An iconic moment in subculture, reinvented.
Vincent: What the fried rice is this place?
Mia: This is "Jackrabbit Filly." A Genghis man should love it.
Vincent: Come on, Mia. Let's go and get some marinated mackerel ($13).
Mia: You can get marinated mackerel here, Daddy-o. Don't be a hare.
Vincent: Oh, after you, Mustang Sally.
Following suit, the menu at Jackrabbit Filly — Shuai and Corrie Wang's predestined jump from their popular Short Grain food truck — takes quintessential Asian fare, and adds some vamp. While the lunch and dinner offerings rotate often, rest assured the menu is filled with tasty iterations of kimchi, laksa curry, and Sichuan peppercorns.
The pork and cabbage dumplings ($9) are where Yangtze meets Ganges, with a rich mix of pork, cabbage, ginger, and coriander encased inside the perfectly cooked pasta wrapper. Topped with a pungent chinkiang vinegar and Lao Gan Ma chili crisp sauce, the first bite is like suddenly finding something you hadn't even realized was missing.
Muse on that while you wait. And wait. And do a little more waiting for a table. Arrive at 5:30 p.m. and the place is already bumping, with the predicted 45-minute biding-of-time ultimately taking 30 minutes longer. Eventually things will presumably die down and/or a reservation system engaged, but for now you can bank on plenty of hobnobbing with strangers. If you have a hankering for Asian fusion and awkward conversations, the front porch has what you need. Huddle under a heat lamp, sip a drink with a name so long and unnecessary it's a little cringey to say it aloud ("I'll take a 'That's right, Iceman. I am Dangerous," $10) and watch as converging generations grapple for common ground.
From the name, one might expect the salt and pepper octopus ($11) to arrive as something along the lines of crisp, cornstarch-coated tentacles tossed with Sichuan and jalapeno peppers.
One would be wrong. In actuality, it's closer to popcorn shrimp than shell-on crunchy crustacean, and there ain't nothing wrong with that. Topped with green onion and crisp cucumber, all drenched in a buttermilk wasabi aioli, I'm from here on referring to it as octopoda with ranch.
The fish tartare ($12), however, should be called bait and switch. I mean, yes, there's raw fish, but it's plated on top of nori-wrapped cylinders of rice and, well — it's deconstructed sushi. The generous bounty of smoky Chipotle-esque "spicy mayo" and fishy furikake overshadowed the delicate fish, but props for what is undoubtedly a clever idea by any name.
Short Grain's beloved karaage ($8) endures in both its forms, traditional and Sichuan hot. Basically the best chicken tenders, ever; the meat is juicy, the coating crunchy, and the drizzle of lemon mayo and ponzu — along with some togarashi-induced heat — should be presented with the following disclaimer: "The karaage is a small structure made of chicken. It is delicious, and you are not ready for it."
You'll soon cycle through all five stages of grief.
Denial. "It's not that delicious. I can control myself."
Anger. "Who the f—- ordered this?!"
Bargaining. "If I finish it all, can I have my soul back?"
Depression. "There is no love here, and there is no pain."
Acceptance. "I will die because of this, and I am fine with that."
So, to sum it up, apply for that second mortgage now, because it's probably also addictive.
A surprising showstopper, the menu's description of the cauliflower salad ($10) gives insufficient insight as to how I can recreate it at home. "This salad is out of control," groaned my vegetable-eschewing, suddenly greedy dining companion. Rendered bright green from the cilantro dressing, the tender florets contrast nicely with the crunch of fried chickpeas, peanuts, and puffed rice. While a takeout order — or three — will be necessary to truly re-engineer the dish, I'm not angry.
Despite the crowds and increasing throngs of jostling bodies waiting for a table, service was cheerful and efficient. The two-top to our left remained empty for a while, so it's possible the extreme busyness is also because they're pacing things in order to stay in the flow. And it probably doesn't hurt sales of those "Truth is, I've been thirsty all my life" ($10) gin and sochu cocktails. And congrats if you get that reference without Google.
During our wait, we chatted with some guys about their undying affection for the Singapore fried rice ($17). While they eventually gave up and went to get a pizza, we ultimately gazed upon a large dish of ham, pineapple, pea, and carrot-filled grains. Topped with cilantro, Thai basil, five juicy shrimp, and a buttermilk curry aioli, it's a sweet, smoky, and satisfying version of the classic.
One doesn't anticipate running into tomatillos at an Asian restaurant. But fusions like this is why fusion exists, and it turns out the indigenous Mexican nightshades make total sense in the mapo tofu verde ($16). So do the pillowy, flavor-soaked ricotta gnudi and crisp, flowery coriander seeds. While a very generous portion, it's too bad there isn't some kind of bollillo or Hokkaido milk bread rolls on offer to soak up what remains of the bright, complex sauce.
On that note, short grain rice ($3) is available as a side dish, and don't overlook the garlicky greens ($5) listed below it. Topped with ponzu and dressed in a garlicky (duh), gingery sauce, the kale is everything greens dream of becoming when they grow up.
"If I had the authority, I'd give them an award," sighed my dining companion. While, alas, no World Famous Jackrabbit Filly twist contest exists (yet), a similar, multi-tiered, two-foot tall trophy sounds about right. Grab some friends, share the love, and share it hard.