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Mama Wok, a Rockville-Based Chinese Mini-Franchise


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Lately my mom has developed a fondness for the cooking at Mama Wok, an area chain that's been around for a while (hey, a Phyllis Richman review from 1996?) but mostly off my radar. Having finally sampled the wares last night from their downtown Rockville location, I'd have to say that while perhaps not top-tier, it was very good for an inexpensive Chinese restaurant (most of which I avoid like the plague), and extremely useful for their arrangement of the entrees on their unified-language menu into sections for both Americanized and "Chinese Special" sections, so you could satisfy an broad variation of Chinese food expectations when dining with a mixed group.

Sorry, I'll have to follow up later with dish names since I can't recognize them from the names on the menu, but the soft noodles were good and ropey, while the stir-fry of beef and scallions over a next of crispy thin noodles did a remarkable job of emulating Mongolian lamb. Spice levels are mainstream northern Chinese...no fancy Szechuan work here, just homey dishes if you avoid the goopy-saucy-unauthentic sections of the menu.

I couldn't find websites for the two Rockville locations, but the downtown one is located in a strip mall to the right of the Giant, across Rt 355 from where N Washington St rejoins. It's next door to Atlantic Guns & Archery, if you know where that is. The other location is on the Dufief/Travilah side of town, in the old/new Rt 28 triangle where Key West Ave diverges from Darnestown Rd.

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I couldn't find websites for the two Rockville locations, but the downtown one is located in a strip mall to the right of the Giant, across Rt 355 from where N Washington St rejoins. It's next door to Atlantic Guns & Archery, if you know where that is. The other location is on the Dufief/Travilah side of town, in the old/new Rt 28 triangle where Key West Ave diverges from Darnestown Rd.

The "business bypass" where corn used to grow. Is Mama Wok where the medical building is? I think there's a CVS and a 7-11 in there as well.

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I couldn't find websites for the two Rockville locations, but the downtown one is located in a strip mall to the right of the Giant, across Rt 355 from where N Washington St rejoins. It's next door to Atlantic Guns & Archery, if you know where that is. The other location is on the Dufief/Travilah side of town, in the old/new Rt 28 triangle where Key West Ave diverges from Darnestown Rd.

The "business bypass" where corn used to grow. Is Mama Wok where the medical building is? I think there's a CVS and a 7-11 in there as well.

Yes, it's next to the medical building and Children's Hospital outpatient center. Thanks for the reminder, my radiation doc is in the medical building and it will be my lunch destination after my appt. 4/20. :o

We had a very bad experience with the downtown Rockville location and it took us several years to give it another try, but when we did we were pleased with the food. Their head-on salt and pepper shrimp is delicious.

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Any updates? There is word that there's Taiwanese offerings at the Rockville location, but I have not investigated yet. (And now they're in Reston?!)

Yes, they are in Reston's "Tall Oaks Village Center," which at the intersection of Wiehle Ave. and North Shore Dr. I've been a few times for lunch, thought it was OK, but I'm not well acquainted with authentic Chinese dishes. My Chinese colleagues are happy with the food -- they do the ordering for the table.

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My parents get takeout from here once every few months and it is always reliably good.  We went to the Rockville location for my dad's birthday recently and I loved the Imperial Fish, which managed to be rich and light at the same time.  Unfortunately we were too stuffed to grab dessert at Bread Corner next door.

It's an apples and oranges comparison, but overall I'd say that the food here is about 80 percent as good as Peter Chang at maybe 70 percent the price.  In general, I'd pay more because the price point is so reasonable already.  Make no mistake though, Mama Wok is decidedly above-average -- it just so happens that there are so many great options not too far away.

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We stopped going to the North Potomac (a discussion for another day) location a few years ago when there was an apparent change in ownership and decline in the food.  Too many good Chinese spots in Rockville to have to deal with mediocre.  

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We stopped going to the North Potomac (a discussion for another day) location a few years ago when there was an apparent change in ownership and decline in the food.  Too many good Chinese spots in Rockville to have to deal with mediocre.  

Do you think Mama Wok is a franchise?

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Unsure if it's a franchise, seems like it. We've been to both locations with my parents recently. Both have excellent fried shrimp rolls, their specialty. Each has a few worthwhile dishes unique to it.

The Rockville one has something the Gaithersburg does not: fresh cloud ear mushrooms. They use it in a chicken dish they call "fresh fungus with chicken" on the menu. My parents say they will also sell the fresh cloud ear mushrooms themselves customers. They also do a meltingly tender beef tendon. My dad can no longer eat spicy food, so we get the "beef tendon in soy sauce" and it's delicious.

The Gaithersburg one does a delicious version of "la jiao shiao chow" (sorry for my embarrassing Chinese American pin yin) -- pork with leeks, dried bean curd and hot peppers -- except theirs is chicken instead of pork; haven't seen that in other restaurants. It's A15 on the menu. We order it as an entree size.

One small note about the Gaithersburg restaurant, which we've been to a number of times... the staff there consistently gravitated to using English with us upon seeing my caucasian husband and stepdaughter, immediately bringing forks and iced water only to them and responding to my parents in English even though my parents asked them questions in Chinese. It's a bit of a bizarre experience when you're in the middle of it. But the food's good, so we continue to keep it in our rotation of places to go to here and there.  :)

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