Birthday Surprise: Wild Tangerine

Mack, Kat and I surprised Jill with a birthday dinner at Wild Tangerine last Monday. She was kept in the dark right up until she walked into the restaurant – it was funny when she saw my name on the reservation register and thought, “What a coincidence that Sharon is here too!”

Wilson Wu, co-owner and host, was his usual gregarious self, and was more than generous on this occasion of sharing some of the treats that the kitchen had come up with for the season. First, we were invited to try their Christmas pizza with smoked turkey, cranberries and instead of a tomato sauce, a layer of pureed yams. It was definitely not the usual delivery variety – light with a seeded crust, it’d make a great starter for a party (it’s available through the Good Food Box and at the restaurant).

Wild Tangerine

Holiday pizza

Wilson was also nice enough to gift us bags of their holiday  tangerine-glazed popcorn, mixed with dried fruits and nuts. We gave the popcorn to Mack’s parents, and they found it quite enjoyable.

Wild Tangerine


To start, we had to introduce Jill and Kat to Wild Tangerine’s famous shrimp lollipops. If you haven’t yet tried these perfectly fried morsels, served with wasabi yogurt, make it your mission in 2012 to do so – they’re one of Edmonton’s best appetizers.

Wild Tangerine

Shrimp Lollipops

For mains, Kat and Jill decided on the night’s special, an ahi tuna with shredded Brussels sprouts and rice. The tuna was cooked well, pink and tender, enhanced with a chia seed crust.

Wild Tangerine

Ahi tuna

Mack ordered another special, a sablefish served with a dried scallop consommé. The fish was flaky, while the broth had a deep umami flavour. Mack wasn’t sure what to think of the garnish, but actually quite enjoyed the skin crisps.

Wild Tangerine


I opted to try the Siao Hseng Wine slow-cooked Ardrossan bison short bibs with sushi rice. The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender, and while sushi rice was unexpected (as opposed to the typical jasmine), the piece-y, slightly tangy grains worked well. I also liked the crispy chips, though for presentation purposes, I expected a sprinkle of something with more pop.

Wild Tangerine

Bison short ribs

Jill’s dessert of a chocolate tart with coconut and watermelon arrived with the cutest duck candle. It was smooth, with a buttery crust.

Wild Tangerine

Chocolate from the East

I preferred the chocolate tart to the crème caramel that Mack and I shared. It was set nicely though, a silky texture offset with cubes of watermelon and gems of pomegranate.

Wild Tangerine

Crème caramel

I’ve never been disappointed with a meal at Wild Tangerine, whatever the occasion. We’ll be back soon!

Wild Tangerine
10383 112 Street
(780) 429-3131
Monday-Thursday 11:30am-10pm, Friday 11:30am-11pm, Saturday 5-11pm, closed Sundays

Alberta Backstage Culinary Dinner at Wild Tangerine

I sometimes wonder what tourists that visit Edmonton ultimately think of the city. Festival central? Expansive river valley? Pedestrian unfriendly? Dominated by big box stores (and a monolithic mall)?

I suppose a lot of it comes down to what the visitors are interested in (and as a result, what they seek out), and who, if anyone, recommends certain attractions over others. For that reason, I was delighted to be asked (alongside Mack) by Bin of the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation to attend a dinner at Wild Tangerine two weeks ago to “share my Edmonton” with travel writers from other parts of Canada, the United States and Germany. Chef Ned Bell (of Cabana in Kelowna) was leading the group of six writers through Alberta over an eight day period.

We received the journalists’ itinerary a few days before the function. They would be on the second (and final) night of a whirlwind tour of the Edmonton area. Their time in the city was jam-packed, including stops at the Yellowhead Brewery, dinner at Skinny Legs and Cowgirls, a walk through the Victoria Promenade, a visit to the Little Potato Company, and a drive to Pigeon Lake for lunch at Eco Cafe.

