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New chef at Imperial Wok, N. White Plains

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A year or two ago the chef at Imperial Wok on North Broadway, North White Plains, left for greener pastures elsewhere. The quality plummeted, and the place seemed destined for mediocrity. Three weeks ago a new chef arrived, supposedly directly from Szechuan, and he's got the goods! Two recent visits have gone very, very well. Spicy braised whole fish, shredded beef with basil, Taiwanese chicken casserole, shrimp with hot chile paste and Chinese cucumber and more have been back to their usual, delicious standards. I haven't yet tried their (former) standout dish, Fish Fillet in Pickled Cabbage Soup. N.B.: The chef's day off is Wednesday.

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  1. is this chef still around? is this place still worth trying? thanks!

    1. Do they do Dim Sum at all, I was curious as I pass by it often.

      1. My wife and I were in White Plains and I remembered this post about the chef at Imperial Wok having changed. So we went last night.

        We were both seriously disappointed. The kitchen has a VERY heavy hand with salt. Both my wife and I like things on the salty side, so for us to feel things were too salty speaks volumes.

        I had the shredded pork in black bean sauce. Way too salty. My wife had shredded pork with the rice cake. Also too too salty. We also ordered a veggie dish called Triple Delight. It contained tofu skin that was like eating cardboard. It was supposed to be soaked overnight, but we suspect it wasn't.

        We also ordered the pan fried dumplings. Which were tasty, but tepid on the inside.

        1. Wow. Seriously disappointed to read this. First Hunan Village
          and now Imperial Wok.

          IS there even another Americanized Chinese restaurant in this area with a bar?

          7 Replies
          1. re: dolores

            It might be too far north, but Golden House in Jefferson Valley fits that bill.

            1. re: ltlevy

              Is Golden House actually good? They recently had a fire and had a grand opening. I was SHOCKED when I saw an ad for them that claimed they were rated excellent in Zagat, but I checked and they do get a 20 for food (which I don't think qualifies as excellent, but it's still much higher than I'd expect). I live 5 minutes from them, and I went there once many years ago and was not at all impressed (and have not been back) but maybe I was expecting something that it's not (like decent hot & sour soup).

              1. re: MisterBill2

                Anyone been to Imperial Wok lately? I haven't had the courage since this thread.

                1. re: dolores

                  We decided to give it a try last night. What a mistake! The food was horrible. Chicken with broccoli was soooooooo salty that it was inedible. The fried rice was also salty. The appetizers were odd tasting- couldn't quite figure out what was wrong- but knew they weren't right.

                  We left everything-- the manager apologized but we will NOT be back!

                  1. re: debmom

                    Thanks, debmom. I'll stick with Bao's, they're always enjoyable.

                2. re: MisterBill2

                  I would consider Golden House an American Chinese restaurant, not an authentic one like Aberdeen in White Plains. When we were there last (probably the end of last year) it was good American Chinese. We heard about the fire second hand and just saw the grand opening ad last week. We haven't been back there yet. So, who knows whether the kitchen staff is the same.

                  1. re: ltlevy

                    Maybe I'll go try it again. We generally eat at Empire Hunan in Yorktown which is pretty decent.

            2. Dolores, Tung Hoy on Boston Post Road in Mamaroneck/Larchmont comes to mind. But it's pricey.

              1. Dim Sum, has that returned to being a decent restaurant? If it's the same Tung Hoy as 20 years ago, I remember big plates of Cantonese food and nothing more. It was a favorite of my 80+ year old relatives. Thanks for the pointer though.

                1. Well you didn't say it had to be decent in your original request! ;-) We used to go there in the 60's & 70's (as well as South Seas on Central Avenue-- remember that place?) I have only been once since they moved from their original location down the street and was saddened and disappointed by both the food and the prices.

                  Would be interested in hearing from anyone who has been there more recently.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Dim Sum Diva

                    Good point, Dim Sum Diva! I just said Americanized Chinese and a bar, didn't I?

                    I did try Golden Rod and it is as good as noted here, but Imperial Wok was always good if we didn't feel like driving. I know, White Plains to New Rochelle, big deal!

                    I wish Aberdeen would look to get their liquor license, but that's just me.

                    And I still haven't gotten over my disappointment at Paul leaving Hunan Village. Where does one go in the next month for Chinese New Year??

                    And finally, in a pinch, there's always Kam Sen -- although the pig ears WEREN'T as good as they looked.

                    1. re: dolores

                      Dolores, I think I recall that Hunan Larchmont on Palmer Avenue has a small bar area. It's a little pricey for take-out so we don't go often but the few times we did, including one eat-in, the food was very good.

