Jack & Chan: A Chop Above
Jack & Chan // 7 Inzhenernaya Ulitsa // Tel. +7 921 947 5040 // Open daily 10 a.m. to 12 a.m., Friday and Saturday until 2 a.m. // Dinner for two with alcohol 2,080 rubles ($63.15)
Published: August 21, 2013 (Issue # 1774)
With tongue planted firmly in proverbial cheek, the newly opened Asian cafe Jack & Chan has more up its sleeve than a droll name and a hipster clientele.
Decorated to look like nothing more than a cross between an Asian apothecary and a street stall in any Southeast Asian city, the room is instantly welcoming and invites diners to linger. An eclectic mix of furniture, polished concrete floors and both high and low tables make the place seem bigger than it is. Deep-set windows let in copious amounts of light and two dining rooms offer purchase for both smokers and non-smokers alike.
With a brief menu presented on a clipboard, all of the offerings are remarkably affordable with no single dish costing more than 390 rubles ($11.82). The drinks menu is just as succinct, offering a choice of red, white or rose wine by the glass, a few beers, a single cocktail and a couple of stronger spirits.
From the selection of soups, salads and small dishes, the vegetable spring rolls (150 rubles, $4.55) and the duck salad with roast pumpkin (290 rubles, $8.79) beckoned. The salad itself, while lacking in originality from the pre-packaged lettuce mix the chef used, overcame that stumbling block with its jumble of medium-rare slices of duck breast, pumpkin, roasted red peppers and blistered cherry tomatoes scattered with toasted sesame seeds. Dressed in a complex, smoky sauce of cilantro, sesame oil and shards of pickled onion, the salad was refreshing and satisfying. The spring rolls arrived crisp and piping hot and the filling of wood-ear mushrooms, shredded cabbage, carrots and bean sprouts was so flavorful that it barely needed the sweet chili dipping sauce that accompanied it.
To wash down the appetizers, we chose the sole cocktail on the menu and a pint of the house J&C beer (160 rubles, $4.85). The Spritz cocktail (290 rubles, $8.80) was a deliciously refreshing concoction of Aperol and Prosecco that went down a bit too easily, while the beer was of the unfiltered wheat variety, brewed locally and available only at the restaurant.
Because the cocktail disappeared in just a few deep sips, a tall glass of homemade basil lemonade (80 rubles, $2.43) was chosen to accompany the main dishes. Milky green, like a low-quality emerald, it was herbaceous, tart and sweet all at the same time.
Once the mains arrived, however, all eyes were on the plates set before us. The salmon tempura (390 rubles, $11.82) was the most expensive dish on the menu and tasted every bit of it. Five pale slices of salmon with cool, deep coral pink centers were battered in the lightest tempura coating and accompanied by a mound of thick, cola-colored glass noodles sprinkled with sliced mushrooms. The fish was perfectly fresh and elegant. The dipping sauce, however, was too overpowering, being simply a bowl of soy sauce rather than a traditional tempura sauce. As a result it was ignored to let the fish shine.
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