I realize how time is of the essence, and geographically speaking, that not all attractions are in close proximity to one another, but remembering my own experiences on a Contiki tour bus in Europe, I know I would have preferred more time exploring by foot instead of traveling from place to place by vehicle, and based on their comments that night, they would have liked the same. Given the amount of time they spent driving in circles as well (Judy Love Rondeau, the Travel Alberta liaison on the trip, is originally from Edmonton, but has been living in Texas for several years now, and while Ned spent many years in Calgary, he wasn’t at all familiar with Edmonton), it was curious why EEDC didn’t arrange for a local guide for the Edmonton leg of the trip. Mack and I also had to wonder why at least one of the meals weren’t scheduled for Wildflower Grill, given the guests were staying at the Matrix Hotel, and Nathin Bye’s award-winning reputation (he earned the top prize at the Gold Medal Plates in 2009).

As for our dinner at Wild Tangerine, Wilson and Judy pulled out all the stops. They closed the restaurant off, and presented a meal comprised partly of dishes off their regular menu, but mostly conceived just for this function, utilizing ingredients purchased at the City Market as a means of highlighting our local bounty.

I am all for supporting local producers (Madison’s Grill is one of my favourite restaurants partly because of their commitment to area farmers), and Wild Tangerine is a good example of another Edmonton restaurant with ties to Alberta producers, an off-menu meal isn’t the best representation of what tourists – on a random weekday – would be able to order. One of the journalists said as much, noting that she wouldn’t be able to focus on dishes that her readers would be unable to ask for.

My only other grievance was the lack of producer names on the menu. Wilson chose to go the route of listing where the product had come from in place of the farm name (Leduc instead of Greens, Eggs and Ham, for instance – something I know the regular Wild Tangerine menu does as well). Perhaps this was borne out of a necessity to appease writers who would be overwhelmed by the names of individual producers, but especially having sourced many of the ingredients from the City Market, they should have emphasized the sheer breadth of local producers they used.

That said, Judy is an absolutely amazing chef, and the meal showcased her kitchen abilities above all else. Ned was particularly impressed that the menu was conceived after a routine walk through down the aisles of the City Market.

Wilson, Ned and Judy

Wilson Wu and Chefs Ned Bell and Judy Wu

It is a meal I will remember for a long time – not only because of the company (it was only after the meal that I realized why Ned’s voice was so familiar – Mack and I see his clips of It’s Just Food every night before we go to bed, in between commercials during our late night programming), but also because every dish was so exceptional, it was difficult to pick a favourite. Each course had something exquisite, unique and memorable, and with the chatter at the table, it was evident the guests felt the same thing.

Photo op!

You can’t be a food writer these days without a camera

We started off with Wild Tangerine’s famous shrimp lollipops, which are an absolute must at the restaurant. Wrapped in phyllo pastry, they are one of the most creative and delicious appetizers I have ever come across. Messy, but worth every explosive bite.

Shrimp Lollipops

Shrimp Lollipops (fabulous presentation)

The next dish, a Pacific octopus salad with Greens, Eggs and Ham mixed heritage greens and an oregano vinaigrette, totally changed my view on octopus. I most often avoid octopus because of the rubbery texture I associate with the protein, but here, it was tender, with a consistency similar to chicken! I also loved the crunchy taro root fries – they were a fun addition.

Octopus Salad

Pacific Octopus Salad

A Slave Lake pickerel (from Fin’s), served with a Mo Na morel mushroom-butter glaze, was stunning. If not for decorum and common decency, I would have licked the plate – seasoned perfectly, and velvety rich, it enhanced the fork-tender fish. We seriously did something wrong with the morels that we purchased – they tasted nothing like that. But then again, I’m far from a chef.

Alberta Pickerel

Slave Lake Pickerel with Morel Mushroom Butter-Glaze

The jasmine tea, wok-smoked Greens, Eggs and Ham duck breast with a spicy tangerine aioli was also not a regular menu item, but it should be. It was Judy’s 2008 Gold Medal Plates-winning dish, and it was easy to see why. Gorgeous presentation aside, the duck was moist, with crisp skin encasing an even layer of delicious fat, the sweet heat from the aioli punching up the flavour. The accompanying chanterelle and duck confit wonton was just as good, and was better than any other fried wonton I’d ever had.

