Captain J’s Restaurant, Raleigh, NC
UPDATE: Captain J’s have sent their new menu!
Acting on a Chowhound tip, we ventured over to the East side (of Raleigh, that is) to check out the beloved XLB, or steamed juicy pork buns at Captain J’s. Captain J’s at first looks like a sub-standard buffet, until you take a look at the actual menu. You find two pages of dizzying variety that make it really hard to decide what to try. Luckily my 3 year old was able to snack on the buffet for $4 while the adults figured out what we wanted to share.
Keep in mind, this a free-for-all dining style. As your dishes are prepared, they come out of the kitchen, in no particular order. All the better for sharing.
The first dish we ordered was the XLB and we were instructed by the waiter on how to eat them. It seems you need to grab the dumpling with your spoon and eat it over your bowl. Then bite off the top and suck the juicy broth out. Timing seems crucial here, it means the difference between scalding your mouth and eating a cold sticky dumpling. And don’t puncture your little soupy pillow before you have a chance to slurp it! All the goodness will sploosh into your bowl and miss your mouth.
Incidentally, the waiter was super helpful, very nice. He explained what the items were and gave us some tips on his favorites, when we asked. The dining room got fairly crowded with other menu-orderers as the night wore on.
We had to try the Tea Leaf Smoked Duck, which Greg Cox mentioned. It was sliced cross-wise, bone-in. Just the right amount of smoky and fatty. Served with what we think was bean paste on the side. Probably the all-around favorite dish.
Some of the “Taiwanese Tapas” we chose included Taiwanese Sausage, Pork Fried Dumplings, Sticky Rice Sui Mai and Scallion Pancake. It really is best to order some of everything and share. We were glad to have the scallion pancake because nothing really came with rice. We liked the dumplings probably the most out of the bunch but it was all good. The sausages had a five spice flavor to them and were a little sweet. Like “Meat Candy,” Keri said. The pork belly smacked of garlic with fresh cilantro, tender and soft.
My husband decided to order the Intestine & Duck with Spicy Sauce, I guess to be adventurous. He didn’t end up being too keen on it, although our friend Jimmy was a fan. I’ll admit I was too scared to try it. These, forgive the pun, are badass. These funky spicy intestines are served on a flaming platter! Nothing can be better than flaming intestines made with pork blood (because, we were informed, duck blood is hard to get around here).
Other dishes were hit or miss. We were served a light refreshing radish and vinegar salad as a palate cleanser before the food came. We had the Stir Fried Potato Slices, which also resembled long strips of mild sautéed radish. We had hot and sour soup which was very peppery and vinegary. The Szechuan Braised Beef was cold and clammy and a little tough. My son was very intrigued by the soup dumplings but inevitably gave all his attention to the multicolored jello from the buffet. And I agreed with him, it was one of the better-looking items out there compared with the American and Mexican options on the buffet.
Overall our hit rate of dishes ordered was 2/3rds very pleased with. I recommend this place for a really interesting food experience at really reasonable prices, and not for the buffet. See what the Chowhounds have to say about homemade noodles, stir-fried veggies and pan-fried buns, or just go ahead and try it yourself, already!
Pork Fried Dumplings
Leek Fried Crescents