Saturday, December 29, 2007
I carried a bit of a bias when I came to this restaurant because while it is called "Gold Wonton" in English to avoid litigation, the Chinese name of the restaurant is the same as the international hot pot chain, Little Sheep, which has a much cuter mascot to boot. Family members who have tried Gold Wonton said it just did not come close to the "real thing".
My family and I went on Christmas eve; we usually wouldn't drive 45 minutes to have dinner, but we were invited by family friends (the same people who were partying at our house the night before) and so we obliged. When we got there they didn't have a big enough table to seat all 11 of us, so my family sat in a separate booth. On one hand this made the 45 minute trip seem kind of pointless, but on the other it was nice that we could order what we liked and didn't have to worry about the politics of splitting the bill or anything.
For those who are uninitiated in the world of hot pot, it's similar to fondue in the sense that you have a boiling pot of broth in the middle (nowadays they're usually split in half so you can have two flavours; my dad chose a cilantro and hundred-year-old egg one which fortunately did not taste too strongly of the latter ingredient but unfortunately did not taste too strongly of anything, and we also got a spicy satay one) where you cook a variety of things like meat, seafood, fish balls, vegetables, tofu, noodles, etc. etc. It's a Chinese winter favourite, and many people (including my family) have their own hot pots at home. Hot pot restaurants are popular because it saves the work of having to buy (sometimes from a handful of stores) and prepare (i.e. slice, cut, etc.) all of the individual ingredients.
Slices of fatty beef are my family's favourite, because the meat is boiled, it doesn't taste greasy so you forget you're raising your blood cholesterol and clogging your arteries, and also because it is sliced so thinly it's literally cooked in seconds. That night we got some of our other favourites, like shrimp, a fish/meat ball combo, chicken, tofu, turnip, konjac noodles and udon noodles. It was really nothing out of the ordinary (my mom kept on saying that she could easily prepare hot pot at home for a much lower price, but just didn't want to after preparing food for a big Christmas party), but good and filling just the same.
After your food is cooked, you take it out of the broth and dip it into a sauce. One of the new trends in hot pot restaurants is that you mix your own sauces, or someone with a cart of different sauces and condiments mixes one for you, and this one was no different. My family has always just had soy sauce, and when we were younger and didn't know to fear things like Salmonella we also used to dip our food in raw egg to give it a smooth sort of texture. While satay sauce and peanut sauce were available, we mostly just stuck to the basic soy sauce with little additions like green onion, cilantro, minced garlic and ginger, and chili pepper.
There was one thing about our meal that was different from our "usual" hot pot meals, however. One of my mom's friends recommended the fried salmon skins, which were a crispy delight, with a slight hint of spice that reminded me of salt-and-pepper squid. I'm sure it was bad for me, but I have a penchant for any food that is crispy, so I loved them.
All in all, while the hot pot was fun and delicious, it wasn't really anything to write home about and we probably won't be travelling that far for hot pot again. It did inspire me to want to bring my parents to the "real" Little Sheep (I've been to one in Vancouver) when they come visit in Montreal in February. I'm excited.
Gold Wonton Restaurant
5441 Falsbridge Drive NE, Calgary, AB
(403) 285-8399/(403) 285-4388