Skewers & Spice & EVERYTHING Nice

Flaming Seafood & Shao Kao BBQcatapults your taste buds to the streets of Beijing. In China, Shao Kao is a popular on-the-go meal of meat, fish or veggie skewers, easy to pick up from a cart on your way home.

For your local fix of Shao Kao BBQ, this new-ish Jax Beach spot on Penman has you covered. The two main sections on the menu, Garden and Land & Sea, have skewer options priced between $1.50 and $8. Each bamboo skewer has with just a few bites of whatever you’ve ordered, leaving plenty of room to try everything on the menu. We started out with the Trifecto Potato ($6.95) appetizer; the potatoes are fried, then kissed by butter in a wok and drenched in parsley sauce.

On the Garden side of the menu, there is a wide variety of veggies ($1.50-$3) from which to choose. We tried to get a little bit of everything: cauliflower, mushroom, eggplant, sweet potato, green pepper, zucchini and cucumber. Each of the veggies was cooked just right, and the spice mixture in which they had been seasoned changed the flavor profile of every skewer. My only problem was with the cucumber, which I just had to try, but all I kept thinking was, “Who wants hot cucumber?” I’d take an extra order of eggplant any day!

The Land & Sea section of the menu ($1.75-$7.95) listed just about every imaginable meat. We ordered the chicken, lamb, steak, pork, shrimp and beef short rib. Each skewer includes small bites of tender meat flavored with the spice mix. Just a heads-up: The shrimp, which is one to a skewer, are large and in charge — with heads still on.

They have several noteworthy specialty items, like the enoki mushrooms ($3) and bacon-wrapped asparagus ($3). The enoki mushrooms were my favorite part of the meal. The slender, tiny, capped mushrooms are bundled in aluminum foil; there’s something special about bringing the steaming bundle to your nose. The slightly stringy mushrooms are a tender treat and a must for any fungus fan, or anyone looking for the full Chinese barbecue experience.

The bacon and asparagus were an unsurprising and delicious match. It’s easy to over (or under) cook asparagus, but Shao Kao’s grillmaster found the ideal balance of cooked flesh to toothy firmness, and the bacon added a winning touch of salt that complemented the house spice mix.

Each skewer includes Shao Kao’s signature spice rub, which has a variety of peppers and other seasonings, including szechuan, cayenne and chili peppers. It’s the kind of heat that builds, so keep that in mind when you choose your spice level. The spice mixture is also available on the tables, so you can bump up the fire as needed.

Flaming Seafood is a sit-down restaurant, so it does take more time for your order to emerge from the kitchen than it would at a street cart. Think of the fare at Shao Kao’s as time well spent on an evening meal. There are great local brews available, too, and happy hour specials from noon-6 p.m., seven days a week. It’s a great spot to grab a few drinks with good company.