By Jordan Heath-Rawlings
When Manchu Wok opened its kiosk in The Hub last Wednesday, students may have thought that they’d finally be able to buy good, cheap Chinese cuisine on campus.
They were wrong. Manchu Wok isn’t exceptionally cheap. It isn’t especially good either. And I’m not sure if the trays of brightly-coloured, synthetic-looking food melting under heat lamps can be qualified as cuisine. Sustenance maybe, but not cuisine.
I asked for the best item on the menu, and my server recommended the most expensive combo – $5.39 plus tax for four chicken balls, a glob of fried rice, a scoop of chow mein and an egg roll (other combos ranged from $4.39 to $5.19). Soya sauce, egg roll sauce, hot sauce and disposable chop-sticks were available in baskets on the counter.
The food at Manchu Wok is pre-made, who knows how long ago. As a result, service is quick and efficient. Most customers received their meal within two minutes of ordering. I waited five minutes for a fresh batch of chow mein to be made. I’m glad I waited. The chow mein was the only memorable part of my meal.
As for coating the chicken balls, my server gestured to large, unmarked packets of sauce on the caounter.
“What kind of sauce is it?” I asked
“I know,” I said, looking at the neon sace in its clear packet.
“But what’s in it?”
He shrugged his shoulders. I declined the unidentified condiment.
Despite the mystery sauce, the meal began somewhat successfully. The egg roll and chow mein posessed simple flavour. The chow mein was twice as hot as the rest of the meal and actually crunched the way fresh vegetable should.
The egg roll was stale on the outside, but biting into it, I could distinctly taste egg and vegetable flavours. Perhaps the red mystery sauce contains the key necessary to unlock the flavour in the chicken balls, for none was detectable without. The balls were small and tough and tasted like dry Chicken McNuggets. I ate them with the fried rice, which was slightly rubberized by the heat lamps and combined the tastes of rice, egg and peas into one bland, pasty mess.
I left half of my rice sticking in cold, thick clumps in the bottom of the Styrofoam container. I dropped the last chicken ball down a Jorgenson stairwell. It bounced about four feet. I was not impressed.
Manchu Wok is a good place for appetizers; the chow mein costs $2.49 and an egg roll $1.19. But for a main course, Pizza Pizza is five steps away and about two dollars cheaper. And by the way, I hear they have the courtesy to at least put the food back into the oven before serving it to you.