Monday, February 11, 2008

If at First You Don’t Succeed...

After surviving a stressful week, Friday night came upon us with the injunction to “go out, eat something comfy, and relax.” After a bit of brainstorming, this guy and his doll decide that 75 cent PBR’s and some perfectly fried cod are the answer.

So out the door we go heading down Broadway to GB Fish & Chips. After a few short minutes the beautiful Union Jack looms large in front of us, but wait, what! From whence cometh this mass of SUVs and Mini-vans that now populate the whole of GB’s parking lot? Happy hour at our favorite booze and batter bastion had turned into Union Jack’s Jolly Jamboree! Not a seat to be had in the house, rug-rats throwing darts at the floor, future anonymous alcoholics filling their bottles with PBR. As my vision began to blur and my head to spin, my wife pulled me out of that place just in time to prevent a total, non-alcohol induced black-out. Whew, back in the fresh air of Broadway, filling my lungs with sweet diesel fumes. Ok, let’s try something else.

Light-bulb, bling! La Praviana is just a few blocks further down Broadway. If you haven’t gone to La Praviana, boy, you are missing out. It’s this great little Salvadorian restaurant that makes the greatest pupusas in Denver. Pupusas are corn masa filled with either black beans and cheese or cheese and chicharron or lorroco flowers with cheese, well, you get the picture. They look like pancakes and are served with a curtido topping. This is chopped cabbage, carrots and jalapeno in vinegar. Truly good, a pile of these pupusas are, they are. Oh yes, they are! As we expectantly approach the ramshackle building that is La Praviana, we find that all our thoughts should have been in the past tense. No pupusas, no lorroco, no Negra Modelo, no Pan con Pavo, NO La Praviana. All gone, closed-up, shuttered, just like our enthusiasm for an easy, comforting meal.

But I’m not ready to give-in; I will have a relaxing meal. “Isn’t there this little Chinese-American restaurant just a little further down Broadway?” I ask, trying to stay positive and cheery over the deafening roar of our empty stomachs and the audibly black thoughts that are pulsing from our hell-bent-on-murdering minds. Not a good suggestion, apparently I’m not the only one that is having second thoughts of finding sustenance on Broadway tonight.

Then out of the blackness, she says, “What about JJ’s?”

Oh, J.J.’s how I take you for granted! A place so wonderful, it feels like having dinner at home. Except we usually can’t understand the staff, and we don’t make hot-pot at home. (Although, our neighbors downstairs are always smoking it!) JJ Chinese Seafood Restaurant at 2500 W. Alameda is the place to go for traditional Chinese food from Guangdong province. We drove up to an empty parking lot. The way our night was going, we immediately start wondering, "are they closed?" "JJ’s is always hopping." "What's wrong?" We are relieved as we walk in and see that everything is a as it should be, we’re just earlier than most. We settle in with our pot of tea and quickly decide on our old favorites: half a Peking duck, beef with black mushrooms and an order of fried-bread. As you walk into JJ’s you immediately see what they are known for. The large tanks full of eels, ling cod, lobsters, crabs, and a motley assortment of other denizens of the deep, scream seafood! When a guest orders fish or lobster, one of the cooks comes out with a big bucket containing the fresh aquarium catch and lets the guest O.K. the selection.

But I just wanted some crispy little duck, tucked into a mini-bun with hoison sauce. Nothing exotic, just delicious. JJ cooks up duck in many amazing ways. Try the shredded duck with enoki mushrooms, divine. I hear the Duck with XO sauce is also spectacular.

JJ’s hasn’t disappointed us yet. Since the staff’s English is limited, you won’t get a very good description of what you will be eating, if you want to be adventurous, but you’ll be alright. Last time we were there, we ended up with a selection of cold plates. Special House Chicken, for instance is a plate of cooked and de-boned chicken that is then refrigerated. The beef and soy sauce appetizer is also cold. Very tender thinly sliced beef, with a nice sauce. Both different, but good. Unless you wanted a hot meal.

As we finished our meal, sipping our tea, dipping our fried-bread into a little dish of condensed milk, and watching the crowd around us delight in their food, we couldn’t help but smile. Yeah, that was good. What got off to a rocky start, paid off in the end. “If at first you don’t succeed, fry, fry a hen...or duck."

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