There's a new Chinese restaurant coming from a familiar name in Dallas' restaurant scene. Called Wok Star Chinese, it's a modern-but-authentic take on Chinese food from David Romano, opening at The Hill, the center at the northeast corner of US-75 and Walnut Hill Lane.
Wok Star is taking over the space that was previously occupied by Nazca Kitchen, a beloved Latin-American restaurant that closed in August 2020 due to COVID-19.
Romano is founder of Eat Up Concepts and a former developer for Romano Group, the restaurant company owned by his uncle Phil Romano. A graduate of Cornell University, David has worked for many years in the hospitality industry, doing training, recruiting, and consulting.
The Hill has had its ups and downs, even before the damaging blow dealt by COVID-19, including the closure of Treehouse, its anchor store, in 2018. But there are survivors: Wok Star will join a slate of eateries such as the coffeehouse-bar Civil Pour, healthy restaurant Bellagreen, and breakfast spot Snooze an AM Eatery.
Romano was excited about the idea of adding something new to the neighborhood.
"I don't live far from The Hill, and the only good Chinese in the area is Royal China," he says. "They're fantastic. George (Kai-Chi) and April (B-Lan) [the husband-and-wife team who own Royal China] are friends of mine. But I felt like there was room to bring a modern take on Chinese food in a fun American-style atmosphere to this area — and that's what we've done."
He promises that the food will be handled in a careful, honorable manner.
"We're very sensitive to the fact that Chinese food is serious," he says. "In America we've practically killed it with chains that are serving food that's not even Chinese anymore. But Wok Chinese will have chefs that are from China who are in charge. I didn't come up with a menu or recipe, they did. I said, 'OK, you guys focus on the food and I'll creat an atmosphere that people aren't going to forget."
That includes fun music, and eye-catching art on the walls, incorporating images from China mixed in with familar motifs like fortune cookies.
"The goal is to create a place that's fun, where you can come and eat serious Chinese food," he says.
That said, there will be some "Chinese" dishes that Americans have grown up with, such as General Tso's chicken, kung pao chicken, and beef & broccoli.
"Those are dishes people are used to — but we'll also have xio long bao, aka soup dumplings, and hand-pulled noodles," he says.
Wok Star will open in phases, with their completion dependent on the city of Dallas.
"We'd like to build a full-service bar, Nazca didn't have one, but we're still waiting on a permit from the city," he says. "But we'll start doing take-out and delivery, I hope on April 24."