5211 University Way
Despite this place’s name, it’s NOT a tapas bar. It’s a Chinese restaurant. This sets a dangerous precedent: if a Chinese restaurant can call itself a tapas bar, then the adjectives you might use to describe any restaurant lose all meaning. An accurate description of things is the basis of language. Jack’s Tapas Café is obviously some Orwellian attempt to destroy English by rendering the descriptive powers of the language completely corrupt. After all, if a Chinese restaurant can use the word “tapas,” then what’s stopping Burger King from changing its name to “Sushi King?” Wendy’s could become “Jenny’s.” Pizza Hut could easily become “Delicious Hut.” Your mom could describe herself as “sexy.” Arby’s might be able to call itself “Food.” Don’t we have false advertising laws to prevent shit like this?
Fortunately, it’s easily apparent when you walk into Jack’s that it isn’t a tapas bar because there’s lots of Chinese writing (and people) everywhere. If it actually were a tapas bar there would be wine bottles everywhere and lots of overpriced almonds. And probably some dude with a ponytail. So if you really wanted tapas, it would be pretty apparent to you that you were in the wrong place, and then you could turn around and leave, although I’d advise against leaving because Jack’s Tapas Café is tasty as fuck.
We started with one of the house specialties, the Stir Fried Noodles ($9.95). Hand shaved noodles were sautéed with cabbage, onions, scallions, slivered carrots, and your choice of meat. We chose beef. The meat was cut into tender strips, nestled in among julienned shards of cabbage and onions which still had a little bit of crunch left in them. The hand shaved noodles were thick and doughy, irregularly shaped, with an almost leathery texture, yet very soft to the bite. It was almost like eating some kind of raw, savory cookie dough. You can substitute the hand shaved noodles for regular noodles in every noodle dish for $1 more, and why WOULDN’T you? If you turn down the hand shaved noodle option you should get an MRI immediately because something is seriously fucked up in your brain, and you are a retard.
The tea smoked duck was all right. For $12.95 you get shitloads of duck meat, chopped up into succulent chunks the way the Chinese like to do and piled up on the plate with a tiny ramekin of hoisin sauce. The duck had a subtle smoky flavor, but it was a little dry. The vegetarian green beans ($8.95) were just a cheesy name for a classic Chinese standby: green beans in garlic sauce. This dish had umami pouring out of its ass. The green beans were soft and pleasingly charred on the skins. Large soft brown chunks of sautéed garlic peeked out from between the beans, and everything was glazed in a rich soy glaze that was just a whore’s hair away from being too salty.
Except it didn’t really matter that the green beans were almost too salty if you got the sesame scallion bread, AKA the Best Motherfucking Bread I Have Ever Tasted, and I’ve Been to France (BMBIHETIBF bread for short). This fucking bread was a goddamned revelation: $9.95 gets you a giant round loaf of flaky fluffy layered bread, sliced into wedges, flecked here and there with little slips of scallion, and topped with a scattering of toasted sesame seeds. This doughy, flaky sesame scallion bread fucking rules, although it’s more like a biscuit than bread, but perfect: the perfect Platonic biscuit, the kind of lofty ideal of pure biscuity biscuitness, that if it actually existed would appear on your plate amid fanfare and electrical noise, like Voltron made out of dough, to rule the bread world with a cruel but just hand. You remember how good your grandma’s biscuits tasted to you when you were a kid? Well fuck your grandma. Fuck her biscuits too. Jack’s sesame scallion bread does not tolerate any challenges to its domination of the pastry universe, and it punched your grandma’s pussy biscuits in the face with its gigantic Voltron fist which isn’t just a fist, it also has LION’S TEETH on it so it punches AND bites your stupid grandma biscuits at the same time. Like I said, the green beans may have been a little salty, but if you split open the magnificent layered sesame scallion bread and piled some green beans and a little tea smoked duck in there, you could make the kind of badass makeshift sandwich that people usually throw together on the day after Thanksgiving.
