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Kim Wah Restaurant

2925 W. Britton Rd.
Oklahoma City, OK (The Village)
(405) 749-1413

Kim Wah Restaurant serves Vietnamese and Chinese food

Kim Wah has been operating since the mid 1990's, and has attracted such a loyal clientele that it may be hard for us to imagine what things were like before Asian food became popular in the suburbs. Lido just off of Classen Blvd. was the original Vietnamese restaurant in the city, and their success motivated them to open a branch of the restaurant where Kim Wah is now located. A short time later the couple who managed the new restaurant became the owners, and opened Kim Wah.

Lido was the most well-known Vietnamese restaurant at the time, and served Chinese food in what I think was an attempt to attract the largest number of customers. However, there is also a tradition for restaurants in Vietnam to serve Chinese food, and this may be another reason it was served at Lido. Kim Wah continued the tradition, and made the Chinese food even more popular by offering an all-day buffet.

The buffet seems to be the most popular feature at Kim Wah, and I think I am in the minority by ordering from the menu (although the Vietnamese chicken vermicelli dish is available on the buffet in the evening, and would be the main part of my meal if I got the buffet). I think the Chinese buffet at Kim Wah is one of the best in the city, although I have not eaten from it for several years (but I have tried a few samples recently with the owner's permission). The buffet has a soft serve ice cream machine and some genuinely good cookies and other desserts, which along with the soups and main dishes do make it worthwhile for many people.

Since Kim Wah has continued using Lido's recipes for several of the Vietnamese dishes, I think this puts it at a great advantage over several of the more recently opened suburban competitors. The selection of Vietnamese food at Kim Wah is small, but just about everything served is the best I can get on the north side of the city. Kim Wah has the same commitment to quality that I have found at Lido, although Kim Wah has only kept a few of the dishes that are available at Lido.

For at least one item, canh chua (Vietnamese hot and sour soup), I think Kim Wah surpasses Lido in flavor. For several other items I think Kim Wah and Lido are very similar.

Chinese style hot and sour soup
Chinese style hot and sour soup

One feature I always liked about the buffet was the ability to eat liberal amounts of the Chinese style Hot and Sour Soup, which I always thought was one of the best in OKC (and in my experience, one of the best anywhere). This is something that can also be ordered with an entrée, but it costs extra. Like most of the food from the buffet the hot and sour soup has MSG, but I think it is in very small amounts.

Vermicelli bowl with charbroiled chicken
Vermicelli bowl with charbroiled chicken

The "V2" vermicelli bowl, or Charbroiled Chicken on Vermicelli was my introduction to Kim Wah's Vietnamese food, and may be the restaurant's signature dish. Vegetables, mint, and bean sprouts are hidden under the noodles, and the vermicelli noodles are excellent. The peanuts and carrots on top of the bowl are also essential to the flavor combination. The fish sauce seems to be the same as at Lido, and is served on the side so that people can add as much as desired. The way the chicken is charbroiled brings out a unique flavor that I do not find in many Asian restaurants. There is much Vietnamese food that I like throughout the country, but I have to count this dish (particularly the version at Kim Wah) as my first real exposure to Vietnamese food and still one of my favorites.

Vermicelli bowl with steamed vegetables
Vermicelli bowl with steamed vegetables

Vermicelli Bowl with Steamed Vegetables offers a vegetarian version of this dish, complete with all the mint and vegetables under the noodles that provide most of the flavor. I do not think it is quite as flavorful as the chicken version, but it proves that vegetarian food does not have to be bland. Those who are strict vegetarians, though, should know that the orange sauce that comes with it is a fish sauce and is not vegetarian (it is very good, though).

Personally I like to add hot sauce to the vermicelli bowls, as I think this completes the flavor experience of the dish. Kim Wah has better hot sauce than most, with a choice of Sriracha sauce or a home made chile sauce.

Vermicelli bowl with stir fried chicken and lemongrass
Vermicelli bowl with stir fried chicken and lemongrass

The Vermicelli Bowl with Stir Fried Chicken and Lemongrass, though, has an even better and more interesting flavor than the charbroiled chicken. When it comes to the way the meat is cooked I would say the charbroiled method might be better, but the lemongrass in this dish really brings out a flavor that I prefer overall. I think the noodles and vegetables are the same on both dishes, and it really comes down to the flavor of the lemongrass that makes the difference.

Vermicelli bowl with stir fried pork and lemongrass
Vermicelli bowl with stir fried pork and lemongrass

The Vermicelli Bowl with Stir Fried Pork and Lemongrass is another delicious choice, and I also like the meat in this one. In fact, this and the chicken with lemongrass are really my two favorite dishes at Kim Wah.

Several other vermicelli bowls are available at Kim Wah including beef, shrimp, and spring rolls.

Beef steak pho
Vietnamese style noodle soup

Kim Wah also offers Pho with an excellent broth and two types of steak that can be cooked to order, but is probably recommended somewhere between rare and medium. Mint, limes, and sprouts are provided on a separate plate to be added as desired. The proliferation of pho restaurants in Oklahoma City seems to have coincided with the greater availability of fresh vegetables from throughout the world, with fresh mint such as the one served here being an essential ingredient to the success of a good version of the soup. Although I am still trying to eat pho at enough places to find out what constitutes a great rendition of the dish, I have had enough versions to know that the one at Kim Wah is one of the better ones (at least for restaurants in the northwest suburbs).

