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Panda Wok Answers the Need for Chinese

Parsippany Road eatery offers serviceable Chinese food and some delicious surprises on Christmas Day and every day.

Sometimes Chinese food is the only thing that will do. We experienced that recently when a craving for the Asian cuisine hit hard. The sudden yearning was one that wouldn't dissipate: We wanted Chinese food in large quantities for a little money, and we wanted it right away. Thankfully, we were in the vicinity of a restaurant that we suspected would get the job done: Panda Wok.

Located on Parsippany Road in the Green Hill Shopping Center, the easily accessible eatery boasts a neon sign in its window that says carryout is available. While that is true, there are plenty of tables on the inside, so if your jones requires immediate fulfullment, you can satisfy it right there on the premises. Because the restaurant offers the occasional surprise while making the process of satisfying a craving so easy and painless, we've chosen Panda Wok as this week's Bites Nearby.

Each week, Patch picks a great restaurant either in town or nearby that is worth checking out. Here's this week's choice:

 is not about to win any style points for its decor. Really, there isn't any. It's the usual Chinese restaurant whose main adornments are large stock photos of its main menu items. But who cares? Are we here to look or to eat?

When it comes to the food, you'll find typical low-budget Chinese and American specialties. It's doubtful the victuals will score any honors, but again, who cares?  The food is at worst serviceable, and when coping with a craving or a quick bite, serviceable works.

Panda Wok has the requisite expansive menu covering fast-food items such as fried chicken with French fries or fried rice varieties, the traditional won ton, hot and sour and egg drop soups, appetizers (including the standard stuff: spare ribs in that overly sweet but mysterious red sauce, egg and spring rolls, shrimp toast, skewered beef and the PuPu platter for two filled with an array of mostly deep-fried apps).

And then there are the entrees: Like any respectable neighborhood Chinese restaurant, Panda Wok features everything from your chow and lo meins to egg foo young and chow mai fun, along with standard beef, chicken, seafood and vegetarian dishes in pints and quarts. One can also enjoy lunch- and dinner-sized combo platters for under $8 that include pork fried rice and an egg roll.

The rest of the menu offers fancier items covering Szechuan, Mandarin and Cantonese specialties. The prices, however, are in reach for regular Joes. These entrees range from a mere $8.95 (General Tso's chicken, a surprisingly delicious and tender Peking pork chop) to a high of $13.25  (Seafood Delight, the multi-meat melange that is Seven Stars around the Moon).

And you may find yourself pleasantly surprised: The fresh, flavorful and perfectly prepared shrimp toast turned out to be the best (and quite a value at only $3.25). And our shrimp in lobster sauce entree offered generous amounts of the shellfish, huge slices of (regrettably canned) mushrooms and a comfortably mild sauce at only $6.15. 

Let's just say that our craving was quieted successfully, and the wallet was happy too.

Panda Wok, 184 Parsippany Road, 973-884-2555. Open Monday through Thursday 10:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10:30 a.m. until 11 p.m. and Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. (And, yes, Virginia, it's open Christmas Day, management says, from approximately noon until 8 p.m.) Delivery and catering services are available. Major credit cards accepted.

About this column: Each Thursday, Patch takes a look at a local eatery worth checking out.

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