There is no website for Wok-In, a tiny Asian restaurant on the west side of Montreal St, between Princess and Queen, and I’m okay with that. Because if you set up some snazzy one-pager on Squarespace, load the bottom with honest reviews, I’d likely never get in there again. The line-ups would begin at dawn. And one of my very favourite walks, mostly due to the lip-smacking anticipation, is the block and a half up Queen St from my office to the tattoo shop, where I hang a left past the watch store and Rodney’s shoe repair shop, and there I am, opposite the Wok-In’s bedraggled front door. With any luck it’s not one of those semi-regular days when the owners tape a note to the window - We’re not in today. Sorry. The feeling when confronted with such an announcement is the same, I reckon, as if you’d just been dumped by your mum and dad.
There is usually slightly too much food on the plate. You dip so much as a fork into the gleaming pond of curry that laps up to the thick crescent of a perfect white rice and as likely as not the sea level rises enough that it overflows onto the scarlet tray everything is served on. It’s the only sad moment in a meal here. But more often than not I’ll scrape those saucy bits back into the whole at some later moment, when there’s room on the plate, and then try to forget I’ve done it. But I can’t resist; the food really is splendid. The staples are here – the pad Thai, the red and green curries, the shrimp cakes and country style chicken, and the menu doesn’t stray too far off the beaten track, but the execution is spot-on, the consistency admirable.
I’ve been grabbing one of the half-dozen tables here every week for decades. You don’t need to know this, but I like to hide in the south-east corner with the latest New Yorker. I order my number eleven and I’m there about 40 minutes start to finish. I take half of it with me for the next day. It’s a routine that enriches my life, and if they shut this place up for more than the occasional day I’d be for a good while forlorn.