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Lunchbox: Peking Wok

Published On: Mar 21 2014 02:03:47 PM AKDT
Lunchbox: Peking Wok

Peking Wok serves this Peking spicy beef lunch special ($9.95), including sides of fried or steamed rice as well as an egg roll and slices of barbecued pork. Fountain drinks are $2 apiece.

Peking Wok
4000 W. Dimond Blvd. #5
$10-$28 per plate
11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday; noon to 10:30 p.m. Sunday

With a wave of new restaurants concentrated on the north side of town, as a South Anchorage resident I haven’t recently eaten a Lunchbox meal closer to home -- an omission I decided to correct one weekday afternoon.

Peking Wok is tucked into a long strip mall on Dimond Boulevard at its intersection with Jewel Lake Road, housing the area’s Carrs Safeway grocery store. While the other mall businesses on the west side of the building are linked by an internal walkway that leads to Carrs, Peking Wok sits alone on the east end of the building -- it’s the first thing you see pulling in off Jewel Lake, but the separate entrance seems to cut down on foot traffic. The location does ensure that parking is plentiful, and I had no trouble finding a space.

Much of Peking Wok’s personality comes through on the inside, freed from the shackles of the mall’s conservative exterior. The same ornate bric-a-brac which prevails in other Chinese restaurants is present, right down to an aquarium at the front door, but the relatively small size of the restaurant makes it feel homey and warm. There are about a dozen booths for guests, with the space broken up by an L-shaped half-wall which separates all but a few tables from the kitchen area. All in all I found it inviting, practical and unpretentious beyond the obligatory trappings.

From Mongolian beef to chow mein, pretty much every Chinese standard is on the menu at Peking Wok, with an array of house specialties and family dinners mixed in for variety. Much of the list reflects dinner pricing, but about 25 items are gathered into a special lunch menu available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day save Sunday. With prices very flat and all just under $10, I opted for the Peking spicy beef lunch special ($9.95); only a few other tables were occupied and service was swift, with everything on the table in about 10 minutes.

The first course, a cup of egg drop soup not listed on the menu, was an unexpected bonus which I quickly set into. A slightly more healthy take on won ton, the chunk of scrambled egg on top soon gave way to a bed of chopped cabbage, zucchini, carrots and celery, none of it too filling but just right as an appetizer for one. For me, the heat of the savory-salty broth was a nice touch having just come in from a clear winter day, one I appreciated beyond the food itself.

An intimidating platter carried the rest of the meal to the table, evenly split between the main course and its sides of rice, an egg roll and a few slices of barbecued pork. I started with the sides to sample them warm, finding the pork slices to be a fair deal larger and thicker than many versions served here in town -- the barbecue flavor didn’t strongly penetrate the meat, as it rarely does in Chinese cuisine, but the slices went well with hot mustard and sweet-and-sour sauce served on the side. Likewise, the egg roll was a heftier specimen thanks largely to a thicker fried crust, fresh-made and filled with veggies plus a few bits of pork, worth eating on its own simply to savor.

When I finally got to the Peking spicy beef, I approached it cautiously but soon found myself digging in with gusto. The beef isn’t as hot as the menu and the star by its name makes it seem, the kind of slow burn that can easily be tempered with an occasional swig of beverage or mouthful of calmer fare; it comes with a sprinkling of cashews for that very purpose, which definitely helped. I’d asked for steamed rice but was served the default pork fried rice, which didn’t concern me much because the rice was quite well-done, not too heavy with bits of fried egg mixed in along with pork to keep it rich but not overwhelming.

Peking Wok was a nice change of pace from my latest reviews, an oasis of well-established comfort food amid a rush of the new. All things considered, I’m glad I stopped in -- the location is a bit out of the way for most and some people might demand more from a Chinese meal, but the lunch prices are quite reasonable, the ambience is quiet and the service is speedier than some of the chain fast-food restaurants which dominate Dimond and Jewel Lake. If you’re looking for a calmer meal and you’re in the area, you might want to Wok this way.