Attention, Brunonia: The “coming soon” sign at 108 Waterman St. has finally been removed. After over a year of construction, Wong’s Kitchen is now open.
The new pan-Asian restaurant opened its doors on Mar. 1, moving in next to popular bubble-tea shop Kung Fu Tea. Once home to a cigar shop, the location has been completely renovated. Now it houses a simple and well-lit dining space with booths and tables flanked by an open kitchen on one side and a view of Waterman on the other. Customers place their orders at the register, where the extensive menu is listed in a colorful font. Restaurant owner and manager Tom Wong usually staffs the register, greeting customers with a cheerful smile.
Wong — who owns and operates another restaurant, Wong Dynasty, in Holden, Mass. — described Wong’s Kitchen as a “homier” branch of his eatery chain. He decided to establish Wong’s Kitchen on Waterman after noting the large student community on College Hill and the lack of Asian eateries around Brown’s campus. “We always loved this area,” Wong said. “And at the time, I didn’t see that many Chinese restaurants here, like the one we have … Even right now, I don’t see any restaurants like that, like a one-stop shop. We’ve got everything.”
The Kitchen is indeed a “one-stop shop,” serving fare from Vietnam, Japan and China, including pho, wonton soup, teriyaki, hibachi and traditional staples like General Tso’s chicken and fried spring rolls. Customers can also mix and match one, two or three sides and pair them with fried rice or noodles to create a “special.” “It’s like a combination, a fusion” of cuisines, Wong said, adding that the restaurant menu might expand in the future to include other types of food, like sushi.
While many of its options are pricier than meals at University dining halls, the restaurant boasts exceptional service and a pleasant atmosphere. Menu items, however, vary in quality: The crab rangoons deliver a delightful crunch and ooze with a warm, tangy cheese. But the stir-fried beef tastes rather bland and watery. The beef pho, perfectly rich and flavorful, comes in a whopping serving size, but the fried rice — while not unappetizing — is only average. Ultimately, as long as customers choose their orders wisely, they are likely to be satisfied with their meal.
Providence’s selection of Asian eateries has been historically sparse. Wong’s Kitchen joins the ranks of new restaurants that have recently been capitalizing on this unfilled niche. Between the recent openings of Den Den Café Asiana, Kung Fu Tea, Tom’s Bao Bao — all of which took place over the course of the past three years — and the soon-to-be opened Korean Fried Chicken on Angell Street, Providence seems to be moving toward a greater variety of Asian cuisine — a welcome addition for many Brown students. “We have a lot of Asian people here (in Providence), … and I’m sure they want some Asian tastes,” Wong said. “They don’t want to eat burritos, or sandwiches … or pizza every day.”
The restaurant has been popular with the Brown community, Wong said. “Because we have … all different kinds of food, we can cover a lot of bases for the students around here,” he added. “And it’s fast for students, too; when they have tasks, they can come in, (and after) two minutes, three minutes, they can leave.” Despite the restaurant’s recent opening, Wong has been acquainted with multiple returning customers and says he knows “a lot of people already.”