Wonton Asian Kitchen has all of the trappings of being a chain restaurant, including the good things that can be, such as a standardized and well-thought-out design and a regimented system for ordering and preparing.
Unfortunately, that can also mean roboticized staffers and lifeless food.
I observed all of the above at the Winter Park restaurant before discovering that it is not a chain. At least not yet. I’d bet just about anything that the owners have visions of multi-unit sales in their dreams.
There’s nothing wrong with that. We will always have chain restaurants, and by we I mean humans. They serve a purpose, and for all the derogatory comments thrown at Central Florida for its plethora of preformed eateries, they are just as popular, and prevalent, in New York, London and Paris.
But back to Wonton Asian Kitchen.
It started to look as thought is would be another assemblage restaurant. At the top of the menu is an invitation to “start with a protein,” but, thankfully, below that are predetermined preparations for your protein of choice. The choices are pan-Asian, with Korean (bulgogi), Chinese (kung pao), Thai (pad Thai) and Vietnamese (banh mi).
I chose a dish called Korean Sticky. Actually, following the rules, I chose my protein first, going with steak instead of chicken or tofu. The Korean Sticky featured the chosen protein wokked with brown sugar to create a gooey glaze. The meat was served on a bed of rice sticks, those white crinkles that somehow remind me of packing peanuts but without as much flavor. Actual peanuts were sprinkled on top. And a mound of rice sat next to it on the plate.
The meat concoction was just as sweet as you might expect but also had a slightly burnt taste. The rice was dry and difficult to eat with chopsticks.
Chopsticks are provided at a condiment station along with Western style eating utensils, your choice, just like the protein. There were also numerous containers of hot mustard and chili sauce for you to take back to your table, a nice alternative to having to fill little paper cups.
Wonton Asian Kitchen operates as a quick-serve restaurant: order at the counter, take your table number and wait for someone to bring the food. Don’t expect service with a smile.
The dining area is large but partitioned in such as way as to be either out in the open or seated in a narrow space. Some thought went into decor but not so much into functionality.
My survey of Wonton was admittedly brief, and I’m willing to return and give it another go. I hope my instinct about the place is misguided. But I’ve seen a lot of operations like this over the years.
Wonton Asian Kitchen is at 1230 W. Fairbanks Ave., Winter Park. It is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday. The phone number is 407-853-5466.