[Update: As of May 28, The Jackdaw's first pop-up will be held at Shoryuken Ramen on July 12, capping their final plate count at 125 to 150, and will be first come, first served.]
Authentic Chinese cuisine is getting a little more punk rock, thanks to new pop-up The Jackdaw.
"We start with the playlist, and it's kind of just the attitude that we have about it," says co-founder and chef Ian Merryman. "It sounds kind of cheesy, but it's sort of the seek-and-destroy kind of attitude. That's the kind of scene I grew up in, outside of food, and [punk] was my first love outside of food. I'm 30 years old now and from my early teens, it never left me."
The new venture launches early this summer with a "cheap beer, punk rock & Chinese food" ethos, drawing culinary inspiration from traditional Cantonese, Sichuan and Hunan provinces, but executes with a pinch of irreverence and a "Why the hell not?" mindset. You'll find Dan Dan Noodles and congee, sure, but you'll also find sticky rice hash browns and a chocolate tart with fortune cookie crumbs.
"It is a balance in a way; that's kind of the whole challenge because Chinese food in itself is a lot of simplicity, with a lot of cross-utilization of ingredients," says Merryman. "When we first started, it was going to veer off to the more traditional route of things, but it wasn't as fun and the whole point of it was for fun, to begin with."
The Jackdaw's first menu, featured above, will ideally range from $15 to $19 per plate, though these figures could change after purveyor negotiations are complete. The pop-up strives to use local produce and meat where it can — specifically Manakintowne Specialty Growers, Autumn Olive Farms, Victory Farms and Twin Oaks — and to align itself with charities, donating a portion of its pop-up sales each night.
Merryman, a former Graffiato sous chef, hopes to bring Richmond Chinese cuisine in a casual atmosphere three to four times a month, ideally by the beginning of July. And though The Jackdaw doesn't have its pop-up location locked down yet, its co-founder says he's in discussions with Will Richardson of Shoryuken Ramen, who's no stranger to the Richmond pop-up scene.
"If something presents itself before we can nail down a date with Shoryuken, we'll do it; if it's a matter of setting up induction burners somewhere and just doing it, that's how it's gonna go," says Merryman. "My take on it was taking everything we've learned in fine dining or casual, and applying those techniques and principals. I think some people don't see a lot of room for progression, so to speak, with traditional Chinese food; it seems almost cut and dry, and we want to not do cut and dry."
Since the pop-up is named in part for the Daurian jackdaw, an adaptable species of bird, that seems only fitting.