Restaurant Review - Wok this way

Indian and Chinese fuse at Hot Wok

Whether you call it "pan-Pacific," "East meets West" or "eclectic," culinary fusion typically draws on elements from European and Asian cuisines. Hot Wok's unique take on the fusion concept sticks to the Southeast Asia region. But it veers from the norm by combining Indian flavors with the familiar noodles, rice, vegetables and meat found in Chinese cuisine for an exotic blend of tastes and smells not found in more common Szechuan and Manchurian meals.

Located in the Friday's Plaza along Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, the restaurant is tucked away in a strip mall with Japanese restaurants, various shops and a strip club. Step inside and you are confronted with a sedate, no-frills dining experience complete with piped-in Indian music and a gracious wait staff.

But then you have to deal with the confusing menu. One page lists specialties from India, with chicken, shrimp, fish and vegetarian subcategories. Flip to the next page and many of the same items appear under similar subheads, but with no "Chinese specialty" heading. When asked, the server explained that there was no difference between the "Indian" and the "Chinese" dishes. So the two regions are separated for no reason, which makes for a head-scratching ordering experience.

Despite the Indian influence, you'll still find standard Chinese choices such as egg drop, hot & sour or wonton soups ($2.50 each) and spring rolls ($1.50). But chicken pekoras ($5.95) and baby corn bhazzia ($4.95) also surface. We ordered Szechuan and regular spring rolls to compare the two. There was no difference. Both were deep-fried wraps stuffed with vegetables and served with a spicy green dipping sauce. The sauce was gripping in its combination of a tangy vinegar base and green chile spiciness. An excellent accompaniment.

For entrees, we chose shrimp fried rice ($6.75) and sesame chicken ($7.95). And for a more Indian influence, we picked mixed vegetables with hot black garlic ($7.95), though the fried prawns ($12.95) and hakka noodles ($7.25) were tempting.

The sesame chicken, with its coating of sweet-and-sour sauce, was tasty but not quite crispy enough. The real performers were the fried rice and the vegetables with hot black garlic. The mixed veggies include green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, snow peas, carrots, bamboo shoots and onions. The black garlic sauce didn't seem spicy at first, but crept up on the palate. The fried rice was rich with eggs and the typical veggies; a spicy vinegar, pepper and citrus sauce was available for an extra kick.

Hot Wok carries an assortment of ice cream — including green tea and mango — to end the meal. The mango scoop was blended with actual chunks of fruit. The fortune from the cookie perched atop our dessert wished us good luck and long success. The same goes for Sidney Chang and his restaurant, which raises the bar for Chinese food in Atlanta.??