Many people outside the region don’t realize it, but Cleveland has a very vibrant and active Asian community, and several of my trips to Cleveland (usually to NASA Glenn) have involved trips to Asiatown for some good Chinese food. Looking to try someplace new, this time I decided to check up on some of the local blogs (Fun Playing With Food, in particular), and found that several sources recommended Wonton Gourmet and BBQ.
Located on Payne Avenue, Wonton Gourmet is located in one of those fairly generic storefronts, that, if not for the big “Wonton Gourmet & BBQ” banner, you might mistake for a dry cleaner or office supply store. Inside, however, it’s definitely one of those Chinese places that caters to natives, with big colorful pictures of food and banners (mostly in Chinese, with short English translations below) covering the walls. Like a lot of these little Chinese places from other cities (like my favorite Shuang Cheng in Minneapolis), there’s a very noticeable difference between the food items pictured on the wall, and those in the menu (which seems to cater to Americanized dishes and interests). In short, you seem to be better ordering off the wall instead of the menu.
I ended up ordering some steamed beef rice rolls and some Chinese steak with black bean sauce, hot peppers, and ginger. Immediately I ran into one of the problems of going to a family-style place by yourself: to sample things you end up with a huge amount of excess food. I ended up solving this on this trip by being friendly to the next table over, and bartered two of my rice rolls and some Chinese steak for some dumplings, a turnip cake, and some duck. (all of which were good, but not photogenic after the slicing and dicing involved in the portioning for the barter…)
However, even if I had stayed strictly with the food I ordered, I would have been very pleased. The rice rolls were delicious, delicate, tangy, and nicely spiced. The Chinese steak with black bean sauce, hot peppers, and ginger was very tasty and the meat perfectly spiced. I rather liked this dish, but did feel that I could have done better with a different entree. For the record, I did try to order the “Frog with Bitter Melon”, but they were out of frog that day. C’est la vie!
In any case, Wonton Gourmet & BBQ really shined for me. I had so much food I was stuffed silly, all of it being excellently prepared. And I was out of there for a mere $10. Definitely one of the better stops in Asiatown.