Saturday, November 5, 2016

Jackpot Chicken Rice

Hainanese Chicken Rice (or "海南雞飯" in Chinese) is a dish of Chinese origin from early Chinese immigrants from the Hainan province in southern China. One would usually find the dish associated with Hainanese, Malaysian, Singaporean (it's considered as one of the national dishes of Singapore), Thai and Vietnamese cuisines. Therefore, there are many regional variations of this popular dish, from differences in preparation and cooking styles, to the various condiments and accompaniments served with it. I am, by no means, an expert on Hainanese Chicken Rice, but what I do have are very fond memories of it. Back when I was a toddler living in Hong Kong, my family and I would often have dinner at a homey Thai restaurant near where we lived, and we would always order their Hainanese Chicken Rice. It was one of their signature dishes and it was damn delicious. My Mom made it several times at home, too. Her version was fantastic too, but the dish required a lot of time and effort so it's not something that she would make often. It has been awhile since I've had Hainanese Chicken Rice and I miss it (which reminds me, I remember having a terrible version of it here four years ago).

So, imagine my excitement when I heard about Jackpot Chicken Rice, a restaurant specializing in Hainanese Chicken Rice! Chef Craig Wong of Patois and Jamaican restaurant Ting Irie in Dubai, took over the former Lucky Red space in Chinatown and opened Jackpot Chicken Rice three weeks ago. The restaurant's menu features Hainanese Chicken Rice, Roast Chicken Rice, and Tofu Mushroom Rice, along with several side dishes and add-ons.

A very eye-catching mural of a chubby baby grasping a huge watermelon surrounded by gigantic pink roses just as big as he is.

Colourful colanders lanterns hang from the ceiling.

To my disappointment, Jackpot Chicken Rice (Instagram: @eatjackpot, Facebook: Jackpot Chicken Ricedid not have their liquor license yet when I visited so I couldn't try any of their cocktails (their Chinese Old Fashioned and Hainan Long Island caught my eye). But no worries, they are now licensed :)

The tempura batter was light and not oily. Dressed in a creamy lemon-kewpie mayo then finished with cilantro and lime leaves, everybody at the table really enjoyed this broccoli side dish (this and the Baby Fish Fry are listed under "side dish" on the menu but they are really appetizers since they came before our chicken rice).

This was our bok choy add-on. This also came before our chicken rice.

I didn't particular like this Baby Fish Fry because the whitebait were all so tiny! I couldn't differentiate the fish from the batter so it seemed like I was eating pieces of fried batter with nori and sesame seeds. I wish the fishes were "meatier" so I could taste it, or even just the texture of it. I enjoyed the kewpie mayo on the side, though.

Tender boneless poached chicken, Hainanese-style with schmaltzy chicken rice, ginger-scallion, chilli sauces and winter melon soup. Choice of traditional soft skin, crispy skin or skinless

We got the traditional soft skin version because it's all about the classic. The boneless poached chicken was tender, silky smooth and moist (chef Wong simmers his chickens in a thermal bath flavoured with ginger and scallions). There was not a hint of toughness or dryness. The rice, which was stir fried in chicken fat then steamed in chicken stock, had massive flavour but could have been a tad less "wet" for my taste. The ginger-scallion sauce was a bit salty but for the most part, really good. I wasn't a fan of the soy sauce and the chili sauce combo so I only used it once (they have since got rid of the soy sauce...good call!). I was caught off-guard with the winter melon soup because its flavour was really bold and rich. I am used to winter melon soups that are light and delicate, so although I really enjoyed this one at Jackpot, I think a lighter version to balance out all the savoury flavours happening on the plate would be a better accompaniment here.

Vegan chilli soy braised tofu with edamame, veggie XO sauce, crispy tofu sheets, shiitake mushroom rice, ginger-scallion and chilli sauces

I normally don't order vegetarian or vegan dishes but since we wanted to order the whole menu we thought "Why not?". This exceeded our expectations, especially the earthy shiitake mushrooms and the tofu sheets (I've never had tofu sheets fried to a crisp like this so I really enjoyed it). The seaweed-broth-infused rice was very flavourful, but the XO sauce was over-the-top salty so I only had very little of it.

Marinated in soy sauce, these soft and beautiful eggs had the most tender yolk. Yum!

Sambal glazed boneless chicken, roasted in a Chinese BBQ oven, with schmaltzy chicken rice, Thai fish sauce and winter melon soup

Sweet with a slight kick, the sambal glazed chicken was also very tender and moist, and I really liked the skin on the chicken (only possible because Jackpot has their own Chinese BBQ oven in the kitchen). The fish sauce went really well with the roast chicken.

Double the chicken, extra crispy skin & a soy egg with your Jackpot Chicken Rice

I would recommend getting The Triple Seven because it gives you double the chicken and comes with a soy egg. It's totally worth it. The large crispy skin was very crispy but was also very, very salty (some parts were very salty while some parts weren't at all so it's just inconsistent).

Pan-fried kaya french toast served with cubed pineapples (kaya is a type of coconut jam). This dessert had a nice mix of crunch and sweetness to it.

I would go back to Jackpot Chicken Rice in a heartbeat, especially because I still need to try their cocktails. I already know what I will order next time: Cocktails, Tempura Broccoli, The Triple Seven, and the Kaya French Toast. 

By the way, I want to end this post with a mini rant. There has been a lot of controversy and backlash lately about traditional dishes being re-interpreted (i.e. the bon appetit video on pho followed by their ode to halo halo). I understand why some people would get pissed off, especially if the dish originates from their home country, but personally, just as long as the chef creating X does not claim that their version of X is "the only way you should eat X" then I couldn't care less. If the end product tastes good, then I'm all for different versions and interpretations of traditional dishes (and if it tastes bad then it's unfortunate). I'm just not that picky about "authenticity". The only time I would have beef with it is if a restaurant markets themselves as "authentic" but delivers something entirely different, because that's just misleading people.

Jackpot Chicken Rice Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato