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First Wok's Chinese dishes burst with flavor

Perched on the edge of Heights Plaza on Leader Heights Road, First Wok hides among the umbrella of trees in the parking lot. Those trees barely provided shade a dozen years ago when I last visited what was a staple of my old life.

Inside, little else has changed, save the waitstaff and owner, now Ryan Zheng.

My husband and I make our way to the table, set among familiar décor of Chinese art and covered in familiar red tablecloths. Music filling the room is Top 40-esque, the only unusual change from years' past. A group of four businessmen dine at one table, and most of the other customers are couples, filling more than half of the tables at 6:30 p.m. on a Wednesday.

The thick menu hits the standard high points of Chinese cuisine and some surprises: bean curd Szechuan style, shrimp with black bean sauce, Champagne chicken, tangerine chicken, and seafood sizzling platter.

It doesn't matter. Thick or thin, we have our favorites.

But first, hot tea and crispy noodles with duck sauce. My husband typically inhales the entire bowl of noodles with some tea, but I have something much better in mind: the scallion pancake ($4.75). This was a standard appetizer of mine at First Wok, back when I lived closer to the restaurant, before I met my husband. He had never tried it.

Slivered scallions are rolled into thin sheets of dough, which are layered, pressed together, and fried into a flaky "pancake" about an inch thick and the size of an appetizer plate, sliced into six pieces. It's served with thin brown garlic sauce, which makes this dish so much better. Don't dip. Soak each slice for maximum taste.

It was a hit. I had two slices and my husband polished off the rest.

Dinner follows a familiar pattern for us. He typically eats some variation of duck. Tonight, he opts for sliced duck with mixed vegetables ($14.95), and I choose the Chicken with Broccoli ($9.25) because it has always been a winner.

In fact, Zheng said that chicken with broccoli and General Tso's chicken ($11.95) are two of the most often-requested meals at his restaurant along with wonton soup ($1.60) and the egg roll, spring roll or vegetable roll ($1.70).

After the appetizer, it will be a challenge just to finish the meals.

The sliced duck, moist and tender, comes with an array of vegetables — carrots, broccoli and snow peas — in a brown sauce. My husband finishes all of the meat and just a portion of the vegetables (that's a typical pattern).

Flavorful brown sauce also drenches the chicken with broccoli, which has generous portions of thin slices of poultry, quickly cooked for a melt-in-your mouth texture, beside tender stalks of broccoli. White rice comes on the side, but brown rice or fried rice can be substituted for $1 extra. We ask for a box to take half of my entrée home.

Fortune cookies finish off a satisfying meal and trip down memory lane. My fortune says: "Spring has sprung. Life is blooming."

It sure is.

If you go

Location: 180 Leader Heights Road, York, in Heights Plaza

Cuisine: Chinese

Kim's picks: Scallion pancake,$4.75 and Chicken with broccoli, $9.25

Parking: Lot

Hours: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday; 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday; 11:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Sunday

Price range: $1.60 for wonton or egg drop soup to $31 for Peking duck

Alcohol: No

Accepts: Cash and credit

Takeout: Yes

Kid's menu: No

Details: Call 717-741-3228 or visit