Dining on a budget: Wang’s in Monrovia

By Lafayette C. Hight Jr.

Entering Wang’s was, well, interesting.

There’s neither a service counter inside nor a podium of any sort, so while standing at the entrance for about many minutes I thought I’d been accidentally dipped in invisible ink.

Maybe there actually were only a handful people working that night, but the half-empty dining room - which had only about six tables occupied – didn’t seem to warrant the lack of attention.

Eventually we did manage to catch someone’s curiosity and found ourselves at a table, where we perused the menu and decided upon the Mandarin dinner, at $13.95 per person, which included a choice of soup and two entrees and some appetizers.

There were two of us, so the meal seemed a perfect fit. We opted for Hot and Sour Soup to start things off. When it arrived I was a bit worried because it came with a very strong smell of sesame oil. I was happy when I tasted it, though, to discover that it was the same soup I’m familiar with.

Shortly afterward, a plate with wontons, egg rolls and foil-wrapped chicken showed up.

It was here that I discovered that Wang’s food seemed to only have one temperature. Hot. Screaming hot. Hot enough that Dante might have seen it served in the inner ring of the seventh circle.

It’s almost as if the temperature was supposed to take your mind off the fact that the food was lacking in the flavor department.

Had my eyes been closed, it would have been difficult to tell the difference between the vegetable egg roll, the wonton and the fried wonton skins that were delivered as an appetizer  - tasting kind of like deep-fried paper. The small piece of baked chicken, however, was pretty good. The problem was that it was minuscule, about the size of my thumb.

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Then the entrees arrived. The best part of the entrees was the shrimp. Not the whole dish, but the individual crustaceans. So it became a bit of a race to see who could get the most shrimp, without being obvious that we were trying to out-shrimp each other.

I was also trying to figure out why the chow mein arrived in a pie plate. Not the tin type, but a glass pie plate, while the beef dish had a normal serving dish.

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But I couldn’t even think about that, as I was busy attempting to perform a miracle with the soy sauce (red, not green), salt and pepper that were on the table.

I figured out the right proportion after about 10 minutes – a splash of soy sauce, three shakes of pepper – to add at least a semblance of taste to the dishes.

I have to admit, that what I did like about Wang’s was that the restaurant has a full bar with some pretty decent drinks, not typically found in Chinese restaurants in the Valley.

And by the end of the night, I needed one.

Wang’s is located at 120 E. Lemon Ave. in Monrovia. For information, call (626) 303-3071.