For nine years, the popular but rather ordinary Chinese eatery held its own in the La Paloma Shopping Center, just a chopstick away from the Conoco pumps. But the old Andy's Wok has undergone a magical transformation. For diners who remember that little green dining room and the cramped carry-out area by the bar, the new Andy's Wok may be a shock.
Since earlier this year, when owner Carol Wu moved the restaurant (named for her brother, the restaurant's first chef, who is now retired in Taiwan) to more spacious digs in the high-glamour strip across the street, Andy's Wok has received a serious fashion makeover. What was once a frumpy suburban matron is now a sleek, sophisticated, and expensively clad Vogue model. The new, improved Andy's Wok (which reportedly cost over a million dollars) more accurately reflects the style of its tiny, fashion-conscious owner: The Taiwan-born Wu wore taffeta gowns and tight silk sheaths even at the old place.
"She's the Loretta Young of Chinese-restaurant owners," gushed my friend Craig, who loved to go to the old Andy's Wok just to see what sensational ensemble Wu might be wearing. Even dashing out of the kitchen on the loftiest of spike-heel pumps, carrying a plate of pork lo mein in one manicured hand and a platter of steamed dumplings in the other, Wu managed to look like a well-coiffed movie star.
The new Andy's Wok, tucked into the MGM of strip centers (the still-unfinished The Fountains, where concrete lion heads spurt streams of water from the entrance signs), is a more dazzling setting for Wu, who swept through the dining room one night dressed in a cream-colored silk number embroidered with tiny mirrors and, a few nights later, a floor-length black strapless dress, her pale shoulders covered with a filmy chiffon scarf.
"She wears a size 0," said my friend Barbara. "I wonder if she ever eats anything."
Wu may not eat much, but I certainly did on several visits to the three-month-old restaurant, where most of the traditional Chinese and Chinese-American dishes remain from the old Andy's Wok menu, along with a few new things, including a separate menu for diners wanting more authentic Chinese fare (you might have to ask your server to see it).
The food isn't as exotic as the decor, which is really striking. Diners move from the slate-tiled foyer through a circular doorway and across a glass-brick bridge over a little pond filled with 13 gold and white koi ("They all have names and they know their names," Wu said proudly, "but I don't remember what the names are"). The three dining rooms contain tables cloaked in white linen and starched mauve napkins, and twinkly ceilings with panels of opalescent stained glass.
"Pretty fancy joint," said Barbara, as she glanced at the menu to make sure neither the dishes nor the prices had gotten too fancy in the makeover. They haven't. In fact, of the 165 entrées on the regular menu, only a handful cost more than $11 -- for example, the whole Peking duck ($22) or the same duck "served three ways" (wrapped in rice pancakes, sautéed with bean sprouts, and steaming in duck soup; $30).
All the old standbys are there, including Chinese-American innovations that a native of China or Malaysia wouldn't recognize but American diners have loved for years: a crispy fried egg foo yong smothered in that ubiquitous "brown sauce" ($8.95), chop suey ($8.95), and chow mein ($8.95).