Sunday, September 11, 2011

Captain Cafe/Bakery

Just a few weeks ago, I was motoring my way into the city on a Friday evening to join Mrs. Hackknife at a work event (her company has an annual shindig at the Shedd Aquarium on the lakefront) and I realized that I was passing by Chinatown with a bit of extra time on my hands (often a deadly combination). As sometimes happens when I'm in transit to an outing where dinner will be served, I somehow manage to rationalize stopping for a quick bite prior to reaching my ultimate destination (you know, it might be a while, maybe even an hour, before food makes an appearance - a man's gotta eat, you know). This is what flitted through my head as I parked on a side street next to Chinatown's main thoroughfare, seeking out one particular place for nosh: Captain Cafe/Bakery. Captain was among a number of Chinatown joints singled out in a Chicago Tribune eating guide this Spring, with the article making specific mention of its chicken curry buns, likened to a meat-filled doughnut. Located in the middle an outdoor mall complex filled with Chinese restaurants, convenience stores, and jewelry shops, the place is small and appears to cater mostly to take-out customers, although there were a few diners seated at tables inside (including a Chicago policeman - good sign as the cops generally know where to get quality grub). The girl working behind the counter was very helpful as I made my selections - beef curry bun (alas, they hadn't made any chicken curry buns that day), shrimp/pork dumpling, sweet red bean bun, and winter melon roll, showing up in order from left to right in the photo above (except for the melon roll, which is barely visible underneath). As much as I wanted to hang around and listen to the Mandarin-language soap opera on the tv, I was running a bit behind schedule, so I took my stash of goodies back to the car and did a little sampling. The beef curry bun was amazing, a meat-filled doughnut being a pretty apt description (I would gladly exchange a dozen doughnuts from Dunkin' for a batch of these). I also enjoyed the shrimp/pork dumpling, the dough encasing the filling more savory than sweet. The red bean bun was more of a dessert treat and it was VERY dense (not necessarily in a good way), flecked with coconut flakes and bringing to mind the stuff that stars must be made of when they collapse upon themselves (you know, before the black hole develops). Last, but not least, was the winter melon roll, another dessert item that was recommended by my server - unfortunately, I can't say that it was my favorite (it lacked a certain decadence that I come to prefer in sweets, a little on the plain side). The bottom line appears to be that Captain is the place to go for savory buns, but maybe not so much for desserts (I am willing to do additional research to refute my original theory, though).....

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