                  2. What about Bao's (next to Kam Sen)? It's pretty good Americanized Chinese and I think they serve liquor if I remember correctly. Or even P.F. Chang's for that matter.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: jeanki

                      You're right jeanki. Not only do they serve liquor at Bao's but they have killer martinis for $6 dollars!

                    2. Next to Kam Sen? On the same level in the White Plains Mall? I have to look for them next time I'm there. Thanks.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: dolores

                        Bao's has its own entrance on the outside, it's over on the left side of the mall (relative to Hamilton Ave.)

                      2. Anyone try Pagoda on Central Ave in Scarsdale next to Casa Maya and A&P Fresh? It's the MOST AUTHENTIC Chinese food in Westchester! Yes better than Aberdeen or Central Seafood! They have a separate menu written in Chinese so if that's an issue, list a few ingriedients you want (flounder, ribs, watercress...etc) and ask them to make authentic Chinese style. They will tell you what goes well with what (flounder and watercress? No good! ribs with watercress? Good!).

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: pabboy

                          Based on this comment my wife, B-I-L (both Chinese) and I went to Pagoda. I admit I forgot pabboy's line about the Chinese menu, but for a restaurant to be labeled "MOST AUTHENTIC" I would hope they offer some of that food on their regular menu - a la Aberdeen and Central Seafood.

                          What we saw was your typical American Chinese menu. The wonton soup was Chinese style (thin skinned wontons) and fairly tasty. My wife and B-I-L said their hot and sour soup was good. We also had steamed chicken dumplings in a spicy oil sauce, again not bad, but not great either. For entrees we had Shanghainese meatballs (ok, not inspiring), kung pao chicken (Interestingly done on a bed of green beans - but the green beans were tasteless),and house special pan fried noodles (good, but again nothing special).

                          Give me Aberdeen or Central Seafood any day of the week.

                          1. re: ltlevy

                            Sorry your experience wasn't as good as ours althought I'm not surprised at all. I fully agree with you that their Chinese menus should be part of their regular menu. But on the other hand I can see why they don't want to do that. I am going to generalize here but most suburban ethnic restaurants "dumb-down" their food to suit the Western palates. They need to cater to the majority of their clients. Items tend to be sweeter or saltier or less spicy. Many times (not at Pagoda) I've seen non-Chinese order authentic dishes and end up sending it back because they didn't like the taste. The restaurant ends up with a loss. At Pagoda, other patrons gawk at what we ordee. When they ask for the same dishes, the waiter will tell them the dish is off another menu that it's tofu with shrimp or whatever. 99% of the time, they will change their mind and order General Tsao.

                            As for Aberdeen or Central. Aberdeen is good for dimsum, regular menu is hit or miss depending on whether the chef is there. Central is good for nothing. Their quality has been dropping for the last 3 years and continues to fall. I think they do a disservice to all Chinese by serving the crap they do and call it Chinese food.

                            1. re: ltlevy

                              Authentic or not, Pagoda's meals are not greasy and are very reasonably priced. Even the Chow Fun--which even in Chinatown can be heavy--is quite good. No oil soaking through on the egg rolls and the Wonton broth is unbelievably fresh tasting.

                          2. Gave this place my first and last try with a takeout order last week. Uggh. A fifteen dollar shrimp dish was basically sweet and sour style, thick-battered (soggy) and tough. Ribs were certainly not inspiring. The most relieable take-out for me has been Bao's. I love Aberdeen for Dim-Sum, but, I admittedly (and, hell, proudly) love my Amricanized Chinese take out, and while the Dim-Sum and (I've heard) the Cantonese? traditional dishes at Aberdeen are great, their Sesame Chicken and General Tso's use this same 'batter in a box' coating that makes you feel that you are at a Hong Kong Arthur Treacher's. From now on, Sunday dim sum at Aberdeen, take-out from Bao's, and when I have the time, a run to Kam Sen for their georeously laquered ribs.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Wizzapizza

                              Wizzapizza, do you mean Pagoda or Imperial Wok?

                              1. re: dolores

                                Sorry- should have been clearer- I was disappointed by Imperial Wok. I've yet to try Pagoda.

                            2. Thanks, Wizzapizza. I am most disappointed to hear that.

                              pabboy, I am also sorry to hear that the 'dumbed down' Americanized menu at Pagoda is not as good as their unpublicized 'Chinese menu'. That isn't acceptable to me.

                              When they were good, I liked Imperial Wok and Hunan Village very much. I won't go to Imperial Wok, based on the bad reviews here, and am in fact going to Hunan Village for Chinese New Year. I am not anticipating it to be as good as it was when Paul was there, but I will no doubt be letting you all know my opinion.

