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Home / Articles / Food / Restaurant Reviews /  J. Wong’s Asian Bistro
Restaurant Reviews

J. Wong’s Asian Bistro

Wong Song: Hitting high notes of food, service and ambiance at J. Wong’s Asian Bistro.

By Ted Scheffler
Posted // April 15,2009 - “You will be called upon to celebrate some good news.” That was the fortune lodged in the Peking Noodle Co. cookie I received at the end of a tasty lunch the other day at J. Wong’s Asian Bistro in the Patrick Lofts building next to the Hotel and Club Elevate. Maybe the good news I’m called upon to celebrate is simply the happy addition of J. Wong’s to the downtown dining scene.

Great service can remedy many a restaurant flaw. Well, I’m happy to report that, although the service I’ve experienced at the newly opened J. Wong’s Asian Bistro has been nothing short of awesome, the flaws are very few and far between. I wrote recently in Food Matters that I was less than nuts about the Philly cheese-stuffed wontons which were a component of J. Wong’s lunch specials, but they’ve since been replaced on the lunch menu with a crisp Buddha spring roll (although you can still order the cheese-filled wontons as an appetizer). Aside from that, I found the egg-drop soup to be a bit unusual and untraditional: filled with peas, carrots, corn, noodles and even beans. Not that it didn’t taste good; it’s just that it wasn’t what I think of normally when I think of egg-drop soup, which usually consists of not much more than broth, egg, soy and a hint of vinegar.

Otherwise, my experiences at J. Wong’s have been just peachy—virtually flawless. The restaurant itself is beautiful. The tables are highly lacquered works of art; expensive, ornate but contemporary wooden lamps hang from the ceiling, providing just enough light to read the menu; rust-colored walls contribute to the soothing feel of the place, while Buddha Bar-style music adds a lively, hip vibe. There’s an attractive bar with half a dozen seats to gather at while waiting for a table or just to dine a tad more informally. In short, the design of J. Wong’s really rocks. It very much deserves to be called a bistro.

The menu is a blend of Thai and Chinese dishes. The Wong family is originally from China but emigrated to Thailand and then to Utah. That’s lucky for us, as this is some of the best Asian cuisine you’ll encounter here. Brothers Jesse, Josh, Jordan and Jason (who does the cooking) run the restaurant along with their mother, Kwan Wong, who makes appearances when she’s not working at her Bountiful eatery, China Platter. “We’ve had that restaurant for 22 years,” said Jordan. “And there are certain dishes we can’t change.” So the new J. Wong’s Asian Bistro is, in part, a chance for the Wongs to experiment with more contemporary flavors, in a setting where ham fried rice isn’t by default the most popular item on the menu.

To take the temperature of the place, one of the first dishes I ordered at J. Wong’s was a baseline dish of Kung Pao shrimp ($13)—and it was sensational. The dish is fairly routine at Chinese restaurants here, but at J. Wong’s, it reached the high notes I remember from eating it in New York City’s Chinatown restaurants. Crisp but tender sautéed shrimp (loads of them) mingle with scallions and dried red chili pods in a spicy soy-based sauce. The dish is then topped with a generous amount of crunchy fried peanuts, making the texture as appealing as the bold flavors.

Another shrimp dish—walnut shrimp—was simply sublime ($8.50 at lunchtime). J. Wong’s offers a value-laden $8.50 lunch special which includes a choice of main dish from an extensive selection (21 options), plus egg-drop or hot-and-sour soup, a spring roll and a choice of white, brown or ham-fried rice. The portions are extremely generous. My velvet-shrimp dish included eight very large shrimp coated in a glistening, lacquer-like glaze with just a hint of citrus. As with the Kung Pao, these shrimp were tender inside, crunchy and almost brittle outside, and served on a bed of light, crisp rice noodles, then topped off with subtly sweet candied walnuts. Incredible.

J. Wong’s Asian Bistro is a lesson in quality control, and I’ve been duly impressed so far by the service. Particularly outstanding is a server named Chad—soft-spoken but well informed, with a professional tableside manner that is far too rare. So I guess I wasn’t so surprised to learn that he’d moved here from New York City, where he worked at Mario Batali’s Esca restaurant, among others. Chad’s finesse helped to turn a very good dining experience into an extraordinary one.

On the Thai side of the menu, I highly recommend the Panang salmon ($18) which is two large, crisp deep-fried salmon filets infused with lovely coconut and peanut flavors. The dish was way more than two of us could finish at dinner and, unfortunately, doesn’t reheat too well (the fish gets soggy), so order accordingly. Another dish—one that made for great leftovers—was the Thai basil beef ($12): impossibly tender slices of lean beef cooked in a classic, fragrant Thai basil sauce. Both of these Thai offerings were splendid, the only sour note being that rice doesn’t automatically come with J. Wong’s dinner entrees. Inexplicably, it’s extra. Perhaps that has to do with the skyrocketing price of rice in the past year.

One of the more eye-popping and tastebud-pleasing desserts I’ve enjoyed in a long time was chef Jason Wong’s deep-fried wonton “purses,” one filled with banana and the other with cheesecake, drizzled with dark chocolate and served with coconut ice cream. All in all, there’s just not much that is wrong at Wong’s. 

J. WONG'S ASIAN BISTRO
163 W. 200 South
801-350-0888

 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // August 12,2011 at 12:16 I love J Wongs. Having spent significant time in China and Taiwan, this is by far the best asian food I have found in Utah. The atmosphere is really appealing, the service is great, and the food is top notch. I love it.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // May 2,2010 at 18:26

J Wongs is great,the negative post must be a competator

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // May 18,2009 at 20:06

I have eaten at J. Wong's Servel times now and I have been very impressed each time that I have eaten there. The Walnut shimp is amazing. I have never eaten anything like before in my life. The basil beef has turned into my new favorite dish. Recently my mother came up from Las Vegas. I took my mother to J. Wong's for Mother's day. We had a group of 6 poeple and we ordered about 7 dishes. All of which were fantastic. We were all very pleased to eat there in fact, my mother's best freind's husband ate all the left overs the next morning... She was very disappointed. I can't wait to eat there again. Thanks to Ted Scheffler opening my eyes to this awesome restaurant.

Douglas Adams

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // May 15,2009 at 17:58

Really??? I hate being negative about a local business, but this not only was the worst Asian food I've ever had, but among the worst food I've eaten period.

Honestly, Panda Express looks like a gourmet dining experience compared to this. The Hot & Sour soup was over-spiced & had no balance of flavors. The beef was bland & soggy. The shrimp was spoiled. Chicken was entirely unseasoned. Every dish is swimming in flavorless sauce.

I truly hope the chef(s) can correct this menu and be successful, but with the food I ate I would hate anyone visiting SLC to dine here and believe this is what our food is like.

 

Posted // September 5,2009 at 19:53 - Either you have your head up your ass or you have absolutely no taste in food. Check with your doctor to see if you have any taste buds on your tongue!

 

 
 
 
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