The Jade Seafood Restaurant has won many awards and accolades including the Chinese Restaurant Award (CRA) Diners’ Choice for Best Dim Sum in both 2011 and 2012. I’d been to The Jade for dinner during the Chinese Restaurant Award Signature Dish Dining Festival late last year but had never tried their dim sum. I was intrigued recently after reading about several of their interesting and innovative dim sum dishes from local foodies. Hence, I decided to give them a try on my recent trip to Vancouver.
One of the dishes I’d really wanted to try was the Stir Fried Radish Cake in Hot Sauce ($6.99). I usually preferred this style of preparation over the traditional pan-fried slices as the cubed pieces of radish cake allow for more surface area to be fried and become crispy. The English translation for this dish is a bit of a misnomer as I was expecting the radish cake to be coated in some kind of hot sauce or even for the hot sauce to be served on the side but there was no hot sauce to be found when this dish arrived. Instead, the cubed radish cake pieces were coated in a spicy seasoning and served along with a mixture of crispy fried garlic and edamame. I was a bit confused at first but looking at the menu more closely, it appears the preparation style was actually lost in translation. The stir fried radish cakes were actually done “Typhoon Shelter” style, which is a preparation style that originated from Hong Kong and is usually a popular way for preparing crab. The “Typhoon Shelter” style is basically the term used to describe a chef’s secret chili sauce made from a blend of spices such as garlic, scallion, red chili and black bean. In terms of execution, I thought this stir fried radish cake was just ok. There was a hint of spice to the radish cake but I wish the cubes would be more crispy. I thought the edamame and crispy fried garlic were an interesting accompaniment to the dish. Comparatively though, I’ve had the Stir Fried Radish Cake in Spicy XO Sauce at Good Choice Restaurant, which is prepared in a similar style but with a slightly different sauce. Personally, I prefer the version from Good Choice as I found the radish cake cubes to be more crispy and flavourful.
My foodie friend Grayelf wanted to try the Pickled Ginger with Century Egg & Prawn Roll ($4.48). I wasn’t sure what to think of this dish initially as I’m not a fan of century eggs and I couldn’t even imagine how it would taste together with pickled ginger. However, I was intrigued as this was mentioned as an innovative dish in Vancouver Magazine’s Restaurant Awards for 2011 – Best Dim Sum, where The Jade had received the silver award in that category. I definitely would agree that this is an innovative dish. The flavours work surprisingly well together. I’m glad I had the opportunity to try it but I’m not sure it’s a dish I would order again.
Another dish I wanted to try was the Steamed Mushroom Dumpling ($4.88). I had really wanted to try this dish as it had won gold in the Chinese Restaurant Awards (CRA) Critic’s Choice dim sum category in 2010. The Mushroom Dumpling filling contained a mixture of enoki, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms. I found the mushroom mixture to be really toothsome and flavourful. The delicate dumplings were well-executed and also very creative as I have not come across this dish before elsewhere. To me, this was a winner and I’d definitely order it again on my next visit.
Another dish we tried was the Deep Fried Spring Roll with Shrimp and Garlic ($4.48). Though this dish wasn’t all that exciting (nor did we expect it to be), it was well-executed and tasty. The spring rolls were perfectly crispy and not too greasy.
After reading a few posts about the Baked BBQ Pork Bun ($4.38), I really wanted to try it. I only know of a few places besides The Jade that makes their baked bbq pork buns in this style. What’s special about this Baked BBQ Pork Bun is that it is a crossover between a regular baked bbq pork bun and a “Mexican bun”. Basically, it is similar to the typical baked bbq pork but with a “Mexican bun” topping. The crispy, crumbly topping was buttery and slightly sweet. Though a few of my dining companions found the bun overall to be a bit too sweet for their liking, I really enjoyed it and would definitely order them again. I thought the slightly sweet topping went rather well with the bbq pork filling. What I didn’t know at first was that these buns are actually rather hard to track down since they are not part of The Jade’s regular dim sum menu. I learned on this visit that these Baked BBQ Pork Buns are only available after 12:30 pm on weekends and only in limited quantities. Fortunately, when we started ordering our food, it was already around 11:45am so we ordered a bunch of dim sum items to start and then waited till 12:30pm to put in the rest of our order as I was determined to try these buns on this visit.
