Boston: Eat at Jae's

One for the Table - Boston

Let's Eat by Kitty Kaufman, photos by Julie Moffatt

Jae's Champagne A long time ago, in the previous century before sushi was ubiquitous although it was making headway piece by piece, I was introduced by my friend Liz to a comer named Jae who was doing Korean with sushi on Columbus Avenue in the South End. He was taking it to the suburbs, similar but not matching, at the Atrium Mall in Newton where the crowd was nothing like Boston's. My friend Eddie, who was the Atrium store manager, would tell me about people who came without reservations and when they heard it was a 45-minute wait, were sad. But they waited, all right, yes, they did.

We had many meals at Jae's Atrium. It's where we learned drink as bartenders coached how wine is everything. It's where we had our first bibimbap and kimchi. If we had colds we downed their radish, cabbage, cucumber, spinach, bean sprouts, scallions, garlic, chili peppers, seaweed, mushrooms and lotus root soup. My mother and I were there one Sunday at the bar eating sushi and just as she's asking for a fork, who walks in but Jae.

Jae's Popeye rolls They're still rolling up fine fish on Columbus Ave. Julie and I are here for lunch. Everything is as we remember: artwork, aquarium, maybe Brazilian jazz, and bottles of Champagne along with smart, smart help. It's 90 degrees so we pass on the patio and eat ourselves silly inside by the window.

We order an all green lunch except for, you know, the wine and the sake maki. The wine's a Columbia Valley Pacific Rim Riesling, dry and crisp, just what we want with greens and ginger. Overall, it's hard to single out what was our favorite but right now we're saying the Popeye roll: spinach, carrot and cucumber never had it so good. Our server says most people miss it completely. Don't.

Jae's summer fall winter spring rolls Sake maki is our canary for Asian cuisine. It's lovely with chopstick dueling over who gets the last piece. Next, fresh spring rolls or as I call them: summer, fall, winter, spring rolls, not fried, rolled right from the tree with ice cold lettuce, crab and cucumber with plum sauce. Sweet trumps salty on this one but any sauce will work depending on what you're drinking.

Jae's vegetable dumplings Vegetable dumplings, what can you say that hasn't been said before? For one, these are shaped like doughnuts with greens popping out and they've been steamed, not fried. We about overdose on them and their sauce; traditional soy with vinegar and scallions is the one you need. They're big enough to cut in half which makes them last longer and who's to argue with that?

Jae's tempura vegetables Finally, tempura. Just when you think you might be greened out, you're not. Slices of sweet potato and carrot, cucumber and squash don't need a thing but if you must, the dumpling sauce. The batter's light and it's all hot and crispy, we split everything including a giant onion ring. Would it be tacky to ask for another? I think yes. Are you sure? I'm sure.

Jae's limoncello cake It's not bad enough we have no leftovers, as in there's nothing left, we're looking for something else. Dessert! It's a tough choice but this is it: limoncello-soaked pound cake with raspberry and whipped cream. It's light but we won't be if we eat more. It doesn't have a lick of chocolate but we manage to force it down. We need the recipe for this. No, we don't. Who are we kidding? There's no way we're turning on the oven today. Good thought though. Oh, Sundays from 5-9:30 just the maki rolls are half off in the store. They'll sit well at the four-seat sushi or the four-seat wine bar with sangria by the glass. As the man says: eat at Jae's, live forever.

Jae's
520 Columbus Avenue (South End)
Boston, MA 02118
617. 421. 9405

© August 22, 2013 for One for the Table
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