Beyond the Wok—A new face for Chinese food?
Landscapes are places where people visit daily, some of them we never pay much attention to since it became familiar to us. But even a slight change in the shape of the landscape can alter our mood or perceptions for the day, so how do landscapes make you feel?
Beyond the Wok Chinese restaurant is a place located a few blocks from downtown Auburn adjacent to the CVS on south college street. Despite having visited an abundance of eastern style Chinese restaurants in the area, I still get the sensation that this restaurant intrigues me in some way. For starters, the ceiling and the walls are painted orange to represent Auburn, there are slogans on the wall which read: “Go hit’em big blue!” and “Cheers for Auburn!”; the floor is moped clean with tables neatly organized into rows, hand sanitizers can be seen standing on top of every counter in the shop. It all indicates the cleanliness and the standard to which the food was prepared. In some similar restaurants instead of clean woks and backstage prep stations you can easily find food packages being place near raw food and some chefs picking up food from the ground and pours them into the wok again.
From the most direct way of approach, music chimes can be heard from every direction casting off the walls, light shadows hang to the walls as if they were cute animals. Utensils are neatly packed for each customer and the aroma of the fresh ingredients firing up in the wok was something which reminded me of home and how my mother used to cook. Since COVID-19 is still around there isn’t much of a customer base for dining in, most people would get takeout as the food tastes almost the same as on a plate. I caught some distant chatter between two people arguing what is the best way to use chopsticks, one said to hold it with one hand and slice through the food, the other defended that one stick in each hand can serve as a fork and a knife. The atmosphere seemed light.
Since we are both ethnically Chinese, I spoke in mandarin about the restaurant with the owner, he told me the only thing he is trying to improve is the visibility of the workstations to the customers. He plans to install windowpanes in front of those woks so the customers can see how their food is prepared. He further stated that he had visions for the restaurant that some day in the future it will become the most amazing joint near downtown Auburn. Their chef’s dedication to the authenticity of the dishes will for sure impress anyone looking for an home style cooking and dining experience. In the past when I relate to the word “Chinese Restaurant” I always think of people from Hong Kong or Fuzhou trying their best to speak English to their customers and the prep stations are always a mess. However, this restaurant hired some Auburn locals as servers so there would not be a translation issue. This small joint almost unnoticeable to the eye completely changed my perception, I sincerely hope it will alter the traditional views of the westerners to Chinese food as cheap and horrible to swallow to the new standard of Chinese cooking and hospitality.