One day when I was piecing together a meal from the value menu of Wendy’s in Scotia Plaza and waiting for my order of haphazard items, I glanced over at the steam table of the neighbour establishment to Wendy’s, Wikki Hut. The green signage and theme of course appeal to me (more than the modern orange-theme SenseAsian also in the same food hall) but so did the selection from the steam table.
The first hook was that there were two types of rice both looking so much more palatable than generic soya sauce-brown fried rice. And the names of the other items were less than the typical Black Bean Sauce, General Tso, Sweet & Sour, etc. In short order, I would be back.
The combinations available to you include Medley 1 (rice or noodle, 1 vegetable, 1 meat), Medley 2 (rice or noodle, 2 vegetable, 1 meat) and Medley 3 (rice or noodle, 1 vegetable, 2 meat). There was also a carb-free combination of the mango salad with a chicken dish.
While I decided which items to go with the first time, I was given a sample of Asado chicken which was so tender and flavourful. The friendly staff also asked me if I liked spicy and I lied and said no and was given a sample of a battered meat, now I can’t remember. It may have been mango chicken.
I went with Asado chicken rice, the tofu and eggplant as a vegetable and spicy garlic and chili fish. With few different colours on my plate and two fried items (tofu and fish), I knew I wasn’t being very healthy but you go with what calls you, you know? The tofu was a touch sweet and unfortunately drowning in oil. Conveniently because the tofu is like a sponge, I could squeeze out the excess oil. The cut of fish was also funny, like more so fried fish belly than the pricier meat pieces. The batter was nice and crispy and coated with the spices. The rice was a great take on the usual with a light Asado flavour and refreshing pieces of pineapple.
Asado is a barbecuing technique and considered to be the national dish in Argentina. The flavour is also popular in other South American countries and the Philippines.
Six days later when I wanted to buy lunch so as to not have to bring Tupperware when I was heading out of town immediately after work, of course I hit up Wikki Hut again. The mango salad caught my eye and they happily considered it a vegetable in a Medley 1 I had atop their Ecuadoran bean rice and with a heaping helping of Asado chicken.
The Ecuadoran bean rice pilaf was really good, moist but also with each graining falling away. The mango was a combination of ripe and underripe pieces and easily a whole mango, shredded for easy consumption. Since I finally got as much Asado chicken as my heart desired, I realized it really reminds me of the flavour of cha-siu, Chinese-style barbecued pork, but of chicken. It was easily one of my favourite lunches in a while.
They do have a very green selection of vegetables that I have not yet gotten around to trying since I can’t imagine their flavour is very distinctive but I might get one next time to show you.
For my third visit, I got a Medley 3 to sample more meats and I finally tried their broccoli! The broccoli was crunchier than I would like it but would suit the majority of the customers’ tastes. The cabbage stir-fried with the broccoli was undercooked in that the rib pieces were too hard. It was difficult to choose just two meats from the choice and I ordered Pebre (Chilean) Beef which looked dark and evil and Rio Chicken, which I stuck with. But you can always persuade me to have some seafood since I don’t cook it at home and I got the spicy-salty shrimp instead of beef. The spicy-salty shrimp was nothing new to me; the seasoning was mild and the batter was really soft. The shrimp was fresh and crunchy so it was fun to eat. The chicken was an adequate amount and each piece was so tender. Rio Chicken meant the barbecue glaze/sauce was smoky and spicy, overpowering the sweet barbecue I would normally dislike. Another really good lunch.
By the time I made my fourth visit, the pickings were slim for items I had not yet tried. I picked the noodle for the carb to try it although I would go for rice over “lo mein” noodles any day. Maybe they would surprise me and impress me. In assembling this Medley 3, I picked green beans, the last of the vegetables to try and my two meats were Pebre Beef and Mango Chicken (spicy). There was a reason why I hadn’t picked these items so far….
The noodles tasted floury and were the right chewiness for a steam table, that is, not mushy but not good at all. There was some orange colour but I don’t know how that came to be but it was not flavourful. The beans were very spartan and soft and later into the pile, I tasted some butter. It almost seemed like they had been frozen, lacking in flavour. Pebre is another Argentinean style but it was just peppery. The beef was tenderized like mad and the dish was very oily. Other than the nice bit of vegetables, the mango chicken was the next tastiest item in the medley. The batter was soaked through and the chicken pieces small but it was sweet and very mildly spicy.
All of the “worst” items in the last of four meals from Wikki Hut is unfortunate for this one lunch but not bad in terms of ratio of good items to not so good. I think Wikki Hut does chicken and their spicy-salty fish and rice really well. Mango salad as a side is a definitely a nice item for their combinations.
The major food hall Chinese restaurants are much more established and ubiquitous Manchu Wok and Szechuan Express, neither of which I would patronize. Wikki Hut brings a different flavour to the table. The flavours are inspired from elsewhere but cooked to Chinese tastes. The staff all seem to be friends and care about and are enthusiastic about the food and are friendly through busy during lunch hour rush.
Update (27 September 2012): Some days you just need to get far away from the office and wrap yourself in the comfort of food … you know? While in line, I asked to try Wikki Chicken which is another one of the battered chicken offerings with a slow burn and I felt my lips tingle a little a few minutes later. But I knew I wasn’t going to order it and go with a “sensible” and carb-free “Chicken Salad Medley” where you get a choice of a vegetable and a chicken. I wanted to be truly light and got mango but should have gone with a warm vegetable side like broccoli and it was a no-brainer to get Rio Chicken again because it is to tender and it has a touch of spice.
At $6.99, this combination costs more than a rice with two items (one of them vegetarian) so I think the value on this one was not good at all. This time, there was julienned red and green peppers in the salad but I didn’t eat them and once again the mango was large under-ripe.