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An Asian Brunch Experience

By Karen Christopfel · September 20th, 2011 · The Nook
Since 1977, the Wong family has held court at Oriental Wok locations around Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati. Their Fort Mitchell location (317 Buttermilk Pike, 859-331-3000) has it all: a gong at the door, a relaxing fishpond, a quirky, lovable owner and a Sunday brunch buffet ($12.95). 

Sweet and Sour Chicken and fried rice might not be your idea of brunch, but who needs eggs and pancakes when you can have made-to-order stir-fry in the booth next to Jean Robert de Cavel, while watching Mike Wong greet guests in his infamous shirt with “Viagra” written in blue script above the breast pocket? If that doesn’t make you want to sneak out of church early, I’m not sure what will. And if you're still looking for a reason to like brunch, you don’t have to feel like you have a drinking problem ordering alcohol at 11 a.m. It’s just expected.

For those who love Oriental Wok, Mike Wong makes lunch, dinner and an early Sunday meal an experience. As with many restaurants I love, it’s not so much the food but the feel of a place. Oriental Wok's food is not mind-blowing or especially innovative, but it is consistently good.

I like going to Oriental Wok because I appreciate how important the customers are to the Wong family and I admire the hands-on approach they demonstrate each time I visit. Each guest feels so special that you almost forget there are 20 other tables in the dining room. That says a lot about the pride taken in not just the food but also the service.

In the dining room, you will find couples, families and friends clinking glasses and debating what to order. With the brunch buffet, the Wongs make sure that your favorites are there, and they add new dishes each week so there is no debate. 

There are mainstays like soup, salad, fruit, egg rolls, a chicken option and the stir-fry station. On our visit, we tried the Pepper Steak, Vegetable Lo Mein, Sweet and Sour Chicken and, of course, the stir-fry. The food is moderately seasoned, as you would expect with any buffet. The Vegetable Lo Mein had soft noodles and crisp vegetables, the egg rolls were perfectly fried and crisp and the Pepper Steak had thin slices of grilled steak with sautéed green peppers and onions. The fried nuggets of chicken and sweet sauce were good, but when is fried chicken not satisfying? 

One of the standouts of the meal was the salad dressing. The ginger kick made it addictive and I was sure to have salad on all three of my visits to the buffet. The other standout was the stir-fry station. There were vegetables, shrimp, beef and chicken to choose from. We had a spicy vegetable stir-fry featuring fresh tiny button mushrooms on one trip, and spicy chicken stir-fry on another. Both were fresh, spicy and delicious, and getting to choose your ingredients is always fun.

I would like Oriental Wok to push the envelope a little with their buffet options and infuse a few traditional breakfast items with a Chinese flair to show off their culinary chops. Chinese pancakes, maybe? After all, you can get experimental with buffet items, and, as the fortune cookie says, adventure can be real happiness. In bed.

CONTACT KAREN CHRISTOPFEL: letters@citybeat.com



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