Tuesday, September 25 2018


Jade spices up Ha Noi's Chinese cuisine

Update: September, 18/2012 - 22:58


Kick back, relax: The restaurant provides customers with a cool and convivial atmosphere in which to enjoy a bevy of tasty traditional dishes. — VNS Photos Truong Vi
Sizzling sensation: Hot plate tofu (dau phu thiet ban)
Stir-fried satisfaction: Kung pao chicken (ga kung po)
Striking spectacle: Singapore hot chili crab (cua sot cay kieu Singapore)

Jade Restaurant

Address: 71 Kim Ma (inside Nha Hat Cheo), Ba Dinh District

Tel: 093 878 2828

Price range: VND45,000-720,000

Comment: Jade offers a sampling of Chinese-style cuisine from several regions, specialising in Sichuan and Singaporean fare. Dishes to try: kung pao chicken (ga kung pao), hot plate tofu (dau phu thiet ban)

by Elisabeth Rosen

The Chinese food at Jade might be the best in Ha Noi.

This is a brash claim. But take one bite of the kung pao chicken (ga kung po, VND88,000) and you'll see why Jade deserves this accolade. It's a deceptively simple dish: chicken stir-fried with chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorns, a handful of peanuts thrown in for contrast. Yet too many restaurants let the chicken sit too long in the wok, rendering the delicate breast meat tough and stringy.

Jade's version, however, consists of tender cubes of chicken thrown together with wok-seared bell peppers, mushrooms, celery, and crunchy peanuts in a bawdy sauce that throbs with heat. The spice level – while toned down considerably from Sichuan standards – is still volatile enough to provoke excitement.

Likewise, consider the hot plate tofu (dau phu thiet ban, VND70,000), another standout Sichuan dish. Served on a sizzling cast-iron platter, thick rounds of crisp bean curd the size of plump scallops, stay delicately creamy in the centre. Mounds of savory ground pork infused with garlic and Sichuan peppercorns are heaped on top: an inventive re-imagining of ma po tofu.

At our table, these Sichuan dishes were the unanimous favourites – a real surprise given that Jade specialises in Singapore-style cooking. Yet there are also delights to be found in that section of the menu, like the Singapore noodles (bun xao Singapore, VND65,000). Thin, chewy rice vermicelli and other ingredients are stir-fried in dark soy sauce, the result an unctuous pile of buried treasure: plump, juicy shrimp, strips of pork caramelised in the wok, soft ribbons of shredded cabbage, all of it crowned with bites of perfectly cooked egg.

And if you really want to make an impression on your dining companions, the Singapore hot chili crab (cua sot cay kieu Singapore, seasonal price) is one of the best spectacles in Ha Noi. For several hundred thousand dong, an enormous crustacean is placed in the middle of your table, submerged in an ocean of tomato-chili sauce. There's exactly enough crab for each person to savour a leg or two – unless you're dining alone, although this is hardly recommended at Jade, where dishes are served family-style.

Once you manage to crack open the shell (the restaurant provides a metal gadget for this purpose), you'll find tender white meat. Dip it into the sauce – really more of a stew, flecked with sweet bits of tomato and chili pepper – and you will understand why Jade deserves such high praise.

That being said, a few areas of the menu still need work. The dishes that are not regional specialties lack the nuanced balance of flavours that make the Sichuan and Singapore dishes particularly satisfying. Fresh ginger, with its brash astringency, steamrollers a delicate dish of stir-fried pork and spring onion (thit lon sot hung hanh, VND88,000). while the Chinese cabbage with mushroom and garlic (cai thao xao nam, VND55,000), which arrives in a limp, pale heap that appears not to have been thoroughly stirred, tastes uneven. Some bites are indeed permeated with garlic, while others are saturated with fish sauce, or, seemingly, nothing at all. (Note to English speakers: the dish is translated cryptically on the menu as "fried white vegetable with mushroom and garlic," although the Vietnamese translation accurately describes the vegetable as Chinese cabbage).

You don't get fortune cookies at Jade, but you do get sweet buns. Light and airy, the outside is glossed with a thin glaze that lacks any insinuation of grease, they might be the doughnut's long-lost cousin. And they predict the future just as well as any flimsy paper fortune. After eating these buns, you'll want to return to Jade – even when you see the bill for the chili crab. — VNS

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