First Wok Chinese Restaurant

Higthlights from Article highlighting First Wok Published 2008 in the Asian Restaruant News

One Big Family at First Wok2008-12-12 17:

First Wok Chinese Restaurant

Location: 295 Princeton Hightstown Road, Unit 1, Princeton Junction, NJ 08550

Cuisine: Mandarin, Cantonese, Szechuan 

Capacity: 160

Square Feet: 3,650 square feet

Offers: Dine-in, Take-out, VIP room

Signature Dish: Lamb with Hot Sauce, Fresh Lobster with Ginger and Scallion Sauce, Honey Walnut Shrimp, Crispy Shredded Beef with Szechuan Sauce, Chinese Broccoli with Filet Mignon, and Chicken Lettuce wraps

Year of establishment: 1996

Phone: (609) 716-8323

Owner: Sonya Ma


People can find First Wok in one of the most bustling, upscale shopping centers in Princeton, New Jersey. Owner, Sonya Ma, explains that the location is one of the key factors in her restaurant’s success. The shopping center is like a hub for the local residents, housing three ethnic restaurants, a large upscale supermarket, a gift shop, a gourmet coffee shop, and a dance studio, to name just a few. The traffic flow in this shopping center is always very high. Another perk is that the shopping center is located at Princeton Junction, which is the main train station for commuters traveling to and from New York City and Philadelphia. The restaurant seats 160 people, with an area sectioned off for private parties, which can hold up to 50 people.

One of the first improvements Sonya made was with the restaurant’s interior. She completely renovated it. Originally,  the interior décor of First Wok was mostly made up of light greenish colors, Sonya had the restaurant wallpapered beige and white to lighten the dining room up and give it a warm, cozy, and clean look. The tables are traditional Chinese cherry wood donned with white table clothes and napkins. The walls are decorated with reproductions of famous Eastern and Western paintings and soft piano and jazz music is played during service and the lighting is kept dim to suit Americans’ taste. The renovation was a lot of work, Sonya explains, but it was well worth it.


The Food

When Sonya’s uncle opened First Wok in 1996, the restaurant served only Mandarin food and when Sonya took over the business she saw that the regular customers were very fond of the menu as it was. She wanted to change the menu, but didn’t want to omit any of the existing dishes as customers came back for them again and again. Instead she decided to add to the menu, and so far it’s been a success. She added Cantonese and Szechuan dishes.

So of the signature dishes on the menu are the Lamb with Hot Sauce, a dish great for heat lovers, that combines a Mongolian sauce and a Hunan sauce. Another dish is the Chicken Lettuce Wraps, which are chicken wrapped in lettuce—an appetizer that her customers continuously return for. And finally there’s the fresh lobster that is taken live from a tank in the restaurant and cooked in a ginger scallion sauce. Other popular dishes are the Shrimp with Garlic Sauce, Honey Walnut Shrimp, Steamed Fish Filet, and the sizzling seafood dishes.


Healthy dishes are also offered at First Wok. Sonya explains that in the Princeton area, many of the residents are very health and weight conscious. The kitchen prepares each dish with very little oil and salt, and all dishes are light on the sauce. “Restaurants are everywhere,” says Sonya “you have to demonstrate to your customers that your restaurant is special and that you care about your customers’ needs.”  Lots of steamed dishes are offered such as the steamed fish, steamed chicken or shrimp with vegetables with sauce on the side for customers to use at their discretion. Sonya specifically recommends the Sautéed Snow Pea Tips and the Chinese Broccoli cooked in Oyster Sauce. Additionally, Sonya confirms that MSG is not permitted at First Wok and the restaurant receives a food delivery each day and that all of the restaurant’s food and ingredients are all always fresh.  


The Service


“It is very important to have the right people to work for you,” explains Sonya, “and it is also important to treat them very well.” The staff at First Wok is like family, many of the employees have worked there for twelve years. I heard people say character is what you do when no one is watching.  It is fortunate we have the exact right character at First Wok. Everybody is dedicated to his work and our staff has genuine care for our customers.”