Friday, August 21, 2009

Weekly Eats: Jack's Tapas Cafe

Welcome to the first installation of Weekly Eats on Joie Joie de Vivre! Each week, we will try to share restaurants, recipes, and foods that we love to eat. It is probably fair to say that there are two types of eaters: those that eat to live, and those that live to eat. If you are of the latter, sit down, and tuck a napkin into your collar. Saliva may cause your computer to short circuit. If you are the former, sit down anyways, and perhaps we can change your mind. At the very least, we’re going to give you a taste of what it is like to live in glorious gluttony. Every story has a beginning and the story of Weekly Eats is no exception.

I am lucky to have a tight-knit group of girlfriends, all of whom enjoy eating and appreciate a good meal. While it is certainly correct to say that friendships are built on trust, respect, and love, I think it is also correct to say that the trust, respect, and love begins simply by sharing a meal and conversation. For my girlfriends and me, the meals are usually at Jack’s Tapas Cafe and the conversations are always about life, work, and (of course) men. And I have to tell you something about hanging out with my girls. We shout. We laugh. We tell stories. We have a blast. And we are certainly NOT quiet. That is, until the food comes out. Despite the implications of its name, Jack’s Tapas Cafe is actually a Chinese restaurant that serves family style helpings of food. Once the platters of food are set out, the focus is entirely on the stir-fried hand shaven noodles, layered scallion bread, or three cup chicken hotpot. Alternately, sometimes we order the five spice beef soup, the braised pork belly, or the bean sprout stir fried with tofu strips. Then, for a solid twenty minutes, the only sounds heard from our table are slurps, sips, sighs of goodness, and the occasional camera clicks to document the temporary food nirvana.

Stir-Fried Shaved Noodles

My Tam and I both have a yummy history with this restaurant. My Tam knew it as a short-lived eatery, which served some of the best hand-shaven noodles she’s ever had, in addition to delicious, layered scallion bread. I knew Jack’s Tapas, as a fairly new establishment, after it had reopened. It was located two blocks down from my seedy apartment, and my roommates and I would celebrate special occasions with stir-fried Chinese eggplant and even more scallion bread. My Tam and I both think that the day I informed her that Jack’s Tapas was still existence as one of the best days of our friendship ever. At our most recent meal at Jack’s Tapas, My Tam came up with the idea of sharing this special place and others like it on our blog. The idea was absolutely wonderful, much like the woman who suggested it. The meal that inspired this brainchild is as follows: warm tea, stir-fried hand shaven noodles, flash fried tofu mixed with vegetables, and onion tortilla with egg. The noodles, scrumptious as always, were chewy, flavorful, with bits of garlicky beef tucked in. The tofu was crispy on the outside, yet silky smooth on the inside. The accompanying sauce and vegetables packed with spices rounded out this dish nicely. But oh, the onion tortilla! What a surprise! My Tam and I knew we were in for a treat when the waitress and co-owner of the restaurant told us while smiling that this dish, above all others, was her absolute favorite. The tortilla itself was light and fluffy and studded with green onions. Wrapped inside of it was a slightly seasoned omelette. It looked like a jelly roll that took the savory, less traveled path. And the taste was subtle perfection.

Flash fried tofu with vegetables

Onion Tortilla with Egg

Eating good food and sharing this experience with others is what we aim to do with Weekly Eats. Think of it as an opportunity to break (scallion) bread, or rekindle old friendships. The joy of eating lies within the food and with the people that one is sharing the fooding experience. And by this, I do not just mean your dinner-comrades-in arms. My Tam and I had finished our meal and were on our way out when the cooks of the restaurant came out to greet us. It was a slow evening and the Seattle sun was finally cooling down. Jack is a sweet man—shy, with a smile that stretches from ear to ear. Jack’s sous check was sweaty from his labor, but also, seemingly exuberant. Both men and the waitress were grinning hugely, as My Tam and I repeatedly said how much we appreciated our food. The great thing about food is that it has a bonding quality with everyone that is in some way involved with it, and for the most part derives joy for all. We had learned that day, thanks to in the inset of the menu, that Jack, "is so happy when standing in front of the wok.” And we couldn’t be any happier to keep Jack happy.

Photography by My Tam Nguyen
To learn more about Jack's Tapas Cafe:

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