The wok must indeed be grand at this five-year-old restaurant to accommodate the close to 100 items on the menu. And that does not include the 35 Peking-style dishes listed in Chinese on a separate menu.
And grand could also apply to the restaurant's entrance -- a wide, quarry-tiled foyer with a half-circle pool where carp swim lazily over coins thrown in with a wish.
In the comfortable dining areas, natural earth tones predominate with one persimmon-colored wall hung with big Chinese watercolor paintings. A separate bar area, centrally located like an interior patio, features a handsome wooden bar with as many curves as a dancing dragon in a Chinese New Year's parade.
More attractive than the setting, however, is the price of a whole Peking duck -- $13.95. It is carved at the table and comes with eight pancakes, slivered scallions and plum sauce. The one we ordered was not quite as sweet as the best we've eaten, but the difference is trifling when you consider the usual $17 to $20 price tag for this dish.
Beyond the economical duck there is little that this restaurant does to make it stand out from many other serviceable Chinese dining places.
Perhaps ordering from the separate Chinese menu would produce more outstanding results, but my experience with the regular menu yielded only some good, but not memorable, dishes.
The appetizers are divided into hot and cold selections. There are some intriguing possibilities for cold appetizers -- spicy, sweet and sour cabbage salad, soft noodles with sesame sauce and a very successful fragrant duck, marinated and cooked in a sweet soy marinade with anise undertones.
Unfortunately, two hot appetizers weren't nearly as good. The steamed shrimp cake was only so-so, and the fried won tons were dreadfully dried out and greasy.
Our best entree choices were the whole steamed halibut and the bean curd Hunan style. The mild fish, cooked until just translucent, with long strips of ginger root and short dashes of green scallions, was bathed in a soy-based sauce for added flavor. In the other dish, the firm but bland triangles of bean curd got a lift from a spicy, rich brown sauce flecked with black beans and green scallions. Although listed under vegetables, this dish also included pieces of stir-fried pork.
Other dishes listed as spicy, however, barely qualified, such as the kung pao lamb and the orange beef. Tell the waiter when you want extra spiciness.
A fried flavor dominated a bland minced chicken with pine nuts. Large leaves of head lettuce are used to wrap a mixture of chicken, vegetables, pine nuts and ultra-thin, transparent rice noodles. The taste wasn't worth the work.
For dessert, there is a choice of ice cream, fresh or canned fruit, and fried bananas filled with sweet bean paste.
The service at the Grand Wok is reasonably good and, except for a few signs of age, the spacious setting is attractive and comfortable. However, this is a restaurant where one has to pick and choose carefully to get the kitchen's best efforts. I would toss a coin in the Grand Wok's wishing pool for a menu that more consistently rises above the ordinary.