Kung-Fu chops flop at Jackie’s restaurantBe it choppin’, kickin’ ’n’ flippin’ his way through a mass of bad guys in Kung Fu classics such as “Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow” and “Drunker Master,” or engaging in the hyper-speed stunt work for souped-up action epics like “Police Story” or “Armor of God,” he was unquestionably one of the greatest talents to grace world cinema.
Granted, in his most recent movies Hong Kong’s most famous son has clearly been suffering from old wounds and the inevitable depredations of the aging process, but Jackie Chan, in his heyday, was one butt-kickin’ thespian. But with the erstwhile stunt meister now 52, his once-hyper film career is slowing.
So it’s understandable that he is today seeking different avenues of self-expression and, presumably, income. But even for a man brave enough to leap off tall buildings, is it advisable to venture into that riskiest of fields ― the restaurant business?
That was the question facing us as we ventured into “Jackie’s Chinese and Asian Cuisine,” a recently-opened establishment in the ever-fruitful alley behind the Hamilton Hotel in Itaewon.
In the entrance area is a large poster of the Man himself at his camera, but otherwise, for what is essentially a star-driven franchise, it is more stylish inside than one might expect. The fittings are dark wood, set off with dark red highlights. In the main dining area are Chinese scrolls of dragons and mountainscapes, plus a standing wine rack.
The menu offers four pages of grub and is well illustrated with photos of the dishes. Essentially, it offers Cantonese specialties, but with a sprinkling of Szechuan and Southeast Asian dishes thrown in for good measure. Oh, and be sure to note the 10 percent value-added tax in small print at the bottom.
We begin with the Dim Sum Combination (8,000 won, about $7.90), six pieces of Hong Kong’s favorite lunch, served correctly on rice paper in circular bamboo baskets. The shells were fine and the fillings were mainly minced pork and shrimp, all excellent. So, we were off to a good start.
But like a stunt gone wrong, things took a nose-dive from there.
Next up was Stir Fried Pork Belly and Vegetables in Black Bean Sauce (22,000 won), which was good as regards the veggies ― there are plenty of crunchy red and green peppers, onions and mushrooms ― but the pork belly was too chewy by far. The Lemon Chicken (19,000 won) was fine as regards to chicken. The thick, congealed sauce, however, was a pity.
The Seafood and Vegetables in Rice Noodle Soup (8,500 won) was nicely presented, well loaded with broccoli, mushrooms, crab sticks and shrimp, but the broth was so salty it was almost undrinkable. We sent it back. It was returned diluted, but still saltier than a bowl of Dead Sea. Untouchable. Finally, Stir Fried Noodles with XO Sauce (9,500 won) was a mess of noodles with chilli, garlic and pork. But while very spicy, the dish was otherwise unremarkable. I have to say, though, that the portions of both noodle dishes are generous for the price, which cannot be said for the other mains.
One thing Jackie does offer his guests is a decent range of glugs. There was a surprisingly good beer selection, as well as a page of very reasonably priced wines, various teas and even freshly squeezed fresh juices ― though the latter were unavailable the day we visited.
An Erdinger Wheat Beer (3,900 won for 300 cc), fresh off the tap from the Fatherland, is a strong but smooth accompaniment to most spiced Asian cuisines, and so fit the bill here pretty well and is a more versatile beer than Tsingtao, the other brew on tap. The Lemonade (4,500 won) was also zesty and good.
The wait staff were friendly, professional and available, though perhaps unable to deliver jump-kicks while dressed as a waiter and holding the arm of a girl dangling from a five-story window that also happens to be on fire.
Verdict: A few good things here, I suppose, but all considered, one has to say: Jackie, mate, stick to the flicks.
Jackie’s Chinese & Asian
Address: In the alley behind the Hamilton Hotel, Jackie’s is just down from the Usmania restaurant, and diagonally across from Three Alleys Pub.
Subway: Itaewon, exit 1
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. weekdays; 11 a.m. to11 a.m. weekends
Parking: Yes, but for only one car, so good luck!
Dress: Come as you are
by Andrew Salmon