In a lot of ways, I’ve more or less given up on the local Chinese food scene. I have a couple of favorites just like anyone, but to a large extent it’s all the same greasy, gristly, hole-in-the-wall fare. Still, it’s interesting that I was impaired the first two times I went to Jade’s Chopstick. The first time I was at a friend’s house, a little drunk and not hungry so the couple of bites I had of her shrimp fried rice didn’t really make an impression, and to be honest I didn’t recall it all that vividly the next day. The second time was with another friend just a couple of weeks ago who had presented the option of Jade’s Chopstick or Mongolian Barbecue, and I chose the former. I liked it fine, but I was also sick and not really at the top of my game when it came to giving something new a fair shake. This same friend, a long-time patron of Jade’s, insisted that we return just a few nights ago. While I do abhor a cliché…well, most of them anyway…I can tell you that in this instance, the third time was indeed the charm.
Unfortunately, this isn’t going to be the most captivating review I’ve ever written. On the surface, Jade’s Chopstick is remarkably similar to a lot of the other strip mall Chinese to be had around here. Some concession has been made to decor and music, in the way that always feels like pandering to me. There is a small buffet area that must be open only for lunch since I’ve been there twice at dinner and both times that area of the dining room might as well have been a ghost town. And why does every Chinese restaurant have a table for the staff to hang out at along the back wall? Anyway, to walk into the place, nothing would grab you.
This leaves us with the food. My friend and more or less constant dining companion, she of the Golden Rule (As long as it tastes good, who cares?), has a thing for Snow White Chicken. I’d never had it until we met, and I’ve only tried it at two places so far. To be honest, it’s not really a dish that speaks to me. Even at Yen Ching I had to add soy sauce to it. That being said, Jade’s is her favorite place for it. Luckily, we both like chow mein, egg rolls, and prefer the same style of fried rice (egg, scallion and meat…keep your peas and carrots to yourself). So, it was those four things we ordered on our most recent take out run.
Right off the bat, I want to say that the staff at Jade’s Chopstick is very friendly and helpful. Not only was my order seconds away from being finished when I arrived, but they had packed it into a little box. In all my years of ordering substantial amounts of Chinese take out food (I’ll have words with anyone who says that leftover fried rice is not one of the ten greatest breakfast foods), I’ve never been offered anything but plastic bags. This time, a small box had been cut down so that the food was packed in well enough to prevent spillage. This tickled me to a ludicrous level. When we unpacked the box, everything was pristine. And while I do love eating Chinese right from those lovely little white boxes, I decided to do things a bit more civilized this time.
|Clockwise from upper left: Pork Chow Mein, Pork Fried Rice, Egg Roll, Snow White Chicken|
I’ve already gone over my feelings about the Snow White Chicken, it’s light and full of veggies but on the whole just plain bland. The chow mein was good, but doesn’t hold a candle to Twin Dragon’s for me. Now that we’ve gotten the saucy stuff out of the way, take a look at what’s left. You may notice that a flash was used, but that neither the egg roll or the fried rice is particularly shiny. Pretty impressive, no? That means the stuff wasn’t freaking soaked in oil. Let me tell ya, eating an egg roll that is more veggie than meat and wasn’t dipped in enough cooking oil to leave a slick at floating at the top of my stomach is a wonderful thing. Makes me wish they had spring rolls, but I guess you can’t have everything.
That leaves just the rice, and I’m going to make a bold statement here: so far as I know, Jade’s Chopstick has THE BEST fried rice in town. Period. Pork fried rice may be a standard, but Jade’s has figured out a way to do it without it leaving it greasy. In fact, so little oil was used that during the cooking process some of the grains of rice got a little browned or even blackened, but rather than distracting from or ruining the dish it lends the whole thing kind of a toasted, nutty flavor that’s simply amazing. I’m already wondering how long I’ll be able to wait before dropping by for just an order of that rice, and I know it’s the yardstick by which I will measure the rice of the other local Chinese restaurants from now on.
Boring, I know, but that’s all I’ve got for you at the moment. We didn’t eat at the restaurant and the take out was to accompany a movie so there aren’t a lot of anecdotes from the actual eating. Maybe I’ll do better next time, which I’m sure will happen soon. I need more of that rice. And if they can make fried rice and egg rolls that aren’t greasy, I can’t wait to see what they do with sweet & sour pork…
Final Grade: B