste was also great, not too heavy. Continuing down the menu we found Mongolian beef ($9.50), one of my favorites. It's a healthy serving of beef and vegetables with a side of white rice. At this point the three of us have ordered enough food to feed a small platoon, but we still have several more dishes to sample.

Hunan chicken ($6.25) is another popular American Chinese dish, served with a side of white rice. There are big chunks of bell peppers, broccoli, snow peas, and mushrooms along with a good amount of chicken. A petty good dish but the “gravy” isn’t my favorite. After all these heavy dishes we needed a little palate cleanser for an intermission. Thankfully the restaurant offers steamed vegetables ($8.25) served with yet more white rice and a brown gravy on the side. The gravy was on the salty side, but at least it’s optional.

After a brief recess, we continued our quest with sesame chicken ($7.95) and orange chicken ($7.95). Both are served with a side of fried rice and an egg roll. Granted, these dishes are virtually the same with a slight twist of flavor profile. The sauce seemed to be properly proportioned as not to have a swimming pool of cloying sauce. The chicken pieces were tender with plenty of flavor. The final selection was sweet and sour chicken ($8.95) with more white rice and a side of sweet and sour sauce. The breading was just right and cooked perfectly.

It should go without mentioning that we had way too much food for three people. I can assure you there were plenty of leftovers to take home, especially white rice. Through all this the only thing I can say about “NY Style” is that it is likely synonymous with Americanized Chinese food. Of course, there is no singular “Chinese” Chinese food. China is a huge country with a wide array of cuisines not unlike America with our NY vs Chicago vs California pizza, or Tex-Mex vs KC vs Memphis barbecue. My theory is that NYC has plenty of traditional regional Chinese restaurants (as the city has the largest Chinese population outside of China), and a plethora of Americanized Chinese restaurants and because New Yorkers are reliably narcissistic and probably just refer to non-region-specific food as NY Style. Whatever the reason, it is not important. What is important is Best Wok has a wide selection at reasonable prices. Give them a try the next time you have that craving for Chinese food.

Best Wok
907 W Marketview Dr
Champaign
M-Th 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
F + Sa 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Photos by Rob Schaffer