Smoked Duck Breast

Jasmine Tea Smoked Duck Breast with Spicy Tangerine Aioli

Amber Lane elk, done two ways, was next. The “Lions Head” meatball, stuffed with Sylvan Star gouda and pan-seared tenderloin with a Saskatoon berry compote, was a dish to conquer. I appreciated the tenderloin, well-cooked as it was, but really, I probably could have eaten a second meatball in its place – the cheese surprise was the icing on the cake.

Elk Two Ways

Amber Lane Elk Two Ways

The penultimate dish of Siang Hseng wine slow-cooked Rimbey bison short ribs is thankfully on the regular menu, and is one that I will have to order next time I’m in – they were meltingly tender (and without the egregious fat sometimes seen on beef short ribs). The coconut gnocchi were also really good – light and refreshing, Janet, the journalist across from me commented on how it combined two things she really liked, but had never thought to put together.

Bison Shortrib and Coconut Gnocchi

Slow-cooked Bison Short Ribs

Dessert that night was an en Sante Green Envy-infused “double-yolk” crème caramel, made using eggs from Sunshine Organic, and raspberries from Wilson’s backyard. Crème caramel isn’t something I’ve ever ordered, but it was a nice, fairly light alternative to my usual choice of a rich, heavy cake. Ned was impressed by the texture and consistency of the flan, and commended Judy for choosing to make such a dessert for food writers.

Creme Caramel

Green Envy-Infused Crème Caramel (Mack had a few bites before he remembered to take a photo)

I should mention that each dish was paired with a lovely wine, but being the lush I am, I wasn’t able to keep up, and ended up only tasting the last few glasses of wine.

Wilson called the meal a “Dinner of True Love”, because of Judy’s sincere, honest cooking. I couldn’t have agreed with the description more. Thanks again to Bin for the invite, and I do hope the journalists enjoyed their time in Edmonton!

Fun Fusion: Wild Tangerine

Last week I met up with Jennifer for a late lunch. My first pick, Il Pasticcio, unfortunately only serves lunch until 2pm, but Jennifer’s trusty foodie colleague recommended Wild Tangerine, whose operating hours span both afternoon and evening.

I’ve been to Wild Tangerine for dinner a couple of times in the past, and have been more impressed with each visit. They are a great example of a successful, independent business (and one of the first Original Fare members), and are well-known for their creative Asian fusion cuisine that highlights local producers.


As expected, we hit the tail end of the lunch rush, with only two other parties in the restaurant when we arrived. We were greeted immediately by co-proprietor Wilson Wu, ever-affable and chatty. This was the first time I’ve had the opportunity to speak extensively with him, and through the conversation, realized how health-conscious Wild Tangerine strives to be. Their current focus is on a line of pre-cooked frozen meals (available at the restaurant and through the Good Food Box) – from gourmet pizzas like Moroccan mint lamb to bison short ribs – which, like d’Lish, fills the niche of convenience with a conscience. He also told us that their Mobile Cuisine location (which had been located in Manulife Place, and served similar healthy takeout dishes), closed when their sublease of the space ended. Wilson said that it was difficult to hire staff (Mobile Cuisine opened during the boom), and that the appetite in Edmonton for such meals isn’t yet comparable to other cities.

While I can’t vouch for their bagged cuisine, I do love their menu. I think their play on Western concepts are clever: for lunch, for example, they offer Asian Po’Boys, really just a fancy term for “sandwiches”, said Wilson. Jennifer and I each ordered one – she the smoked salmon egg fooyung ($13), which tasted like a frittata encased in a bun, and I the butter masala chicken ($15). The sauce that enrobed the chicken was spiced for more timid palates (not a bad thing for a daytime meal), but the real star of the plate was the sweet corn relish, and the crisp green salad alongisde the po’boy.

