Steve's Gastronomic Home Page

Paco Wong's Chinese Restaurant

7111 N. Mesa St.
El Paso, TX
(915) 581-7111

Paco Wong's

When I heard that the owners of the world-famous Shangri-La Chinese Restaurant in Ciudad Juarez were opening a restaurant in El Paso I had little hope that it would be very authentic, but I thought it might be pretty good, or at least a change from the many sub-par Chinese restaurants in the El Paso area. I have had mixed experiences with the food, and I consider it to be greatly modified from authentic Chinese food, but it has been better than many Chinese restaurants in town.

Paco Wong's is probably the most expensive Chinese restaurant in El Paso. Some of the dishes are served in a lunch portion at a reduced price from the dinners, but they do not come with soup or other appetizers that most other restaurants include. I tried to order some soup but it did not come out before the meal, and after that I cancelled the order.

I will have to say that a lot of things seem to have improved since my first visit, and the issues I had with the service (not bringing out the soup in time) are probably not typical. The food seems to have changed for the better since it opened, not to the point that I would call it "authentic," but at least there are more choices now.

On my initial visit I did not see much in the way of vegetarian meals (this was a holdover from the menu at Shangri-La in Ciudad Juarez). Paco Wong's now offers tofu as a substitute for most of the meat dishes, and this is at least a good start. I did not notice any mixed vegetable dishes, but perhaps one can be special ordered.

Tofu with black bean sauce
Spicy tofu with black bean sauce

Tofu with Black Bean Sauce is one of the dishes that can be prepared as a substitute for chicken. It had a different name on the menu, but you can ask for the sauce if you do not see it on the menu. I enjoyed the tofu and the sauce very much, and in fact was surprised that Paco Wong's had a sauce this good (after quite a few experiences at the original restaurant in Cd. Juarez). The main problem was a lack of vegetables. Had it contained a good variety of green vegetables this would have been a very good dish. As it was, though, it was rather boring with just the tofu and the sauce. I know the dish was designed to be served with chicken, and I can see the logic in preparing a dish primarily of chicken and sauce (although I would not have enjoyed it very much). The problem with Paco Wong's is that although it has high standards in terms of food quality, it never quite makes it in terms of authenticity and the way the dishes are put together. In this case I really felt that the dish should have had some vegetables.

On a previous visit I ordered the Szechuan Chicken (before the tofu options were available), wanting to try something that would be representative of the food served. It came with white meat that I thought was very good, but it was battered like sweet and sour chicken (this is something I was definitely not expecting in this dish). The sauce was so sweet I thought at first they used sweet and sour sauce as the base, and added some chiles to make it "Szechuan" style. However, when I saw the actual sweet and sour sauce at another table it looked like the red syrup from a can of candied apples. This is when I knew that, yes, they had given me the correct "Szechuan" sauce, except that it was not like any Szechuan sauce I had experienced before in any Chinese restaurant. I would say, though, that the sauce was not as much of a negative as the fact that the chicken was battered.

On my first visit I was ranting about the high cost of the hot tea, but I think they have lowered the price since then. I am glad Paco Wong's seems to be making changes for the better.

Paco Wong's is a bistro style restaurant with high prices, and just about everything (except the rice) comes at an extra cost. The atmosphere is upscale and it is a good "Sunday dinner" type restaurant.

I have yet to find a really good dish at Paco Wong's, and the sauces vary from very good (black bean) to quite disappointing (Szechuan). I think the best thing Paco Wong's has going for it is that the food is higher quality than many places in town, and I especially enjoyed the fact that the sauces are not as "salty" as at many restaurants.



Cuisine: Chinese
Cost: $$$
Hours: Open Daily
Tea: Jasmine (bags)
MSG: Yes
Smoking: No Smoking
Alcohol: Beer

Most Recent Visit
Mar. 23, 2008

Number of Visits: 2

Special Ratings
Tofu with Black Bean Sauce:
Szechuan Chicken: