Overall impression: While the restaurant calls itself Asian, the menu at this 8-year-old beauty on the Himmarshee Canal is 80 percent Chinese with a few forays into Japanese and Thai. While Wild East may not be the Chinese restaurant of our dreams, it serves faithful versions of everyone's favorites. Best of all, it does so without as much fat and salt as other restaurants use.
Ambience: The high-ceilinged, contemporary dining room seats about 80. A faux bamboo screen separates the narrow room from the open kitchen. The 50 outdoor seats are set over two levels on the canal. It's particularly pretty at night.
Starters: Hot-and-sour soup ($5) was neither spicy or sour enough for my tastes, but it was loaded with chicken. Oriental chicken salad ($10), shredded veggies and chicken in a plum vinaigrette with crunchy won ton noodles, will please anyone watching their caloric intake.
The menu: There are more than 50 items for $7 — perfect for two or three people — that allow you to sample more of the menu than if you ordered the regular-size portions. The price difference is striking, and the offerings include lo mein, fried rice, dumplings and chicken wings. Those so-called curry wings were nicely crisp, although I tasted very little curry. Honey ribs were sticky and chewy. Pan-fried pork-filled dumplings step into dim sum territory and tasted very fresh without being overly fried. Bistro-fried rice is filled with shrimp, ham, chicken, egg, peas and scallions. Shrimp lo mein combines thin egg noodles with sweet sausage, shrimp, garlic and scallions. I wanted a bit more curry in my Singapore noodles, but the dish doesn't scrimp on shrimp, pork and egg. Wanting to try some non-Chinese items, tempura asparagus ($7) were hot and crispy. Likewise, a tempura dragon roll tasted virtually oil-free. More than a dozen different rolls are offered.
Entrees: We ordered just two non-tapas-size items, and were delighted with the portion sizes. Beef Sichuan ($17) starts with tender slivers of beef mixed with pepper, scallion, carrot, celery, chili soy and lots of hot peppers. It's not for the spice timid. The boneless pieces of poultry in General Tao's chicken ($17) weren't overly breaded, but were still crispy, and served alongside broccoli. While Chinese restaurants often include twice as much sauce as a dish needs, that's not true at Wild East. The biggest difference between the lunch and dinner menus is the addition of two duck dishes: Peking duck ($23) and crispy, spice-rubbed Dynasty duck ($22.) There are also a few sea-bass preparations.
Side issues: Brown rice is easily substituted for white rice.
Sweet! Forget almond cookies and try a banana spring roll with vanilla ice cream ($7) or the Wild East sundae with banana and mixed dry fruit ($7).
Service: Good. The staff works as a team, dropping off dishes as they come from the kitchen and helping to clear plates when needed.
Liquid assets: While Wild East serves only beer and wine, it also serves a popular plum-flavored cocktail called Sinful Geisha ($10). There's a little bar in the front of the restaurant for the so inclined.
Wild East Asian Bistro
1200 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
Hours: Dinner daily, lunch Monday-Saturday
Reservations: Suggested for large parties
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Beer and wine
Sound level: Noisy when full
Outside smoking: Yes
For kids: Highchairs
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: Attached garage