Jackpot Chicken Rice stands out from neighbouring restos on Spadina.
From the robin’s egg blue facade and bright tropical tablecloths to enticing Hainanese and Singaporean fare and unbelievable cocktails, all served over loud hip-hop beats, it’s the place to be.
Debuting back in October, it was named one of the top 30 nominees for Canada’s Best New Restaurants by Air Canada enRoute Magazine earlier this month. The perfect time to check out the bustling Chinatown eatery.
Jackpot Chicken Rice, the dish
At the centre of the menu is Jackpot Chicken Rice.
Considered one of the national dishes of Singapore, Hainanese Chicken originated in southern China’s province of Hainan, a tropical island. It’s since travelled to various countries throughout Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Hong Kong, to name just a few) and can be found everywhere from food courts to fancy hotels.
Owner and chef Craig Wong (also owner of Patois and Ting Irie, Dubai’s first Jamaican restaurant and lounge) and and new executive chef Jacky Lo’s (formerly of Luma, Cluny Bistro, and The Chase Fish and Oyster) version is elevated from the original, but in keeping with the classic ingredients.
The air-chilled chicken from Quebec is deboned and poached slowly using modern technology – sous vide straight (no bag) in chicken broth. This results in cooking to perfection each time.
Here, the soft chicken is served warm, where the Hainanese version is cold, served with hot rice (North Americans would def not be down with that). The traditional soft skin might be new to you, but don't pass it up - it's delicious. Missing the crunch? Add crispy chicken skin on the side.
The accompanying schmaltzy chicken rice is made with Thai rice, cooked with a ton of aromatics (garlic, ginger, pandan), along with chicken stock, salt and schmaltz (clarified chicken fat). Rich and flavourful, it’s as addictive as the house-made ginger-scallion and chilli sauces served on the side. Winter Melon Soup is a traditional accompaniment that refreshes your palate after the rich starch.
Dishes are meant to be shared, so you get a whole lotta flavours and tastes at one sitting. Crowd the table with as many bowls, plates glasses and mugs as possible.
JCR is also famous for their:
- Fire Roasted Chicken Rice ($16) sambal glazed, roasted in a Chinese BBQ oven with pickled green papaya
- Hanoi Pork Jowl($16) from Ontario Duroc pigs with tumeric, ginger, dill and charred scallion
- Sizzling Hamburg "Okonomiyaki" Style($18), a colossal beef and pork meat patty, tamarind tonkatsu sauce, kewpie, nori, pickled ginger (add a cocobun $1.50)
Don’t worry, there’s vegetarian and vegan fare, too, with lots of gluten-free options. Feature “dranks” and dishes are also on offer.
And whatever you do, save room for dessert.
Jackpot’s cocktail game is strong, so be sure to get in there (there are streetcars going every which way from here, so getting home is a breeze). Boasting alluring ingredients: calamansi, kaffir lime, five spice, jerk bitters, sriracha salt rim, scotch bonnet infused tequila, and earl grey steeped rum – these dranks ($10 to $26 for two) are not to be missed.
Wines from Spain, Italy and Ontario are available by glass (5 oz.$8-$10.50) and bottle ($36-$46), and they’ve got an impressive beer selection, too ($5.50-$29). You could be here for awhile.
Non-alcoholic options include a variety of tea ($3.25 ea.) pop and juices ($2.25-$8), including a whole fresh, cracked coconut ($8).
In living colour
Ivy Lam (Wong’s wife) may be afull-time hair and makeup artist, but she's a fierce and fabulous interior designer – she designed and decorated Patois, both times. Her always colourful palette and playful interpretation of iconic cultural symbols make for a vivid, engaging room. Local graffiti artist Bacon created a mural of happy Chinese propaganda.
And look up – those gorgeous lights are actually plastic strainers from Tap Phong, a few doors over.
A sea of change
There are “a lot of changes to come,” Lo says.
What’s in store for the Chinatown hotspot? More seafood-oriented dishes, to start.
It’s no wonder Jackpot Chicken Rice continues to receive accolades and is beloved by tourists and locals alike. Like their other outpost, Patois, the food is truly original, featuring a ton of textures and flavours that will keep you coming back for more. And the energetic space makes you feel like you’re at a fun, casual dinner party with friends and fam.
There’s room for 45 guests. Dine-in, takeout, delivery and catering are available.
Friday and Saturday, 11 am to 12 am
Sunday, 11 am to 10 pm
Monday, 5 pm to 10 pm
Tuesday to Thursday, 5 pm to 11 pm
Visit: 318 Spadina Ave. (near Dundas West)
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