We closed with the General Tso’s Chicken. Let me tell you motherfuckers about General Tso’s Chicken. This tale is long and melancholy, so grab a snifter of brandy and settle down into a leather wing- backed chair, and get ready to weep as rain patters the window, and the fire dying in the hearth casts shadows upon the wainscoting, for this is the Story of Seattle’s Best General Tso’s Chicken.
The BEST General Tso’s Chicken in Seattle isn’t available anymore. It was the specialty of the Broadway Wok & Grill on Capitol Hill, and at the Asian Wok & Grill in Fremont. Both restaurants were owned by the same guy, Danny Wong. When Danny died in 2006, his family sold the restaurants, and the recipe died with him. THAT fucking General Tso’s Chicken was an exemplar of its breed: they served it to you in a gigantic pile on an oval plate, crispy chunks of tender boneless chicken thigh meat in a tangy sticky sauce, bronze and gleaming like a pirate’s booty. It could only have been better if they served the chicken to you in one of those mini treasure chests you can put inside an aquarium. The sauce was complex: at once spicy and sweet, sugary for sure, but with a tangy peppery bottom note and an orange blossom finish. The batter was very light, probably corn starch- based, and subtly crunchy. Thai bird chilis poked their spicy red beaks up from this delicious menagerie. The meat was succulent and tender. Lightly steamed broccoli florets were wedged between the chicken chunks to remind you to eat some fucking vegetables. The dish as a whole was somehow much lighter and easier to eat than a plate of fried chicken with sugar sauce has any right to be.
But then Danny Wong unexpectedly died, and his mind- bogglingly awesome recipe for General Tso’s Chicken died with him. They buried him with a piece of General Tso’s Chicken to give to Charon instead of a coin as payment across the River Styx. Danny’s family sold his restaurants. The Broadway Wok & Grill became some lame Mexican place. The Asian Wok & Grill became a gym, as if the universe was trying to work off all of the calories that had previously been sent out from that location. Sigh. And then I had to settle for inferior General Tso's Chicken, like the one you can get from China First, which tastes like McDonald's Chicken McNuggets doused in corn syrup. Sigh. Such is life.
But how does Jack’s General Tso’s Chicken measure up? Not too fucking bad, though the Story of Seattle’s Best General Tso’s Chicken is a tough act to follow. Jack’s General Tso’s is expensive: for $10.95 you only got maybe 8 pieces of chicken, round golf balls of breast meat lightly fried and doused in thin syrup. The meat was a little dry. The sauce was a one- note clunker, like an out of tune piano, cloyingly sweet and drippy and not very spicy, like they took some Aunt Jemima’s and mixed it with a little 5- spice powder. Two or three limp spinsterly broccoli florets looked on from the sidelines, wishing you would eat them but knowing that you probably wouldn’t and then writing bad poetry in their notebooks about rejection.
Jack’s Tapas Café might have a misleading name, but the cuisine is solid. The sesame scallion bread, which pummels your taste buds into submission with its weapons- grade deliciousness, is by itself reason enough to go there. I’m going to start using that shit as my regular sandwich bread. I was vaguely disappointed by the General Tso’s Chicken, but that’s only because I’ve been spoiled by my shimmering idealized memories of past iterations of that dish. Probably the ONLY thing about Jack’s that actually really sucks is the “artwork,” and I use that term as loosely as your mom’s vag: for $30 you can buy these cheesy scrolls, upon which is scrawled some sloppy folk music lyrics of the kind which is usually written by chicks with bad teeth and huge tits who love to make sure that everyone knows they once lived in their cars. But I’d call that a minor quibble: it’s not an art gallery, after all. I doubt the Whitney or the Saatchi sell very good Chinese food.
Now I’m feeling pensive. My mournful reverie of the Broadway Wok & Grill has put me into an introspective mood, so forgive me: I must retire to my drawing room for some absinthe and a chaser of laudanum. Your mom will be providing the sodomy, and Black Sabbath will be providing the background music. God save the Queen, you fuckers, God save the Queen.
Rating: 7 strolls down memory lane out of 10