5 of us had a very nice meal at Jade Garden tonight. This is my first Chinese food in London, and I must say that I was quite pleased. London may not be the Chinese-food-wasteland I feared it might be :) However, my friend who speaks Cantonese did all the ordering, which may have been an advantage - though most of the things we had were on the "Chinese" menu which, at the restaurant, is translated into English. I don't think we ordered anything from the larger "non-Chinese" menu, but both menus were on the table when we arrived. I had noted earlier in the day that the Chinese menu on the website is only in Chinese, so I was glad that they had translated it.
We had a lot of food, and I don't remember the exact names of some dishes.
Duck tongue Cold Appetizer - This was recommended by the waitress, and I thought it was excellent. The duck tongue was marinated in a flavorful sauce, a bit spicy and a bit sweet. I don't recall ever having duck tongue before, but I had a lot less trouble with the texture than I thought I might. But the waitress certainly pointed us in the right direction, since even though I had never had duck tongue, I could tell this was well prepared.
Jellyfish Salad Cold Appetizer - I usually like jellyfish dishes, but I thought this one was a bit bland. The sauce was red and chili-based I guess - but kinda flavorless. The jellyfish had a nice bite but tasted watery (i.e. didn't taste like much at all) and the other bits of vegetable (cucumber, daikon?) were also bland. I tend to like jellyfish salads that have a sesame based dressing, but this had no sesame oil at all.
Green vegetable (water spinach?) - This was ordered off the menu, and I think it was prepared with salty tofu, so the very light sauce was almost miso-like. I forget what this is called exactly, and I wouldn't really know how to order it myself, but this was good.
Eggplant with pork and salty fish - I liked this rendition - in San Francisco I had some versions of this where the salty fish overpowered everything, but here it was more mild and added a nice saltiness without too much fishiness. The eggplant had a lot of seeds which I didn't like, but overall flavors and texture were good.
Green beans with ground pork and yellow bean sauce - More like a dry-fried style string bean with ground pork in a light sauce. This was one of my favorites. Nicely prepared all around.
Salt baked chicken - Slices of chicken (with bone and skin) with a salty/spicy dipping sauce. This was also prepared quite nicely, the chicken was tender and fell off the bone easily. A nice rendition of this simple dish.
Whole steamed fish - I'm not sure what type of fish this was, but it was white fleshed and quite large and had a simple soy based sauce. It tasted fresh and was cooked nicely, though I probably wouldn't go out of my way to order this again. But I do think the kitchen can do fish well, so it would be worth investigating other whole fish options here.
Sweet and sour spareribs - Another suggestion from the waitress. My friend said on the menu these were listed as "gu ba" spareribs. These were great - the meat came off the bones easily, and it had a great flavor combo of sugar and dark vinegar.
Service throughout the meal was pretty good - plenty of attention by the waitress, who at one point helped serve the remainder of the fish, and poured our tea. Complimentary dessert of warm bean soup, which I thought was good and not overly sweet.
Total bill for all of this (again, this was a LOT of food for 5 people, though we did eat most of it) was £113. Not cheap, but I am not sure how much different dishes cost (like the fish) so it's unclear how much that affects the price. But overall quality of food was good, and the the things that the waitress suggested were among the best, so there is good guidance for those who do (or perhaps can?) seek it out. So the next test is to see if I can have an equally successful meal without a Cantonese speaker (or Mandarin speaker, since I believe other staff members were speaking Mandarin).
Looking forward to more Chinese food explorations soon - ideally places where I can pay a bit less :) But off to a good start!
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