Thus far, the only person to complain about the review below is Tony Wang, himself...
For two years now, I have read that the best Chinese, as voted by the Lancaster Newspaper readers, is Tony Wang’s. I’ll admit I didn’t want to visit a Chinese restaurant that sat along a tourist strip. That, in conjunction with the fact that Lancaster is not known for its vast Chinatown, made me shy away from trying it. But after several years of taking first place, I thought it was time to visit. And when I did, I could not understand what the buzz was about.
Outside of Tony Wang’s, you can’t help but know that Lancaster thinks it’s the best Chinese around, what with all the banners and such. The interior atmosphere itself is reminiscent of most Chinese restaurants I’ve visited, where everything is efficiently functional and the décor adorns the space with the appropriate ethnic flair.
That evening, we ordered the Hot & Sour soup ($2.50) and the Fried Dumplings ($6.50) for appetizers. The soup was hot. It was sour. But somehow when they came together, there was something rather bland about it, the flavors not combining to produce any kind of greatness. My husband joked, “See, this version is the Hot OR Sour soup.”
The Fried Dumplings came, and I was pleased to find that they were so hot, little tiny pockets of oil still bubbled on the surface – a good indication that the dumplings might have a nice crispiness to it. And indeed, they did. The pork nucleus was tasty, and the soy sauce-based dipping sauce with a touch of sweetness lent a good complement. My only minor criticism is the doughiness that seems to be redolent of Americanized Potstickers. In Asia, the skin of the dumpling is much thinner, more delicate. Regardless, I enjoyed the dish.
For the entrees, we got the Ma La Chicken ($10.75) and the special on the board, Beef Chow Fun ($8.75). The Ma La Chicken was the recommendation of our Chinese server. It hails from the Sichuan province and translates into “Numbing Spiciness.” So the anticipation was great. When it came, it had all the auspices of something delicious; lots of vegetables, a good amount of chicken, and a brick red-brown sauce that coated everything lusciously. We dug in and my first thought was, okay, this is really, quite unremarkable. The spicy fireworks I was awaiting were utterly missing. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good. It was average. Inoffensive. Innocuous. On the positive side, the chicken was moist and tender, and the vegetables fresh and plentiful. But when all that doesn’t taste like much…
Lastly, the Chow Fun, a traditional Cantonese dish of stir-fried wide rice noodles. It’s one of my favorite dishes, but it can be a high-maintenance dish. It must be stir-fried with a super hot and high flame, which imparts a charred, caramelized flavor to the dish. Also means you have to be quick, yet gentle, so you don’t break the noodles. Oh, and control the amount of oil you use, you don’t want it to stick together, but please don’t make it slick. See what I mean? At the best Chinese restaurant in town, I would expect them to make Chow Fun very well. And yet, they don’t. The characteristic smoky, caramelized flavor was lacking. Sure, the noodles were kept intact, and the beef was tender, but it didn’t have the complexity in taste. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good. It was average. Inoffensive. Innocuous.
I couldn’t help but wonder, why is this Lancaster’s most award-winning Chinese restaurant? Surely there is something better in town. Stay tuned, because I aim to find out.
Tony Wang’s Chinese Restaurant
2217 Lincoln Hwy E
Lancaster, PA 17602