The trouble with the name Wok In Wok Out is that it forgets an important step: Eat food.
Much of the clientele at this Thai and Chinese restaurant comes in for takeout or calls for delivery. The evening of our visit we were the only in-house diners, which seemed to be a good match since the staff was also limited.
Nonetheless, our server, whose other roles include owner, greeter, phone answerer, kitchen helper and busser, was happy to accommodate our slow pace when it came to ordering, eating and lingering after our meal.
The food was enjoyable and we learned something about this small diner that's been serving up Asian classics for the past 12 years.
We began by sharing a bowl of the Thai spiced shrimp soup ($4.25). This was easily divided among three, and had I not been anticipating the rest of the meal I might have finished the soup left behind by my companions who found it too spicy. The first impression is of floral undertones and if swallowed too quickly it transforms to a level of heat that stings the back of the throat. The tear-inducing zip in the soup can sneak up on you like the flashing lights of a police car on a seemingly deserted road. The trick is not to gulp, but to slowly savor the elements in each mouthful to avoid any distress.
By contrast my Thai basil chicken ($10.50), ordered with medium heat, paled. It wasn't bland, but there was no sensation of being hit with a piquant surprise. Despite having plenty of red pepper flakes, the hearty dish leaned more toward the tame end of the pungent scale than the sizzle side. Thin slices of chicken and the classic baby corn amid a veritable garden of vegetables provided plenty of flavor, including the licoricelike Thai basil.
My chicken looked strangely similar to the Happy Family ($11.75). It, too, was a large plateful featuring the same vegetable medley in a brown sauce. Thankfully, the resemblance ended there. The dish gets its name from the merging of multiple meats, with the veggies, in one big wok. Here, this included thin slices of tender beef, shrimp, chicken and smoky barbecue pork. The latter stood out in the soy sauce-based overlay coating all of the ingredients. The only problem was that the components were not uniform temperature-wise.
The sweet and sour shrimp ($11.50) was a surprise in its presentation and taste. A platter of large panko-crusted shrimp was served with a cup of the sweet and sour sauce. Rather than pouring it over and potentially ending up with something soggy, it was easy to dip the shrimp.
All entrees came with a choice of steamed or fried rice. The latter was surprisingly free of vegetable pieces and contained only bits of scrambled egg. It was fine as an accompaniment to the main dishes, but dull on its own.
We were told that Wok In Wok Out was the second restaurant in town to offer both Chinese and Thai cuisines. In some casts this means the Chinese entrees overshadow the Thai offerings to such a degree that they may appear to be an afterthought. This is not the situation here. The friendly owner explained that the Thai dishes are not as complicated. She said her husband had cooked in Chinese restaurants for 22 years and in a Thai restaurant for three. It wasn't until after our meal that she revealed that particularly the panang (green curry) is especially popular among its clientele who enjoy Thai food.
"Most people order from the Chinese side of the menu," she said, "but those that like Thai know what they like and they like our panang."
This may have something to do with letting the curry paste cook a long time, she added. This is something they learned from friends in Singapore.