Chef’s Dish: Jun Restaurant’s Jessie Wong and Jack Wang
Jack Wang and his mother, Jessie Wong, inside their Jun restaurant in Minneapolis.
Jessie Wong and her son Jack Wang (yes, the names are confusing) are bringing a little culinary diversity to Minneapolis’ North Loop. Described as an upscale, authentic take on Sichuan-style Chinese food, their new restaurant, Jun, opened with Wong at the helm as chef/owner. Following the success of their suburban venture, Szechuan in Roseville, the duo found a home for Jun in the heart of the North Loop in what had been short-lived Rojo Mexican Grill and Shag Sushi on North Washington Avenue.
Since staging a comeback in recent years, the North Loop has been home to several neighborhood gems. Residents might be able to name a few haunts similar to Jun’s refined décor and menu, but none similar in cuisine. Confident in her recipes and skill, Wong is optimistic in their ability to impress the locals.
“The neighborhood is young,” Wong says. “They like to try something new.”
The mother-son team is taking every advantage of that dining curiosity, using it as their chance to show off the techniques they’ve accumulated with a bevy of new dishes created for Jun. Not to mention their handmade noodles and dumplings.
“Every week we make a couple thousand at least,” Wang says of the dumplings.
Years of experience in the industry are beginning to pay off for them at Jun, where they’ve clearly been putting in the effort.
“I worked in New York for a couple of years, working with a Szechuan chef in Chinatown,” Wong says. Previously, she tells me, she worked for food company in China, learning to make authentic Chinese food by hand.
As for Wang, he learned how to make handmade noodles at the source—in China.
“We’re sticking to our roots,” Wang says,adding that many of their recipes come all the way from their hometown in China.
While many recognize Chinese food as a quick takeout favorite, the duo hopes patrons will give Jun’s authentic choices, such as beef chow fun and Yaqian Rou lamb skewers, a try, even if they’ve always been strict sesame chicken connoisseurs.
“We do have some Americanized dishes for people who aren’t willing to try authentic dishes,” Wang says. “So we keep that option open.”
Their menu offers other items found few and far between in the Twin Cities, Wang notes, such as dim sum and a cocktail menu featuring the Chinese liquor Baijui. Opening a smaller scale operation afforded them offering such items.
“The menu is smaller, so we bring out what we do best,” Wang says. “People really appreciate us being here and our cuisine in the neighborhood is very unique.”
Looking to the future, Wang hopes the warm reception continues.
“We want to be recognized for what we do and have people appreciate what we do,” he says. “We worked really hard to make it happen, so it’s definitely a big deal.”
Visitors to Jun will likely see Wang in the kitchen hand-stretching a batch of fresh noodles.
As for their favorite part of creating the new menu, Wang has a simple answer: “Making the dumplings. It’s very cool to get everybody together and make them together.”
Dan Dan Noodles from Jun Restaurant
1 tsp sesame sauce
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp Kikkoman soy sauce
1/2 tsp black vinegar
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp red chili oil
Szechuan preserved veggies
Stir-fried minced pork
1 tsp green onion
Homemade Udon noodles have to be boiled in hot water for a couple minutes until the center is cooked.
Mix the sauce and flavoring in the bowl.
Put the noodles into the bowl and top it off with szechuan preserved veggies, stir fried minced pork and green onions sprinkled on top.