Vietnamese style hot and sour soup at Kim Wah
Vietnamese style hot and sour soup (Canh Chua)

Kim Wah has added another dish that is worth trying, the Vietnamese Style Hot and Sour Soup, or canh chua. This is a full meal of meat (your choice) with vegetables, cilantro, and of course a generous amount of chile. Unlike the pho and some other dishes, this one comes already made spicy, and of course that is part of the flavor mix of hot and sour soup. It has more of a clear broth than the dark brown base used in Chinese style hot and sour soup, and I think it is worth a shot if you like spicy food. This soup does not have okra, which I think the authentic version is supposed to have, but it is full of snow peas, bamboo shoots, and other vegetables. I enjoy the generous amount of pineapple and tomato for flavor, and there is really nothing missing that I think it should have (I am not a big okra fan anyway).

Pork clay pot
Pork clay pot

The vermicelli bowls are very prominent on the menu, but other Vietnamese dishes are somewhat hidden among the Chinese menu items (although the waitresses are very good at pointing them out if you ask). Pho is listed under "Chinese Specialties," and I think this is one reason many people never discover that it is served here.

A few other items are not listed on the menu, but are available if you ask. One is the Pork Clay Pot that is a traditional Vietnamese favorite. This was mainly meat without a lot of vegetables, but as can be seen from the photo there was plenty of broth to give it flavor. It is made with fish sauce that is a little bit sweet (as is the fish sauce used with the vermicelli bowls) except on this dish the sauce is already mixed into the food. I thought this dish was quite good, and was another item I liked much more than the Chinese buffet.

I have not explored all the available drinks, since I am usually satisfied with hot tea. I know beer is served, and I believe they have Vietnamese coffee.

The almond cookies on the buffet are especially good, and I would say to try them if you are going the buffet route. They also have a great soft ice cream machine.

The popularity of the buffet has been an important part of the restaurant's success, but the Vietnamese food is almost a "hidden gem" because it is not well known, and it is not very prominent on the menu. Despite the limited number of items, though, the Vietnamese food is some of the best in the city.

There are few restaurants where I feel as much at home as at Kim Wah, and this would make it an enjoyable place even if I did not have so much respect for the food. I am glad, though, that the food has not only remained excellent, but that they have added a few more choices over the years.

My Comments in a Nutshell
What I like most:
  • My favorite vermicelli bowls in the city (and maybe anywhere)
  • My favorite canh chua in the city (and maybe anywhere)
  • The most comfortable chairs in OKC
  • Open every day (I think it's closed Christmas, Thanksgiving, and July 4th)
  • Very good service
Disappointments:
  • I wish there were more Vietnamese items on the menu--they tried, but several items were removed due to lack of customer interest (some can still be special ordered, though)
  • The hot tea here used to be made with loose leaves but now is made with bags (I still like it pretty well, though)
Things to know:
  • The most popular feature here is the Chinese buffet--while I think this is the freshest and best Chinese buffet in the city, it is still nothing I get excited about
  • At night the buffet also includes Vietnamese vermicelli bowls with chicken
  • The Vietnamese dishes are mostly well hidden on the menu (and some have to be special ordered), but I think are the most worthwhile part of the restaurant. I really like the restaurant more than the rating indicates, but the rating has been lowered because the Vietnamese selection is still rather small.
  • Kim Wah started out as a branch of Lido--the Vietnamese dishes are almost an exact copy of Lido's recipes (but I think the canh chua here is better than at Lido)
  • It is an old building that has been retrofitted for handicapped access--it is accessible, but I have heard complaints (particularly about access to the bathrooms). One tip I have is to use the ramp on the north side near the handicapped parking rather than the one in front of the door.

RESTAURANT DETAILS

RATING: 23

Cuisine: Vietnamese & Chinese
Cost: $$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Tea: Jasmine (bags)
MSG: Yes (Chinese food only)
Smoking: No Smoking
Alcohol: Beer
Buffet: Lunch & Dinner

Most Recent Visit
Aug. 3, 2014

Number of Visits: 10+

Best Items
Vermicelli Bowl with Chicken and Lemongrass, Vermicelli Bowl with Pork and Lemongrass, Vietnamese Hot and Sour Soup, Pork Clay Pot

Special Ratings
Vermicelli Bowl with Charbroiled Chicken:
Vermicelli Bowl with Chicken and Lemongrass:
Vermicelli Bowl with Pork and Lemongrass:
Vermicelli Bowl with Steamed Vegetables:
Vietnamese Hot and Sour Soup: canh chua
Hot and Sour Soup: Chinese

Non-Menu Items
(Items are available but are not listed on the menu)
Pork Clay Pot:
Pho:

Restaurant Menu
Kim Wah menu



RELATED ARTICLES
Sep. 7, 2012 : Kim Wah Update



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