Is a rice bowl ever just a rice bowl? Well this is certainly not the case at Wok by 4900. This newcomer to the Poblacion food scene revamps everyday mainstays such as rice toppings and grilled meats by combining them in delicious and inventive rice bowl combinations. Who would have ever thought of doing such a thing to stir fry?
The theme of unusual and fun combinations is evident even from the ambiance of the establishment itself; Wok by 4900 has the features of a casual dining restaurant with its relaxed and cozy seating arrangements on the ground floor, the roof deck and a small private dining area. On the other hand, the well stocked and colorful bar on one side of the room is sure to beckon to diners’ palates, or at least visual interest.
On our visit here, it took us some time to decide on our dinner owing to the intriguing menu offerings, ranging from a duck congee bowl all the way to a ‘breakfast of champions’ bowl featuring breakfast meats such as Spam with egg and fried rice. Eventually Lee ordered a full “Tokyo” bowl which consisted of fried rice with shitake mushrooms and bell pepper, topped with strips of nori and pickled vegetables, as well as beef and chicken skewers. Since I was in a more adventurous mood I opted for the ‘build your own bowl’ menu, and was immediately presented with a checklist of various stir fry bases, meats, toppings, and sauces. Never did I think that a stir fry place would consider adding bacon, chicharron, and kimchi to its dinner-time fare! I eventually picked out a relatively tame combination of stir fried flat noodles with string beans, leeks, tofu and Mongolian sauce, topped with a pork skewer and garlic.
The Tokyo bowl was cooked in the same manner as Chinese stir-fry, but it was also reminiscent of the Japanese fried rice kamameshi. The result was a delicate flavor with a hint of nuttiness combined with spice. The skewers were flavorful and juicy, and far from charred or overcooked. The only thing detracting from the harmony of this dish was the overt sourness of the pickled vegetable topping. As for my attempt at building my own bowl, the effect it had on me was akin to the experience of the critic consuming his first bite of ratatouille in the Pixar film of the same name. One bite brought back vivid memories of a summer night in Bangkok, and sitting down to a hot and delicious plate of freshly stir fried rice noodles while taking in the sights and sounds of a busy marketplace. It has been years since I’ve tasted anything that has helped me recreate that experience.
Although we could not order any of the alcoholic drinks and cocktails, we were still impressed by the beverages selection, which includes house specialties and cocktails named after the various East and Southeast Asian cuisines that have also inspired the rice bowl combinations on the menu. Nevertheless we did enjoy their iced tea, which had just the right amount of lemon sourness combined with sweetness. The bar also serves water in brightly colored glass bottles, an interesting change to the usual glass carafe.
This place left such an impression such that I wound up returning here with a large group of friends the very next evening. This time, in addition to building yet another bowl, this time with rice, adobo gravy, siomai, chicharron and scrambled egg, I also tried one of the dessert offerings: deep fried Cloud 9 chocolate. Like some deep fried concoctions this was served still piping hot with a puffy shell around it. This dish tasted just as one would expect it to: a sticky, sickly sweet gooey Cloud 9 bar. Thankfully there was the option of having ice cream to help balance out the sweetness.
As of now Wok by 4900 is still on soft launch. We look forward to returning here and seeing what other quirky and creative combinations will soon be in store.
The Food Score: 4/5: The set rice bowls here are filling and well balanced both in flavor as well as in terms of ingredients. In addition to stir fry there are other bar chow specialties on the menu for those who are in the mood for something lighter.
Ambiance/Service Score: 4.5/5: As small as this place is, there are still aple arrangements for solo diners as well as small groups. The staff are very accommodating and the food is served quickly and hot. On the whole, the ambiance here is quirky but casual, perfect for a laid back dinner before heading out for a night on the town.
GERD Score: 4/5. One good thing about the place, even if they’re set up as a pub, is that, there are plenty of options and flexibility for people who have to deal with heartburn, especially with the build your own bowl. It’s worth checking the place out to have a good time and not worry about the burps after.
Epilepsy Score: 4.5/5:.The fact that there’s an option to build one’s own bowl here is a boon; diners can mix and match ingredient in accordance to their tastes and health considerations. However the stir fry bases all contain starch or gluten, which may not be feasible for some diners. The non-alcoholic beverage selection is of course limited, but at least there is free flowing water here.
Team Glasses Score: 4/5. While there are some quirks that need to be worked out, as is the case with new restaurants, we are looking forward to having even greater dining experiences during our next visits. This is a place to go for quiet nights out as well as big group gatherings; in short, it’s ready for whatever party one has in store.