I took my visiting daughter to Mr. Jiu’s for dinner last night. I found it enjoyable despite its being in a zone I’m not yet comfortable with (“elevated” ethnic cuisine), and not outrageously expensive, given its celebrity.
Apologies for the darkness of the pictures; we were seated in an area so dark I had to use my camera’s flashlight to read the menu.
- Mustard Green Salad
- Dutch Crunch BBQ Pork Buns
- Sourdough Scallion Pancake
- Crispy Scarlet Turnip Cakes
- Devil’s Gulch Pig Head
- Steak Fried Rice
- Sizzled Black Cod
I’m not much of a leafy greens guy (give me a wedge of iceberg lettuce and a bottle of Bolthouse Farms dressing) so my daughter, who ordered it, ate most of the Mustard Green salad. I had fun, though, foraging for its hidden treasures (spiced walnuts, jujubes, Asian Pear coins) and the dressing was good enough to lick off the plate.
The Dutch Crunch BBQ Pork Buns were something of a letdown, mostly on account of their size (barely bigger than golf balls) and considering that they are probably the most recommended item on the menu. The pork filling was excellent, but there was nothing revelatory about the shell. I think I preferred the haute pork buns at China Live.
The Sourdough Scallion Pancake was a rather eccentric riff on scallion pancakes, being literally a leavened “cake.” It was tasty enough, but I didn’t like the gummy texture, a bit like a beignet, (which I also dislike). It came with a tangy, sticky dipping sauce and crispy deep fried onions which cleverly stuck to the sticky sauce but only offered partial remediation for the gummy texture of the bing.
The Crispy Scarlet Turnip Cakes were the most satisfying of the “Small Bites” we ordered, and also the most recognizably Chinese. They came in a puddle of not very sweet sauce, and had satisfying crunchy bits in them.
The Devil’s Gulch Pig Head, from the charcuterie section of the menu, was probably my favorite dish of the night. It’s actually a kind of head cheese. According to the waiter, it’s made from a whole pig’s head (or contents thereof) which is pureed, molded and sliced thinly. The slices came garnished with kohlrabi and tea egg slices, and topped with a huge, crunchy amaranth cracker (which I forgot to remove before photographing). My daughter declined to eat any of it (she found the whole notion gross) so I got to eat all four slices, which together could have made the filling for a decent sandwich.
For a “filler” we ordered the Steak Fried Rice, which was also a winner. It came in a deep pot, and I was hoping it was like a clay pot rice with crunchy burnt rice. It turned out to be on the wet side, a bit wetter than the typical fried rice. It was delicious, though, studded with Wagyu beef, crispy garlic, tuna heart and broccoli.
For our “main” we chose the Sizzled Black Cod. The three firm, fat chunks of filleted cod were bathed with an oyster broth and garnished with bok choy, tatsoi, and young ginger. This was also an excellent dish. My main complaint was that there wasn’t enough of it. Another time I’d cut back on the appetizers and go for the “Large Format” whole trout.
My daughter and I were both sated by this meal, and she even took home half of the fried rice to share with her mother. The total bill, exclusive of drinks (which we ordered at the bar while waiting to be seated), tax and tip, was $110. At $55 pp, it’s about what one would pay at China Live or M.Y. China, and Mister Jiu’s is a Michelin star ahead of them.
On the way out, I glanced at the open kitchen, and found myself making eye contact with Brandon Jew himself. He did a double-take and called out my name. We had never met in person, but have often interacted in the social media, and he recognized me (it’s the beard and beret, baby). I reminded him that he owed me a freebie, as I had contributed to his “last mile” Kickstarter campaign and hadn’t collected my reward, and he acknowledged the fact. You can bet I will use this social capital to get a reservation at a time of my own choosing next time.