Wok hard to find, but rewarding

TAKEOUT

March 09, 2005|By Tom Waldron | Tom Waldron,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It may be hard to find Hunan Wok, but it offers some decent rewards for those who do.

The small Chinese eatery is tucked into a space at the back of the Atrium at Greenspring Shopping Center, just north of the city limits between Mount Washington and Pikesville. That it manages to stay in business in its out-of-the-way location confirms that the Wok knows how to satisfy.

With a number of guests to feed, we ventured in the other night to order an astonishing amount of food.

Hunan Wok has several tables, and a few modest lanterns and pictures as decoration. We were happy to find a few tiny pink origami creations left on one of the tables by a cook.

We ate fried noodles from a big bowl on the counter while we waited for our order.

And we did end up waiting quite a while, although the delay was forgivable given the size of our order. (Other smaller orders were being filled promptly, we noticed.)

As for the food, there were no clunkers, nothing to rave about, but plenty of serviceable dishes.

Among the best were spring rolls ($2.80), which were large and loaded with shredded vegetables, shrimp and beef. We were pleased to find steamed edemame, or soy beans ($3.95), although some of us didn't care for the buttery sauce.

Beef lo mein ($7.95) featured a good-quality meat that avoided the usual stringiness problem one finds with that dish. We all liked the shrimp in Szechuan red sauce ($10.95). The pinkish sauce was sweeter than I would have predicted, but worked well. Chicken fried rice ($7.95) was typical but not disappointing and the sesame chicken ($9.95) was termed "succulent" by one of our guests.

A couple of dishes, including moo shu pork ($8.95), were simply too bland. We realized too late that you need to ask the staff to ratchet up the spice quotient - or liven things yourself by cutting up fresh garlic and sprinkling it on.

For dessert, the only option was fortune cookies.

When we were done, the table was littered with empty dishes - a lot of empty dishes - always a good sign.

The shopping center has plenty of parking out front.

Hunan Wok

Food: **1/2

Service: ***

Waiting area: ***

Parking: ***

Where: Greenspring Shopping Center, 2835-J Smith Ave.

Phone: 410-486-3267

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; noon to 10 p.m. Sunday

Prices: Hunan and Szechuan soups, entrees and appetizers, $2.80 to $20.95; credit cards accepted

Outstanding: ****; Good: ***; Fair or uneven: **; Poor: *

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