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Magic Wok

In a word: Planets align so rare.

The specs: #00956

2044 Atwood Ave., Madison, WI 53704

Details at Yelp, Click to add a blog post for Magic Wok on Zomato
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JM ate the chicken mushroom.
Nichole ate the ma po tofu.
We split some crab rangoon.
The bill was $24, or $12/person, plus tip.
JM and Nichole both gave Magic Wok a B (see our grading rubric).

Magic Wok replaced Wong's Garden on Atwood in January 2014. Not a super lot has changed inside, as far as we could tell from our one previous visit. The food was pretty good - we'd go back for another game of Spot-the-Difference - which, as we go around the Wheel again, gets more and more common.

We soaked in the atmosphere as we waited, briefly, for our order to come up. The chairs and tables seemed to be the same, right down to the Italian-themed vinyl tablecloths. Adapting to the neighborhood's preferences, Magic Wok had posted handwritten signs all around advertising that they now had brown rice and delivery. The portly wooden Buddha statue still stood by the door, wearing just a loincloth and a beaded garland around his neck, prompting JM to blurt out (thankfully quietly) "We don't need to ask him where he got the beads."

Magic Wok carryout

So anyway. We got our order and went out to eat part of it while leaning against the car (when coming up with the day's itinerary, Nichole had misjudged how much could be packed into the stream of the evening). We snarfed the rangoon while they were still hot, crispy, and light - very good - and had a few forkfuls of each entree. The ma po tofu had a few more tough bits of red pepper than would have been ideal, but the tofu was silky and the flavor decent. The chicken mushroom was pretty good and the sauce was better than average, but the whole didn't quite come together as well as it should have.

Magic Wok feels like serviceable take-out and dine-in.  Madison stills wants for a great Chinese restaurant; Imperial Garden being the odds on favorite still. Magic Wok may be a step above Chang Jiang, but that's about it.


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Have you tried Ichiban yet? I dunno if it'd be *great* (the only great one Madison has had was the lamented China Palace, before Lao Sze Chuan in Chicago poached their head chef). Ichiban has always been pretty solid, though, although as is often the case with chinese restaurants, the "american" menu tends to be fried-meats-with-gloopy-sauce while the "chinese" menu is where the real gold is. If you're willing to try an appetizer of ox tongue in chili sauce or a blisteringly spicy dish with pickled chilis (or my personal favorite, cumin lamb) it can be rewarding. Have I had better sichuan food? Well, sure, but not anywhere that's going to deliver to my house.

D'oh, you have reviewed Ichiban. And I even commented on it. I guess those picled chilis rotted my brain.

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Listen to The Corner Table podcast "Remembering Restaurants," aired December 24, 2020, where Chris and Lindsay talk with us "about the menus and memories left behind when restaurants go away."

Madison Food coverInfo about our book Madison Food: A History of Capital Cuisine is here, or read it for free thanks to the library - print & ebook.



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