Stroll into the unassuming quarters of Captain J’s on Capital Boulevard and you might not know right away about the “other” menu. Skip the ordinary “international” buffet and ask specifically for the “other” menu because that is where the true treasure trove of goodies at Captain J’s is hidden. The other menu, an authentic Chinese menu, consists of over 100 items of authentic Chinese fare—a mix of Shanghainese and Sichuan appetizers and a bountiful list of seafood, fish and poultry items. Noodle lovers may celebrate because there is a hearty list of noodle soup and dry noodle options on the menu as well.
If you order the xiaolongbao (Shanghainese soup dumplings), you will be able to see the chef in the back corner of the restaurant make them to order, fastidiously rolling out the hot water dough with his wooden dowel and peeling leaves of Napa cabbage. XLB are hard to come by in the Triangle, especially since the unfortunate, abrupt closing of Asian Grill earlier this year, so when the soup dumplings do arrive at your table, you might be overcome with giddiness at the sight of a bamboo basket that houses six steaming dumplings. The tightly-pinched pleats and near translucent dumpling skin indicates the skill of a seasoned XLB-maker and I savor every bit of his expertise as I dunk the delicate dumpling into a black vinegar cooling bath and enjoy the soup as it seeps out of its dumpling shelter and into my spoon. For $5.99 for six soup dumplings, it is a quite a deal.
Venture into the noodle soup section of the menu and order the Sichuan stewed beef noodle soup like I did, and you will receive a heaping bowl of stewed beef and noodles with a chili-tinged rim, visual evidence of the presence of spicy Sichuan peppercorns. The noodles eschew a perfect amount of “Q”, a Chinese expression to describe the springiness of noodles, and the bits of star-anise stewed beef shank, interspersed generously throughout are tender and gristly at the same time. The Sichuan spice, though not overly fiery, is still tempered more by the emerald green leaves of bok choy that swirl around the circumference of the bowl. $8.99 nets you more than just a bowl of beef noodle soup; its tepid heat is enough to flirt with your tastebuds like a Crossfit workout, leaving you both satiated and sweaty.
If noodle soups are not up your alley, perhaps you will migrate towards the Sichuan style noodles. Though the name sounds ordinary, you might change your mind when the savory composition of pork bits, Sichuan peppercorns, egg and a gigantic mass of warmed egg noodles arrives. Albeit more authentic, the quality of the dish reminded me of the “Egg Egg Noodles” entree at the much vaunted Mission Chinese Food I had in New York City recently, helmed by the current darling of the restaurant world, Chef Danny Bowien. Fragranced by the garlic, scallions and sesame paste concoction, the Sichuan noodle dish is a potent aphrodisiac, tempting the insatiable to order more from the menu at Captain J’s.
If food is the peak at Captain J’s, the low point is the service, which can be haphazard and inconsistent. Still, the authentic Chinese food at Captain J’s will supersede any shortcomings in service. Do yourself a favor—go when you are very hungry and unearth this hidden gem.
CAPTAIN J’S INTERNATIONAL BUFFET
| 4420 Capital Boulevard 27604 |
919.900.7655 | See Captain J’s Internation Buffet Chinese menu here