Chop Chop Wok, which opened in Karachi’s Khadda Market a little over a year ago, inaugurated a second and bigger branch on Khayaban e Badr, just recently. Designed much like the international food chain Wagamama, Chop Chop Wok also has a minimalist approach to décor with wooden community benches, bar stools and dining around an open kitchen, where food is prepared in front of your eyes. It is almost impossible to walk in and get a table though. The crowds have been thronging to the newly opened restaurant with waiting lines queuing up and out of the main entrance, onto the parking lot. The waiting is long and arduous (they don’t make reservations) but is this commitment and dedication to consuming one meal worth it, you may be inclined to ask. Our experience of Chop Chop Wok was average at best. The wok was not quite worth it.
Six of us arrived at CCW at 7pm on a Saturday evening, hoping to get there before the crowds descended. No such luck. It took us half an hour to get a table, which is fine, because the madness reassured us of the quality of food that was about to be served, or so we thought.
Chop Chop Wok has a limited menu with selective items that fall under the bracket of Pan-Asian Fusion. We selected the Thai Beef Salad and Sticky Chicken Wings for diversity. The Thai Beef Salad, one has to say, was below average. Served in a tiny quarter plate it featured several inadequate slivers of beef on a bed of irregularly cut onions, cucumbers and bean sprouts. It was insufficient and unsatisfying.
One has tasted Thai Beef Salad all over the world and even in Karachi – at the Noodle House or Fuschia – it is abundant and packed with flavor. Devoid of coriander or enough tanginess to suffice, this was a huge let down. The wings were much better but again, nothing to write home about. These wings allowed the meal to flutter a little but not enough for it to take a full flight on our taste buds.
Next up, the main course came from a ‘build your own bowl’ menu. You could choose your base – from options that included jasmine rice, brown rice, udon noodles, rice noodles and more. The choice of flavors spanned the Pan-Asian belt, offering Thai, Cantonese, Oriental, Japanese, etc. And finally, proteins offered beef, prawn, chicken and fish. Additional ingredients could be chosen from a selection of dried tofu, corn, mushrooms and various complimentary options. We also ordered two servings of stir fried veggies, which turned out to be the best part of the main course.
We were six people and all our bowls looked the same, despite nearly all of them being different. The brown rice was over cooked and broken, instead of having the long grained, puffy perfection that they’re expected to. There were green onions and carrots in every bowl and the only thing differentiating one sauce from another was the level of spice. It was overall too salty and too unappealing. The noodles we ordered were al dente to a point of being inedible. Over anxious waiters scurried around, forgetting to restock the cutlery or take a new order. It was all quite haphazard.
The dessert, fortunately, made up for the inadequacy of the meal. In what was, we assume, the same chocolate cake available at Nando’s (Shama’s) and we ended our meal with a satisfied smile on our faces. And then carrying our take away order (because we had predetermined that it would be so good) we rushed out because there were several families glaring at us for our table.
Was dining at Chop Chop Wok worth the wait and the hype? One would have to say, no. Perhaps the newly opened restaurant is facing teething problems that the management will sort out with time. Perhaps the management will realize that there are people who have experienced Pan Asian cuisine before and can draw a comparison between good and average food. And perhaps the management will install a credit card machine so diners can pay at convenience instead of cash only (which is extremely unprofessional). Chop Chop Wok will have to implement a whole lot of new rules and modified recipes if it wants to retain its initial hype.