The Chinese name of this modest restaurant in the university district is far more appealing than the odd English name: Xiaotong Xiao Chi (Xiaotong's little eats, though "little eats" really means "restaurant"). The chef, Dai Xiaotong, is a former Taiwanese school teacher who adores food and prepares a geographically heterogeneous assortment of Chinese and Taiwanese dishes. He changes the menu seasonally, working for months to perfect recipes he has found on research trips to China. His daughter is the waitress and his sister runs the business, providing accurate English translations of all of the Chinese menu items.
I and friends had a large lunch, mostly vegan, at Jack's Tapas Cafe yesterday and the food was varied, deftly prepared, savory, honest and pretty. We began with gan bian si ji dou (dry-fried string beans), perfectly prepared, and jia chang jiu cai dou ya gan si (home-style Chinese chives, bean sprouts, baked tofu, and vermicelli), a lovely balance of a savory dish and a refreshing and herbaceous dish. We then ate five more dishes, including a velvety eggplant with garlic sauce (the sauce a bit thick for me) and, my favorite, suan cai fen si (a northeastern dish of pickled mustard greens, pickled bok choy, and vermicelli).
I strongly recommend that anyone with the slightest interest in Chinese food try this place. Just tell the waitress that you'd like the chef to make four of his favorite dishes, letting her know what flavors, regions, ingredients you love.
Jack's Tapas Cafe
5211 University Way NE
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