A sizzling hot spot in Chinatown ID
Special to the Seattle Times
Last Christmas, a crowd overflowed the waiting area and out through the front door of Jade Garden Restaurant. On one of the busiest days in the Chinatown International District, this Hong Kong restaurant must have been the envy of the area, as other restaurant owners with empty tables looked on.
Since its opening last September, Jade Garden has become popular for dim-sum luncheons, for family-style sizzling-plate dinners and for late-night dining, an impressive trifecta considering the dozens of restaurants nearby.
Jade Garden has been popular with the Chinatown ID crowd partly because it's one of the newest and partly because it serves many dishes well — in cheap, heaping portions.
A couple can order a seafood dish, a noodle dish and a meat-and-vegetable stir fried for about $24.
The most popular dish? You can hear it from other tables. Sizzling hot pots (from $8.25 to $9.95) with some combinations of sautéed beef, seafood, tofu and fish that give many flavors and texture.
Its fish specials come out of the tank and serve as two meals: a soup and an entree, usually stir-fried. The cod ($14.95) and the sturgeon ($16.95) were the recent catches of the day.
Other favorites include its Beef Chow Fun ($6.95), silky rice noodles that complement the smoked flavored flanked beef and sautéed onions well. A different twist on this take-out classic is the Seafood Chow Fun with Curry Sauce ($7.95).
It's a standard Chinese menu, but a pleasant surprise is the XO, an extravagant sauce that includes ham, dried scallop and dried shrimp that have been simmered for six hours and served with steak cubes ($8.25). Let the sauce soak into the steamed rice, and you've got yourself a succulent dish.
The sauce is highly prized because dried scallops are expensive. But surprisingly, XO dishes have never caught on in Seattle like they have in New York City and San Francisco restaurants, where XO beef entrees earn top billing on menus and board specials.
This haunt does have its faults, though. Many entrees come with thumbnail slices of ginger, and you can tell when folks get a hold of one by the winces on their faces. Its vegetable combination dishes are bland. Close your eyes and you will have no idea what you ate.
Overall, the food is more consistent than many Chinatown ID eateries, which is why on busy days, you may have to flag down a waiter. The service is spotty, and you may get too irritated to wait for your meal. But as the line outside the restaurant last Christmas underscored, many loyalists are eager to grab your seat.
Deep fried stuffed bean curd: One of Jade Garden's best entrees. A shrimp paste stuffed in tofu and deep fried, then coated in a chicken gravy with sprinkles of green onions. This dish should come with a warning: Wait until it has time to cool down and gel, or you will burn your mouth.
L.A. special beef: Folks who love the popular sesame beef or sweet and sour dishes will be pleased. The beef is deep-fried for a crisp and chewy finish. A sour and mild hot sauce is added.
Pan fried scallops: One of the restaurant's most expensive items turned out to be its most disappointing. The scallop, while cooked to perfection, needed a sauce to complement the carrots, onions, snowpeas, ginger and mushrooms.
Mango pudding in condensed milk: The restaurant doesn't have a desert menu, but folks with a sweet tooth know they can order from the dim sum luncheons. This succulent pudding tastes like a richer, denser version of flan. A must-have.
Steamed rice: You need it if your are going to order any entrees other than the noodles.
Itemized bill, meal for two
Deep fried stuffed bean curd $7.50
L.A. special beef $7.95
Pan fried scallops $11.50
Mango pudding $2.65
Steamed rice $1.20
Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company