First Bite: Jade Garden
All right, we confess: While some of us at Chowder just love knowing where our food comes from (see: farm-to-table, snout-to-tail, etc.), for the rest of us, ignorance is bliss. We don’t really want to know what’s in the new Fenway Frank; we’ll just eat it. With mustard, thankyouverymuch.
At new Chinatown seafood restaurant Jade Garden, however, ignorance proves impossible. Making our way in last week, we were greeted by fish tanks crowded with all manner of ocean wildlife, including live lobster, crab, shrimp, flounder, and colossal mollusks called geoduck. (We once saw them on an episode of Dirty Jobs—enough said.) And these critters weren’t just for show. They were dinner.
Inside, the equally packed dining room was filled with Chinese families surrounding white cloth-covered tables and sharing multiple dishes, which we took as a good sign. Hot tea and a saucer of peanuts kept us busy while we eyed the menu’s seafood specialties, traditional hot pots and soups, and familiar mainstays like beef with broccoli and kung pao chicken.
Craving something a bit more exotic, we took our server’s suggestion and went with the daily seafood specials served with mixed vegetables (all “market price,” FYI). He tapped “flounder” in the menu, motioning to the tanks brimming with swimming fishies.
And then we watched our dinner die.
A cook emerged from the kitchen to net the flounder right before the dining crowd; he retreated with the fish wriggling and flapping. Too much information? Maybe, but it was still fun to witness.
Appetizers were presented less, er, dramatically, but good nonetheless. Two steamed Kumamoto oysters served on the half-shell with black bean sauce were delightfully warm and soft, but bigger than the bivalves we usually get; we had to cut them up and chew. “Tidbits 2″ was everything an Americanized Chinese app should be: large shrimp and chicken dipped in still-crispy batter, and tender meat on a stick.
The flounder, meanwhile, turned out flaky and fantastic, perfectly seasoned and delivered atop a bed of broccoli, carrots, pea pods, water chestnuts, fresh grated ginger, and shallots. It tasted as fresh as can be.
“Murder!” our fellow diners teased as we chowed.
We prefer the phrase “tank-to-table.”
Jade Garden, 18-20 Tyler St., Boston, 617-423-3288.