By GENE GONZALEZ
Jet G Fast and Good Chinese restaurant is among the many restaurants I go to for Mainland Chinese style cooking. It is also the favorite of Center for Asian Culinary Studies (CACS) chefs such as my son, Gino, together with China Cojuangco and Toto Erfe.
Just a stone’s throw away from our school in Cabaguio Ave. in Davao City, I literally saw this restaurant grow from years back. It was called the Chinese eatery in the gasoline station and I had watched this place improved by the owner, evolving from an open-air shed to the installation of makeshift aquariums and tanks, replacing the plastic and metal basins that housed the live sea creatures.
At that time, I was rather unimpressed with the cooking, longing for the prevalent Sichuan spices I had tasted during my visits in Beijing. It seems as though all the food was a bare excuse for putting fresh or dried chilies on the dishes to come close to what was enjoyed in the Mainland.
Things changed during Chefs Gino and China’s last stint in our school, I saw posts of the food and place that were unrecognizable. The place was greatly spruced up with a cleaner floor, rich ruby tablecloth, and good air-conditioning.
I was convinced to take another look and visit Jet G.
I got invited by Dianne Sia- Luceñara a. k. a. Davao Food Guide with her friends, Mari Escobal and Jen Nitt to dine out and this was a great chance to try out the Jet G dishes. The restaurant seems to have reinvented itself from an eating place that serves regular Mainland Chinese dishes to a premium seafood restaurant. The place was full with mostly Chinese and very few of the locals who probably don’t even know that this place exists. Anyway, it was a good time to try the seafood, which is also partially supplied by Mari Escobal. The tanks are filled with various sea creatures, as one of the strengths of this restaurant is its precise cooking of seafood.
We started off with griddle intestines which are basically flash-fried pork intestines tumbled in aromatic vegetables, chili oil, and chili peppers. The outer layer of intestine skins had a pleasant crunch with a tender chew of well-prepared offal.
Next was a plate of stir-fried chicken morsels with fresh and dried chili plus the addition of bell pepper slices topped with crisp garlic slivers. This is a great dish for a boy’s drinking night out, although I miss the version with about 60 percent dried chili and a scattering of Sichuan peppercorns that is standard beer fare we have in Beijing.
Our steamed baby red lobsters arrived smoldering, catching the attention of the other tables.
I started off eating the rich coral on the head then slowly loosening the eggs stuck to its body relishing the sweet little globules of lobster eggs with an intense crustacean flavor.
A huge steaming bowl laden with dried chilies and crystal noodles which is one of my favorites in their cooking style which I had enjoyed in the past with boiled catfish, came to our table.
The sweet flesh of the catfish is greatly enhanced by the heat and spice emanating from chilies, pepper, garlic, Sichuan peppercorns, and ginger. This time it was pieces of Lapu-lapu’s head and tail that went into this Mala spice mix that is truly reminiscent of mainland Chinese cooking.
Our last course was a large female crab laden with crab fat that was steamed and tossed in garlic, vegetables, ginger, and crystal noodles that add texture and absorb flavors of seafood and spice. This again showed the restaurant’s mastery of steaming seafood which we all agreed to come back for.
So a couple of days later we decided to go more brazen on the budget and splurge on more of their seafood offerings. We started out with a pulutan dish of fried pork intestines, having been pleased with the last intestines we had. There were slices of offal that was fried to have a crispy exterior and on the side were intestines cut into calamari-like slices. A dip of the Filipino vinegar with chilies, shallots, and soy sauce was a foil to the rich, lightly gamey flavor of the innards.
Our mantis shrimp was prepared in a deep-fried version skin on with spices quite similar to a simple salt and pepper style. The sweetness of these powerful critters was amazing. It has a really good flavored finish, beating out our live spiny lobster that was steamed and sauced with a rather concentrated superior stock.
We also did try out their slipper lobster that was served in its most pristine and natural state. The flesh again was cooked quite accurately and the firm crustacean meat retained its white shiny state.
Mastery of steaming was again displayed in our white pompano in a soy-based stick that showed off its delicate, creamy flavors. The pompano was plated in such a way that it seemed to have been in the process of jumping upwards.
Our chef made a quick decision to let us sample some newly arrive elephant clam shells which I suspect to be young geoducks with their silky digger muscles that taste so much of the sea. To catch the briny, sea flavors, the crystal noodles are combined with aromatics such as garlic and ginger. The soup or liquor produced from the cooking of these shells was so appetizing I had decided to make the liquid essence for my soup as I did not want this precious broth to go to waste.
Full and happy, we don’t have any more room for the fried rice that looked quite novel as it showed kernels of corn and preserved yellow radish, taking a detour from the usual Chinese sausage and shrimps.
Overall, Jet G as a restaurant has continually improved its style of cooking and varieties of its offerings. The restaurant, with its premium seafood dishes, will be the most visited joint in the city of Davao.
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