Photography by Kathy Tran.

Every Christmas Day, David Romano and his family used to eat Chinese food in New York City. 

The president of Local Favorite Restaurants group and a legacy restaurant creator, Romano found a special place in his heart for Chinese food.

“We would always go to Chinatown,” says Romano, who’s lived in Preston Hollow for five years. “I just got entranced by the culture.”

There was one thing though he felt was missing from those Chinese restaurants. 

“They’re not that fun,” he says. 

Following that thought, Wok Star Chinese was born. It combines Chinese cuisine with a fun atmosphere and American-style service.

Intense rock ‘n’ roll-inspired pop art covers one wall of the restaurant, while Chinese artifacts sit on shelves and hang nearby.

From the dining room, guests get a good view of Chef Charlie hand pulling noodles. He learned how in China, studying for six months under another chef. He came to the United States by way of California and then made his way over to Texas to work with Romano.

He often dances while he hand pulls the noodles, making a show of the craft. For Wok Star’s opening night, the chef was placed in the center of the dining room, dancing along to a guest DJ as he worked the dough.

“If you come and you don’t get the Charlie show, then you need to make sure that you come back the second time and get the Charlie show,” Romano says.

The music that plays at Wok Star is uniquely theirs. Their ever-growing 34-hour playlist is private on Spotify and run by Romano’s 13 year-old daughter, Mia, who attends the Episcopal School of Dallas. 

Over the course of one meal, guests could hear everything from Nirvana and Grandmaster Flash to Taylor Swift and Usher.

While they bob their heads to the music, guests are feasting on Wok Star’s drinks, starters and entrees. 

The menu is authentically Chinese, Romano says. There are four hand-pulled noodle options. Chef Charlie’s favorite is the Dan Dan La Mian. Classic chicken, pork, beef and seafood options are also sprinkled throughout the menu in the form of fried rice, moo shu and sweet-and-sour.

Bao buns and handmade dumplings are other stars of the menu.

“It would be a travesty if people came to Wok Star and didn’t order at least one version of dumplings,” says Romano.

The menu focuses on full-size entrees, but he is currently looking into cart service. 

“There’s some more research that needs to go into it,” he says. “There’s only a couple of places in this city that do it, so it means we’ve got to spend a lot of time figuring it out.”

Wok Star has fully figured out its cocktail menu. Musical references pack the creative drink lineup, with options like the gin-based Radioactive, which comes with smoke bubbles. The I’m Too Sexy is made with Deep Eddy Lime and Sour Patch Kids. And the Like a Virgin Mocktail is made with strawberry, club soda and heavy cream.

Romano looked all over the city for the Wok Star site, but settled on The Hill in Lake Highlands. Though interested in opening the restaurant closer to the Dallas North Tollway, out of respect for Royal China’s business, he went for a location across Central Expressway. He was initially worried that there weren’t many places offering dinner service at the shopping center, but those fears were quickly put to rest. When the restaurant opened for delivery only, there were nights when they had to stop taking orders because there were too many. And when the doors finally opened in April, the restaurant was flooded with guests, including our neighbors, who praised the unique atmosphere.  

“It’s meant for someone to go in there and eat and move their feet,” Romano says, “and remember what it was like to listen to ’80s music when they were growing up.”

Wok Star Chinese, 972.961.1168, 8041 Walnut Hill Lane