Disclaimer: This meal was comped.
The last five years saw an acceleration in foreign-based fast food franchises making their way to our fair city. From as close as Ontario we received Hero Certified Burgers, Original Shawarma and Loaded Pierogi. All the way from Japan and Taiwan came Tsujiri and Hazukido, respectively. Earlier this year, a Dutch-based Asian operation installed itself in the West Island.
Since opening in Amsterdam in 2004, the Wok to Walk banner has rapidly expanded across all five continents and is now hoping to win the Canadian market, first via Quebec. Tonight, I accepted an invitation to try the newcomer, located in the car-friendly Pointe-Claire strip mall running along Saint-Jean Boulevard.
tagged: TAKE THE CAR
The franchise gets the vibe right with a modern blend of industrial-meets-Zen. A boxed-in open kitchen is surrounded by three clusters of seating arrangements. The two-tone color scheme of grey concrete and maple wood is broken up thanks to an indoor orange tree fake I presume and a quirky cartoon mural. Alas, nobody was on site to appreciate this design asides from my friend and myself, two young women and a handful of delivery drivers.
Such a turnout on a Wednesday night is no cause for concern but can spell a lack of interest. Accompanying the banner's branding is messaging such as "cooked with lighting" and "fire, metal, magic" which appear on the walls, menu, place mats and takeout containers. Along with the name itself (who's walking and where?), I find this whole turn of phrasing eyebrow raising and gimmicky.
tagged: WHERE IS EVERYBODY?
My issues with Wok to Walk's themes notwithstanding, I tried to be as objective with the food as possible. Unfortunately, here too I experienced shortcomings. The menu showed promise at first with its short length and Pan-Asian coverage. Dumplings, bao buns and soups for starters are followed by Thai and Japanese noodle and rice dishes all prepared in a wok.
To be fair, it's not all bad; the first thing I sank my teeth into were chicken and mushroom dumplings with an exquisite filling. The bao buns were satisfying and fluffy but the pulled chicken inside them lacked flavour. Next, the shrimp pad thai was decent, but was missing the shredded egg and mostly tasted like fish sauce I did not get any hint of tamarind paste.
Finally, the worst offender was a pretty bowl of donburi. For starters, the rice was undercooked and did not taste anything like steamed sushi rice. The dish also continued the trend the ones preceding it started with a general paucity of flavour.
Although Wok to Walk scores some points for aesthetics, design, plating and presentation, it fell short on taste and execution. Also, I like my Asian food cooked by you know Asians, which was not the case here. That in addition to its entire brand strategy and choice of slogans which I did not get at all.
We already have a successful, home-grown noodles-and-stir-fry franchise in Thai Express. Who exactly felt we had a gap to fill with a Japanese/Thai operation from the Netherlands? Did the age-old wok really need to be rebranded and marketed as something novel and magical? I'll take a pass on this one
Price per person: $19.76
Montreal restaurant and bar reviews brought to you by two regular guys who like to eat and drink. We will go anywhere and we will say it like it is.