Photograph by KATHY TRAN.
EOn Christmas Day itself, David Romano and his family were eating Chinese food in New York City.
President of the Local Favorite Restaurants group and creator of traditional restaurants, Romano found a special place in his heart for Chinese cuisine and culture, which he experienced in Chinatown.
But there was one thing Romano lacked in these Chinese restaurants.
“They’re not that fun,” he says.
Following this current of thought, Chinese Wok Star was born. It combines Chinese cuisine with a fun atmosphere and American style service.
Intense rock’n’roll-inspired pop art covers one wall of the restaurant, while Chinese artifacts sit on shelves and hang nearby.
From the dining room, you can see Chef Charlie pulling noodles by hand. He learned how in China, studying for six months with another chef.
He often dances while pulling the noodles. On Wok Star’s opening night, the chef was seated in the center of the dining room, dancing while working the dough.
“If you come and don’t have the Charlie show, then you have to make sure you come back the second time around and get the Charlie show,” Romano says.
The music playing at the Wok Star comes from an ever-growing 34-hour private playlist on Spotify, managed by Romano’s 13-year-old daughter, Mia. During a meal, guests can hear everything from Nirvana and Grandmaster Flash to Taylor Swift and Usher.
The menu is authentically Chinese, says Romano. There are four hand drawn noodle options. Chef Charlie’s favorite is Dan Dan La Mian. Classic options of chicken, pork, beef, and seafood are dotted around the menu in the form of fried rice, moo shu, and sweet and sour. Bao rolls and handmade dumplings are also menu stars.
“It would be a travesty if people came to the Wok Star and didn’t order at least one version of dumplings,” says Romano.
The menu focuses on full-size entrees, but Romano plans to incorporate dim sum cart service.
Wok Star has also developed its cocktail menu, with musical references complementing the range of drinks. The gin-based Radioactive comes with smoke bubbles. The I’m Too Sexy is made with Deep Eddy Lime and Sour Patch Kids. And the Like a Virgin Mocktail is made with strawberry, club soda and heavy cream.
Romano was initially reluctant to bring Wok Star to The Hill. The Preston Hollow resident was skeptical of his appeal to neighborhoods across the Central Freeway. But even before the restaurant opened, those fears were allayed.
The hype around Wok Star was built almost entirely from Facebook posts shared among residents of Lake Highlands, and when the restaurant only opened for delivery, there were nights when they had to stop taking orders. because there were too many, said Romano. When the doors finally opened in July, the restaurant was inundated with customers.
“I underestimated the Lake Highlands community how much they support a new restaurant,” he says.
Chinese Wok Star, wokstarchinese.com, 972.961.1168, 8041 Walnut Hill Lane