                              Aberdeen is very good, but as a 'dumbed down' American, I enjoy a cocktail with my meal.

                              So far, Golden Rod remains the last decent Chinese restaurant in Westchester, imo. And I find that amazing.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: dolores

                                dolores, you have to remember that the Pagoda Chinese menu is only preferred by my friends/family and I. I'm cannot speak for the majority of their clients. I'm sure there are plenty of people that like their Americanized food more than the Chinese food. I search for authenticity where ever I go, even if I don't find it as appetizing.

                                I've asked Aberdeen, Central, Imperial to make their food as authentic as possible (speaking Mandarin no less) and only Aberdeen was able to satisfy my request.

                              2. I understand pabboy. I have a longstanding invitation to go to Queens for an authentic meal with a Chinese friend (he found Aberdeen too salty but otherwise thought it okay), and go to the grocery across from Aberdeen if I want the real thing. Hmmm, I hope it's the real thing there? I doubt that pig ear is preferred by most, though!

                                Would I as a non-Chinese speaking person get the Chinese menu at Pagoda if I asked for it?

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: dolores

                                  As a true Hound, please do take up on the invitation!

                                  Kam Sen (Chinese grocery across from Aberdeen) hot plate dishes are VERY salty. Some of the items are pretty authentic while others are not. The hanging roast pork, crispy skin pork, roast duck and soy chicken are not bad (excellent by Westchester standard considering I can't get it anywhere else).

                                  I'm sure you can get a Chinese menu at Pagoda but it's hand written in Chinese. Unless you can read Chinese characters it's going to be a challange for them to translate the 40-50 dishes on it.

                                  1. re: pabboy

                                    A couple of years ago Pagoda had their "Chinese" menu printed in English and a stack of them was sitting next to the "regular" one up front. We discovered it when they accidently gave it to us. Then, of course, they tried to take it away, but we said we'd like to order at least some things from it -- and we did, happily. A year or so ago we were there, and I went looking for it, unsuccessfully. Now I know why. I gather this is a relatively common phenomemon. My home town has had a very large influx of Asians of various stripes in the last several years. Last time I was home, I took myself off for lunch to one of them where I had had "West Lake Soup" on an earlier visit. I was craving it that day but couldn't find it on the menu.
                                    After I insisted I'd had it there before, the waitress and manager had a conference (in Chinese) and pulled out the "Chinese" menu version but seemed shocked that that was what interested me.

                                    1. re: Westjanie

                                      This stuff happens everywhere. Suburbs or Chinatown. I've seen many waiters steer non-Chinese customers away from authentic dishes.

                                      But this is not unique! When I go to Jamaican joints and order Jerk Chicken the first thing they say is "YOU want Jerk? It's spicy you know!" I break out the Jamaican accent and reply "Da spicier da bettah mon! Add some bonnet sauce too!" They get a kick out of it and hopefully won't underestimate the next Chinese that walk through the door.

                                2. LOL, thanks pabboy. Guess I'm in trouble then! I'll have to stick to Golden Rod in New Rochelle.

                                  Oh yes, when the weather is better, I will be joining this individual. Just to hear him talk about his trips to China and U.S. economy is worth my driving to Queens!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: dolores

                                    Most of my friends think I'm crazy but when I want to good food I'm more than willing to travel great distance & time for it. I head to Flushing or Pal Park for Korean, Mt Kisco, New Rochelle for Mexican, Port Chester or Flor de Mayo for Peruvian, Flushing, Elmhurst or Suset Park for Chinese, Blue Ribbon, Yasuda, Gari for Sushi. Have (Good) Food, Will Travel.

                                  2. Dolores, Tung Hoy closed about a year ago. We used to go there when I was a kid for "American Chinese" (chicken lo mein) when it was in the Stop & Shop shopping center. There was an excellent chinese restaurant in that location in the '80's, Tung Hoy took over at some point and they had upgraded their food. But the last time I was there, I said never again. The atomsphere was like a coffee shop and the food was awful. I have also never had a good meal at Hunan Larchmont. My brother is coming to town, he loves Chinese. We've gone to Aberdeen several times, would like to try something different (we loved Hunan Village) - any suggestions? We can go to Goldenrod, it is good, but somehow doesn't feel special enough. They do have a bar, however.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: pobo

                                      pobo, I 'think' I recall someone saying that Hunan Village again has a good chef.

                                      However, I'm not brave enough to try either it or Imperial Wok.

                                      Until then, I would still recommend Bao's in the old White Plains Mall, where Kam Sen is.