Sunday, February 8, 2009

樂趣演奏用食物 for Chinese New Year 2009

As the two week Lunar New Year holiday comes to a close, we were pleased to be invited to a Chinese New Year Banquet at our Cleveland favorite, Wonton Gourmet (3211 Payne Avenue, 216-875-7000, no website). They managed to squeeze almost 50 people into the small restaurant. We were delighted to see the progress being made on the conversion of the wall menu banners to photographs with English descriptions - all of this wonderful food will be that much more accessible to everyone once the project is complete.

Dinner commenced with soup:

Fish Maw and Mixed Seafood Soup

Soup with Red Vinegar Added

Turnip Cake

Thomas, the owner, shared part of the secret to the deliciousness of this dish - the dough is steamed for three hours!

Stuffed Crab Claw

This was crisp and tasty.

Edited to add: How Did I Leave Out the Potstickers?

All meat, and delicious! And - with dipping sauce:

Assorted Cold Appetizers

Some of our tablemates were completely unaware of the place of cold dishes in Chinese Cuisine. Some of us had tasted the Braised Beef and pickles on this plate two weeks ago. This time, instead of pig intestine, we had braised roast pork as the second meat, and in the center, the pickles were topped by braised jellyfish, which is not my favorite preparation (I prefer my jellyfish crispy). The meats were redolent of star anise and very fresh and tender, and the pickled vegetables were delicious.

Sea Cucumber with Braised Mushrooms, Baby Bok Choy and Gravy

Sea Cucumber has never been my favorite; mushrooms are on my "ick" list. Neverthess, I tasted it. The braise of the dried Chinese Mushrooms infused the Bok Choy and gravy with lovely flavors, which I enjoyed very much. My small nibble of the sea cucumber was a sufficient portion of that delicacy for me, however.

Lobster Stir Fried With Ginger

This dish was fabulous - from the fresh and tender lobster meat to the velvety sauce. This plate was cleaned!

Steak with Black Pepper Sauce

I remain a perpetual sucker for Black Pepper Sauce, and Wonton Gourmet does it well.

Mixed Seafood with XO Sauce

XO Sauce is made from conpoy, or dried scallop; it infuses the entire dish with a seafoody glow. The squid was exceptionally tender and tasty, and the bittermelon was a great contrast to the seafood flavors.

Hong Kong Style Fried Chicken

These were communal plates, folks, so I didn't feel right moving the shrimp chips out of the way so I could photograph. It was pretty funny - there were three of us photographing this set of dishes, and at least one more food photographer at the second table doing the same. Anyway, this chicken was superb - the skin was thin and crisp, and the flesh moist and juicy.

Dipping Salt (aka MSG) For Chicken

Tai Pan Mai Fun

The stars of this dish were the house-made fish cake and the strips of melt-in-your-mouth lap cheong sausage. Mai Fun is, of course, thin rice noodles - and a noodle dish is traditional at Chinese New Year.

Fried Pork Chop with Sweet Sauce

This meat melted off the bone and melted in the mouth. Yum.

Fried Grouper with Hot and Sour

This dish apparently took the place of the more traditional steamed whole fish course - and that was fine with me! I don't know where Tom gets it - but his fish is always amazingly fresh and this grouper was no exception. The deep fried morsels were stir fried with pickled vegetables (hence the "sour") and chili sauce. I think this was my favorite dish of the evening.

There was a long pause after the fish course (which is traditionally last or next to last at a Chinese Banquet) and we thought we were done (everyone in my earshot sounded very full). Then, a last savory plate came to the table:

Chinese Eggplant with Chicken and Fresh Basil

Another perfect combination of flavors and textures.

After another pause - dessert was served:

Hot Sweet Soup with Mango and White Fungus

I enjoyed the taste of this - but could only manage a few bites. I was FULL.

I swear that I am not a shill for Wonton Gourmet - but I guarantee you'll have fun with the treats being served there!

1 comment:

  1. Wow!

    Nancy, thank you for putting together such a wonderful post about this year's Chinese New Year dinner. Seeing the pictures of all the dishes re-enforces my memory of how wonderful they all were. Wonton really out did themselves.

    I too enjoyed the sweet and sour and spicey fish dish. The pickled julianned veggie pieces were delicious and helped balance the whole dish.

    What a great time that was.