Butter masala chicken po’boy

An order of four shrimp lollipops ($12) also found their way into our meal. We agreed they would be a disastrous first date appetizer, but were darn tasty. How could you go wrong with deep-fried, phyllo-wrapped shrimp?

Shrimp lollipops

Between their attentive service, interesting menu, and unrelenting support of local producers, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed lunch at Wild Tangerine. I’ll be back soon!

Wild Tangerine
10383 112 Street
(780) 429-3131
Monday-Thursday 11:30am-10pm, Friday 11:30am-11pm, Saturday 5-11pm, closed Sundays

“The Coffee Shop”: Wild Tangerine

Annie introduced me to Wild Tangerine (10383 112 Street) two years ago, but I haven’t been back since. I thought the portions were small for the price, but the decor and the atmosphere were the closest I have ever found to duplicating the fictional Sex and the City “coffee shop” in Edmonton. When a window opened up on Friday to meet up with Bettina for dinner, I jumped at the opportunity to take her there.

Wild Tangerine is part of a very small group of restaurants that are considered darlings of the Edmonton food scene (Culina and Soul Soup are two others). Part of that reason is chef Judy Wu’s presence on the national stage (for example, just recently winning bronze at the Mystery Wine Pairing event at the Canadian Culinary Championships in Toronto). The other is because of its whimsical interpretation of fusion fare using locally-sourced products.

I’ve always been sceptical of the movement towards Asian-Western “fusion”, especially because with that word anywhere near the menu, restaurants seem to believe it grants them a license to automatically increase the prices. At any rate, I was ready to give Wild Tangerine a fair shot that night.

At 5:30pm, we were just one of three parties at the restaurant, but by 7pm, nearly every table had been taken. My initial impression of the decor still held true – I loved the muted, earth-toned walls, orb-like pendant lighting and the IKEA-esque plastic white chairs. In all, with its dark floor and open space, it reminded me of a funkier version of Culina.

I also appreciated the unexpected little touches, like the stamp on the brightly-colored napkin, the mini-clipbord menus, and the smooth pebble stones at the base of the bathroom sink. I thought the plastic water cups were a little inelegant and out of place given the setting, but that was a minor nitpick.

Their selections of mains is small, almost always a good sign of a restaurant trying to focus its energies on doing a few things very well. I had heard rave reviews on their Shrimp Lollipops ($8 for 3), so we ordered that to start. For entrees, Bettina opted for the Peppercorn Crusted Yellow Fin Tuna with Organic Hemp-Oil Tomato Coulis ($20), while I decided to try the Cha-Siu Organic Pembina Pork Tenderloin with Spicy Tangerine Glaze ($22).

The Shrimp Lollipops were beautifully presented, carefully placed in a white ceramic cup. Neither of us cared for the wasabi yogurt they were served with, but I loved the crispy coating on the shrimp. They were undoubtedly messy to eat, with bits of fried noodle ending up as unfortunate casualties with every bite, but each savoury crunch transported me to an upscale midway where beautiful food tastes as it should.

Our mains were timed right, both delivered shortly after our starter plates had been cleared. Again, the artful arrangement of the food should be noted, with ribbons of carrots and slivers of chives adorning the tops of both our dishes. The bok choy was perfectly prepared, crispy, with the natural juices of the vegetable palpable. Unfortunately, both her tuna and my pork had been overcooked (the tuna to the point where it stopped tasting like fish and had a firm, meat-like consistency). Luckily, the sublime, sweet-spicy tangerine glaze saved my dish somewhat, ensuring that I used all of the conveniently pre-sliced pork as a vehicle to soak up every last ounce of the sauce.

Service was attentive throughout, and again, with my adoration of the ambiance, I know I will be back. Likely next time, it will be for tapas and desserts instead.

Wild Tangerine


Place setting


Shrimp Lollipops

Peppercorn Crusted Yellow Fin Tuna

Cha-Siu Organic Pembina Pork Tenderloin