Other Chinese restaurants come and go, but Wok Village remains an Ithaca favourite

November 7, 2007

This week, we're dining at Wok Village, one of Ithaca's longest-lasting Chinese restaurants, in the Bishop's Small Mall behind the Triphammer Mall and the new Homewood Suites hotel. They actually specialize in both Chinese and Vietnamese dishes, with a Vietnamese dim sum available for weekend lunches. Dining in has its advantages, though lots of Wok Village's business is in the delivery and take-out trade.

Speaking of lunch, most of my visits to Wok Village are for the great lunch buffet, different every day, with soup, appetizers, a rotating selection of entrées, and desserts for $5.75. I love the Hunan chicken and sweet and sour shrimp, and the spicy Vietnamese-style chicken salad, almost like cole slaw with chicken, has a real kick.

The buffet is definitely the best deal going, since you get hot tea and an endless supply of food, but of course you can also get lunch combos for six bucks and change, with fried rice and an egg roll, and soup for just 50 cents more.

At dinnertime, my favourites include the Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce -- a tenderer cousin to the American vegetable -- and the Mongolian beef, crisp and spicy. I often start out with cold sesame noodles, served with shredded chicken. Turn nearly any entree into a meal with soup, egg roll, and ice cream with the Chef's Special for ten bucks.

Naturally, Wok Village has plenty of vegetarian options. In addition to the eggplant, try the bean curd (tofu) with mixed vegetables in brown sauce. Don't hesitate to ask if you're not sure which dishes qualify as vegetarian. The "cold noodles" on the menu, for example, include chicken unless you ask them to leave that out, and the hot & sour soup at some places is vegetarian, but it's not here.

When it's cold out, one of the stars of the meal is that hot & sour soup, tangy and peppery, with lots of tofu and pork. Almost a meal in itself. For a special treat, try the crabmeat with indian corn soup for two.

One of the pros to dining in is that you can put a big group around one of the restaurant's lazy-susan tables, and share lots of dishes as easily as spinning them around from person to person. Or, reserve the whole back room for a large group. Another perk to dinner at Wok Village is the crispy noodles on the table; don't forget to ask for the wonderful, spicy Chinese mustard as well as the usual duck sauce.

Wok Village has a very limited delivery area, mostly including the northeast and Cornell campus. If you're not sure they deliver to you, call to check before ordering online.

Lunch buffet, lunch combos, dinner combos, take-out, or delivery, seven days a week. Plan on spending six to twelve bucks on a meal. Find Wok Village at wokvillage.com, order at campusfood.com or call them at 607-257-8883 and tell them you heard about them here.

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