Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Fun Playing with Sichuan Food and Fish Heads at Wonton Gourmet

The Saturday after Thanksgiving found us once again visiting Wonton Gourmet, in Cleveland Asiatown. 3211 Payne Ave, Cleveland, OH 44114-4505, (216) 875-7000. After sampling the Hot & Spicy Szechuan Fish on our last visit, I was determined to try more of the new Szechuan/Sichuan items Chef/Owner Tom has put on his wall menu.

We succeeded in trying two "new" dishes, one old favorite, and one milder, more Cantonese style dish recommended by our wonderful server. Wonton Gourmet scores again - and Tom says that due to demand from his Chinese customers, there will be more Szechuan delights showing up on his menu soon!

Szechuan Eggplant

We've had this before, but one of our companions was hankering for it. Spicy, yet rich in flavors and textures - I dream of getting my eggplant like this in my home wok, but it isn't going to happen. Wok Heh demands many more BTUs than my current stove will ever know.

Hot & Spicy Beef

This dish more than lived up to its name. Though you see the red chilies - it is the numbing Szechuan peppercorn that makes the dish special.

The layer of cabbage underneath the beef also enhanced the dish with a crunchy texture, and a bland foil for the heat.

I expected this dish to be the same preparation as the fish dish I'd sampled earlier; the last 4 characters of each dish's name are the same. Looking at my photos of the menu signs, though,

I realize that the beef dish has 2 additional characters, and the fish dish 1 additional character. This might explain why the dishes looked so similar, and were "spelled" so similar - but yet tasted very different. Any character readers out there who care to shed some light on this??

Anyway - returning to our lunch:

Hot & Spicy Szechuan Pork with Noodles

The flavor profile here was also Szechuan, but distinctly different from the chili-centric beef dish. It was more of a hot-sour, with a distinct marine flavor that Tom identified as shrimp paste. Very tasty - but very Chinese. I found it a little strongly flavored for my palate, though I did enjoy it.

Our last selection was recommended by our server, who knows we love the "real" stuff, and who has never steered us wrong!

Braised Salmon Heads with Ginger and Scallions 

Ok, so the name of this dish may not make you hungry. Forget "heads" and think "cheeks" - halibut cheeks, beef cheeks, pork cheeks - some of the most succulent meat in the animal kingdom is found in the cheeks. And so, we practically leapt to try this dish, and we were well rewarded for navigating around and through the bones.


A hot wok had crisped the skin, and the light sauce melded with the ginger and onion flavors while allowing the salmon to remain the star. You really have to eat this dish with chopsticks to negotiate the many bones - but it is so worth the trouble!

There are two other Szechuan items - a pork chop dish and a cold beef with two flavors - that we did not get to sample (and also spicy pork maw, which is not one of my favorite things, though I will probably try it at some point) - guess it means I need to go back to Wonton Gourmet again soon, to continue playing with Szechuan flavors not heretofore seen in Cleveland!

Wonton Gourmet on Urbanspoon

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