My friend K was curious about the Steamed Wasabi Shrimp Dumpling ($4.88). This was one of those innovative/”modern” dim sum dishes. We didn’t expect to find tobiko (fish roe) mixed in with the wasabi shrimp filling. The feedback at our table was mixed for this dish. I personally didn’t mind the combination of flavours though I probably wouldn’t order this dish again but some of my dining companions really did not care for this dish as they found the taste to be rather fishy as a result of the fish roe.
We also tried the Steamed Fish Paste Rice Roll ($5.28). This dish is an innovative play on the classic Chinese Donut Rice Roll. In place of the Chinese Donut, fish paste is wrapped in dried bean curd skin and deep-fried till it’s crispy. The fried fish paste bean curd skin package is then wrapped in the fresh rice roll. This dish is served with a side of soy sauce as well as Hoisin and sesame sauce for dipping. I actually prefer this dish over the classic Chinese Donut Rice Roll as I loved the contrasting textures and flavours, especially the tender, flavourful fish paste against the crispy fried bean curd skin and the soft, chewy rice wrap. We all agreed that this dish was a winner.
For dessert, the item on the top of my list to try at The Jade was the Blueberry Glutinous Balls ($3.88) as several local foodies were really impressed with this dessert when they had sampled it in the past. I almost decided against ordering these “blueberry mochi” as I had learned from trusted foodie, who had been the The Jade just a week before my visit, that the supposed “fresh whipped cream” filling actually tasted like Cool Whip topping, of which I’m not a fan. My dining companions assured me that they would be ok with Cool Whip filling if that is what the filling turned out to be. I decided to order it anyways as I’ve become intrigued by uniquely-flavoured mochi balls ever since I tried the mango mochi at Creations Dessert House in San Francisco last summer. Unfortunately, these blueberry mochi did not live up to the hype. For one thing, they are no longer filled with fresh whipped cream. I’m not sure if the recipe had changed recently but to me, the filling tastes like artificial frosting made from whipped Crisco, which I dislike even more than Cool Whip. My dining companions and I were hugely disappointed as we really did not care for the artificial-tasting filling. I’m sure these blueberry mochi would have tasted much better had they been filled with real whipped cream.
We also tried the Steamed Brown Sugar with Honey Cake ($4.38). This was an item that several of the local foodies had posted about. This steamed cake was not overly sweet and had a rich caramel flavour from the brown sugar. What was unique about this light, airy cake was its texture and appearance. This warm, moist cake had a honeycomb-like appearance but had a very springy/chewy texture to it. I’ve never tasted anything like this before.
Lastly, as we were finishing up, we saw customers at other tables ordering this dessert and we decided to get one to try as it looked really good. I still don’t know what this dessert is called in English as it is actually not on the regular menu at The Jade. This is a special dim sum item that they bring out on trays in limited quantities. The Chinese name according to our bill is 冰花蛋球($3.88). I think it may also be known as 沙 翁 or “Sa Yung” in Cantonese. Loosely-translated, these may sometimes be referred to as “Sugar Egg Puffs” or “Egg Choux Puffs”. Basically, they tasted like choux pastry that has been deep-fried and dusted with powdered sugar or in other words, a cross between a cream puff and a doughnut. These deep-fried puffed dumplings were very well-executed as they were light in texture but rich and eggy in flavour. My dining companions and I loved them and we hope to be able to order them again on our next visit.
Overall, I enjoyed my dim sum experience at The Jade as there were several dishes that were standouts. My favourites were the Steamed Mushroom Dumpling, the Baked BBQ Pork Bun, the Steamed Fish Paste Rice Roll, and of course, the “Sugar Egg Puffs” for dessert. However, what I do find annoying and frustrating about the dim sum experience at The Jade is that I have no idea what all the specialty dim sum items are on the “secret” menu that is not published and when these items are actually available. Hence, I wouldn’t know when is the optimal time to go for dim sum so that I would have a chance to sample these specialty items. I just wish everything would be listed on the menu so that I can plan accordingly.
The Jade Seafood Restaurant
8511 Alexandra Road