Hi everyone! Apologies for the infrequent posting lately. In addition to just being busier than usual I was just on a 3000 mile road trip. Nothing particularly post-worthy to report food-wise, other than a taco bus in West Yellowstone, MT and more Mexican, a restaurant called the Red Iguana in Salt Lake City, UT. Both were awesome, check ’em out if you happen to pass through either place.
Back home, tonight I wanted something quick and tasty, preferably delivery or take out so I could get back home, relax and catch up on some TV. Prime Wok Express was the answer. This is a fast Chinese restaurant on Lonetree Blvd at the far north end of the giant shopping center in Rocklin where you’ll find RC Willey, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Blue Oaks Century. If you somehow can resist the aroma of unbelievably good BBQ that you have to drive through as you pass by Lucille’s Smokehouse, you will find yourself in a pretty ordinary business type area of the shopping center. Hidden in the back corner is Prime Wok Express. Years ago, before I started this blog, I happened upon the sign they often stick out near the entrance to the closest driveway and decided to check it out, and I’m glad I did.
I usually describe it as Panda Express, if Panda Express was really, really good, and if it was cooked when you ordered it. When you walk into Prime Wok Express, it clearly could have even been a Panda Express in an alternate universe. They have the heat tables and everything, they just don’t use them. Instead they have loads of supplies such as to-go boxes, utensils, fortune cookies, etc. and they use the counter for final prep before handing you your to-go bag. There are a lot of tables, and I’ve even eaten here a couple times, but dining in is really nothing special, this place is all about take-out in my opinion.
They have a pretty good sized menu, however if you go with a 2-item plate, as I always do, you have a much more limited selection of items to choose from. That’s really my only gripe with this place. Instead of the full 54 items, they have picked out 14 that you can have in the combo. That said, they’re still good. Tonight I went with the orange chicken and the kung pao chicken with chow mein as the side. The guy that took my order then met me around the corner of the counters at the register to pay. The total for this combo plate was $12.89 after tax. That probably seems a little steep, and the first couple times I came here I thought the same thing. When you get your food though, it makes more sense. I received my order in just over 5 minutes on this early Friday evening. They had 4 people working the kitchen, more than I’ve ever seen (though I often visit during off-hours), so it was a bit faster than normal, but they’re usually less than 10 so it’s pretty quick no matter what.
The standard-sized foam container is always heavy here. I decided to weigh it this time and found that it was a fraction of an ounce shy of three pounds. When I cracked it open the food was piled to the top and flattened out from when they squeezed it close. You really get a ton of food here, and that’s why $13 is no problem. This is easily 2-3 meals, which is great since Chinese food reheats so nicely.
As for the food itself, it’s easily the best fast Chinese food around. Some of the better sit down restaurants like Rose Garden, Leo’s Kitchen and Bambu are better quality but carry a higher price (and slower service if you’re in a hurry). With the orange chicken (and some other chicken items) you get a choice of light or dark meat. I went with light but one day I will give dark a shot, it kind of sounds like it would be amazing. This was super flavorful and the chicken very tender inside the still somewhat crisp shell of deep fried batter (it had about 15 minutes from being boxed up to me digging in, so it was a bit steamed on the way home, still good though). The kung pao chicken uses dark meat and is covered in a thick, dark and rich sauce. Big chunks of chopped zucchini, onions and a few peanuts make up this item. Chicken and zucchini are both very plentiful and tasty. It was not as spicy as the “spicy” warning on the menu might have you believe, but carries a nice little heat. I’m sure you could ask for more if desired since they cook it to order. The chow mein is one of the more delicious ones of any I’ve had, the noodles are dark and saturated with whatever dark sauce they are cooked in. It reminds me of how my Mongolian BBQ noodles turn out with the tons of sauce I use. Where chow mein is hit or miss at a lot of places, here since it’s freshly cooked up it’s better than most and very consistent.
Overall it’s probably one of my favorite take-out joints. If it were closer to home I’m sure I’d go a lot more.
2 thoughts on “AM5: Prime Wok Express”
Wow, okay, this is where we have wildly divergent opinions. I’ve been to Prime Wok Express, the first time 2 years ago on a recommendation, the last two times on the vain hope that it would somehow get better. Yes, they give you a lot of food; but if it isn’t any good, it is a pity. I don’t like the brown sauce everything seems to be doused in: it’s too salty and it overwhelms the flavor of the vegetables and meat. This is especially true of the faux Kung Pao and the chow mein.
[…] are in San Mateo, Berkley, Eureka and Reno. Today I decided I’d go grab some dinner at Prime Wok and hop over to Vampire Penguin for […]