We're lucky to have the Olive Boulevard strip of Asian stores and restaurants in University City. Such diversity of options is something that one of us, who lived in small towns in her youth, could only yearn for. And now we can explore at length, although we admit it'd be nicer if we could wander along the sidewalk to peruse and compare menus while shopping. And while this isn't really the weather for wandering along sidewalks, it certainly is the right weather for us to crave Chinese food, sparking a successful journey to Wonton King.
Wonton King offers items that St. Louisans normally expect on a Chinese menu and items that are new to most of us. Egg drop soup, the entry level dish for many who went on to become fans of the cuisine, was deeply, remarkably chickeny, showing that in this case, the chicken came, and stayed, before the egg. The barbecued pork ribs—and this is Chinese barbecue, not American—were an outstanding rendition. They were huge, shiny with the sweet, sticky glaze and its light note of star anise, and very tender.
From the new-to-us standpoint, the steamed pork with salted fish was outstanding. The ground pork doesn't taste fishy, but the salt of the fish leaves a delightful echo. It looked as though it might have been steamed in a pie pan, and when eaten, the texture was aided and abetted by chopped water chestnuts for crunch and chopped shiitake mushrooms for added savor and umami. Delicious, un-greasy, and something we'll order again.
Since Wonton King has, in the past, advertised its specialty as Hong Kong-style wontons, we tried a main-course soup of duck with wontons and noodles. Sometimes we find that duck soup is duck meat in chicken broth, but if this began with chicken, there was enough duck to override it, making the soup worthwhile on its own. The wontons, three large ones, were tender and stuffed with what we think was a pork-and-vegetable filling, and there were also good-sized pieces of baby bok choi.
Dim sum brunch is served on Saturday and Sunday, and there's a written menu for dumpling lunch possibilities the other days of the week. Wonton King operates only three or four carts, but there are plenty of choices being passed from trays. The major protein seems to be shrimp, many tasty options with them, and almost as many with pork.
Many are familiar, things like char siu bao, the large, white steamed dumplings with a generous filling of barbecued pork. Shu mai, the open-faced dumpling, had shrimp and spinach in a paper-thin rice-flour wrap. Everything was freshly cooked, hot and tasty.
Short ribs, cut across the bone rather than in the large chunks found in restaurants from the European traditions, were braised in their own juices along with garlic and a good hit of black pepper, fun for those who love to nibble the bones. But the most remarkable dish of the morning was the roast pork, slices with crispy, chewy skin, the meat succulent in its porcine goodness. A large serving, but if one can refrain from eating the whole thing at one sitting, taking the remainders home will help create a lovely sandwich for another day. Tasty, melt-in-the-mouth pastry shells make the custard tarts a fine dessert.
Quiet during the week, in our experience, but very busy at dim sum brunch; come early or be prepared to queue up.
8116 Olive Blvd., University City
Dinner nightly, Lunch Mon.-Fri., Brunch Sat.-Sun
Credit cards: Yes
Wheelchair access: Good