“ Address: Langenstrasse 10-12 / 28195 / Bremen „
During a visit to Bremen just before Christmas, I managed to eat out more than was really good for me. My final pre-Christmas meal in Bremen was at Jackie Su. It was the choice of my boss who sadly couldn't quite face my recommendation of eating at the down-at-heel (but ever so tasty) China Express by the railway station. She correctly predicted that Jackie Su wasn't the type of place that people would go for their Christmas parties, and so it ought to not be too busy. She described it to me as 'hip and trendy Oriental' which sounded well worth a try and fits with the restaurant's own description of itself as 'Urban Street Kitchen'. Clearly they've not been to India and seen the kind of urban street kitchen I'm used to!
We hopped on a tram to the city centre, getting off to wander through the Christmas Market by the cathedral before crossing the square in front of the Town Hall and heading down a side street towards Langenstrasse. I've walked past the front of this restaurant many times without even spotting that it was there. Sadly now that I've eaten there, I'd probably walk past it if I DID spot it.
The interior of Jackie Su is self-consciously minimalist with a rather industrial vibe. There's a lot of concrete, some of it decorated with Chinese calligraphy spray painted onto it in red paint. There's a giant mural of a night-time street scene although we got a bit confused about whether it was supposed to be Thailand or China as there seemed to be a mix of street signs supporting both. In some ways, the mural and its confusion is a metaphor for the menu and the food. What WAS it supposed to be? Chinese? Thai? Or rather too much of a German twist on either.
The kitchen area is open to view although we were down the other end of the restaurant and spared the sight of the workers toiling over their hot woks. We were offered a table in front of the mural - a small, plain white wipe-clean table and wooden stools. If you want a relaxing and comfortable environment, you may not find it perched on top of a stool. In addition to the small tables around the edges of the room, there's a very long, high bench running down the middle of the room where large groups can sit or where they can put small groups of strangers together. It might be a bit 'Wagamama' in appearance but sadly the food is not that good.
We perched on our stools and I looked around for the menu, surprised to find that it was a very tiny menu taking up two sides of a post card sized sign standing on our desk. I ordered a pineapple and mint lassi which sounded too intriguing to miss and Kerstin had a glass of white wine. Actually the receipt which I've not yet submitted for my expenses records that we drank three glasses of white wine between us but I have no recollection of having one. I guess that tells you that the wine was neither so bad to be memorable, nor so good that it stayed in the mind.
The food choices were quite limited. For starters they offer three soups and two salads. Two of the soups contain meat so I was left with lemongrass soup with tofu or nothing. The salads were either a spicy carrot salad with peanuts and coriander or a couscous salad with mushrooms. Since when was couscous oriental? We both ordered the lemongrass soup with tofu.
Main choices were a bit 'take it or leave it' too. The Jackie Su 'Specials' all contained meat. The vegetarian options were Indian Dal curry with tomato or Thai vegetables with curry and tofu. The non-veg curries were a Thai chicken or salmon curry, some kind of pork curry served with potatoes or another meat curry from a beast that my limited German couldn't identify. We opted for one Thai vegetables with curry and tofu and one Thai Salmon, thinking that we could share them between us.
~The Proof of the Pudding~
My lassi was a delight and probably the best thing about the entire meal. I could pick out tiny pieces of finely minced up pineapple floating in the thick yoghurt-rich base. The cooling 'kick' of mint would have made this perfect with really hot food but sadly that particular property wasn't going to be needed as nothing that followed was very spicy.
The lemongrass soup looked delicious but lacked punch. For me it was too creamy and too mild and the tofu was rubbery rather than tender and so rather disappointing. The portion - considering we'd ordered 'small' - was typically German and so much bigger than expected. The soup was quite thin in texture but full of bits and pieces to give it some texture - cooked rice, vegetables and lots of leafy bits of herbs floating on the top. It wasn't dreadful but it wasn't something I'd order twice either.
Our plan to share main courses was put in jeopardy by the meals arriving as single-bowl dishes. We had to ask for extra bowls so that we could divide them up. In fact, neither dish got finished partly because the portions were large but mostly because the food was very dull. Checking the menu again I can see where I went wrong. What I took to be 'Thai Veg Curry' was actually presented as 'Thai veg with curry'. It's a subtle difference but an important one because it meant there was very little actual curry sauce. The base of white rice was topped with lots of finely chopped veg with no visible sauce - that had apparently soaked into the rice. The Salmon curry was basically pretty much the same but with some chunks of salmon thrown in. What I found most disturbing was the enormous amount of shredded carrot - it was more like eating a salad than a curry. As approaches to Thai curry go, it's probably a very light and rather healthy alternative to a coconut cream-rich sauce but it's also a massive disappointment. The two dishes were so similar as to make sharing them a bit of a joke.
Luckily I had good company to make up for the less impressive food. I found the menu at Jackie Su to be far too small, the quality lacking in authenticity and the atmosphere and furniture rather cold and uncomfortable. Our bill came to Euro44.10 and I tipped poorly, leaving just a couple of Euros because I had been really disappointed by the meal. I really do wish we'd gone to China Express instead. Admittedly they have no alcohol but my last meal for two there was just Euro11 and the food was much better even if they didn't consider themselves to be trendy 'urban street food'. Jackie Su is a prime example of too much style and not enough substance.