Saturday, April 4, 2009

Wonton Gourmet Strikes Again!

Even though I've written about it once before, I cannot say enough good things about Wonton Gourmet located at the corner of East 32nd and Payne Avenue near downtown Cleveland. I've been there probably a half dozen times since the last time I wrote up anything about them and finally decided that today I would take my regular camera to snap some photos of our experience. Wonton Gourmet can be enjoyed by yourself, but it is really when eating out with a crowd that the meal really shines. It still amazes me that you can order so much incredibly interesting and amazing Chinese food and have the resulting bill still be so inexpensive.

One thing to know from the last post I made is that they've replaced all the wall placards (the specials written only in Chinese characters) with new placards that include a picture of the dish, the price, and an English translation underneath. So now there is absolutely NO reason to be scared of the menu anymore.

Our group of seven started out with some appetizers (which is what we normally do). First, the chive potstickers:

Filled with succulent shrimp and fresh chives, these to me are hands down the best examples of potstickers I have ever come across. The sweetness from the shrimp, the spiciness from the chives, the saltiness from the dipping sauce ... heavenly!

Next up is a crueller (literally a donut) that has been fried, then wrapped in a rice noodle and topped with a sweet/soy sauce. It is such a layered dish in terms of flavors and textures. I highly recommend it.

Our final appetizer was the ever popular and always delicious turnip cakes. While good on their own, when eaten with a bit of chili oil and chili flakes, it's like you've just turned up the flavor amplitude to eleven. Creamy, crispy, spicy, and savory all in one bite.

After the appetizers, we decided to try the shredded pork chow mien. This consisted of pork, mushrooms, sprouts, crispy fried thin noodles and a lovely clear "sauce" holding everything together. This was quite good, but didn't strike me as something I would order again, given the vast array of other wonderful things on the menu. I'm glad I tried it though. I'd recommend the pork ramen noodle soup in it's place (holy crap, it is so delicious and would make a perfect lunch).

Next, it was time for soup. Shrimp dumplings in broth, to be exact. The dumplings didn't have chives in them, so it didn't have that onion sharpness to it, but the dumplings were equally as tender and sweet as before. The soup provided a nice savory counterpoint to the dumplings. This could've definitely been a meal for one person, but it served all seven of us nicely as a soup course.

For our green course, we opted to listen to the suggestion of our waiter and get the Tung Choi with garlic. We've had this before and were happy to have it again. I tell you, if i had had access to vegetables like this growing up, I would've become a fan all things vegetative much sooner in life. They were very good. Crisp and garlicy (but not overly so).

Next up, a dish that I first had when I attended the Chinese New Year's feast that some very good friends arranged at the beginning of February, Hong Kong Style chicken. This is such a wonderful way to serve chicken. The meat is always moist and delicious. The skin is crispy. And it is served with an interesting dipping "salt" made up of MSG and ground pepper. I've tried it with and without the "salt" and prefer mine without. But, hey, to each his own, right?

For our final course, the owner had told us several visits ago that they were able to get these amazingly fresh and HUGE oysters from the west coast and they are grilled and served with a spicy black bean sauce. The first moment we tried them, we were hooked.

The oyster is incredibly large but still tender, the black bean sauce is salty, spicy, gingery, garlicy, and lots of other words ending in 'y'. Best eaten over a small bowl of rice. Yum. Yum. Yum.

And the most amazing part of this meal was that the bill for all seven of us was $80 before tip. Even with a nice tip, it came to a measly $14.30 per person. Holy crap! I also happened to notice that they are open until midnight almost every night, so there really is no reason not to get yourself out there and give this a try. You won't be disappointed.

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