The consensus amongst connoisseurs is that Vancouver is the undisputed champion of the dim sum scene in the Pacific Northwest. However, Seattle is not entirely without representation.
For example, Jade Garden is a well-known institution for dim sum located in Seattle’s International District. So much so that there is usually an intimidating line during brunch/lunch hours. Indeed, such daunting lines have rebuffed all my past attempts to visit. My opportunity finally came on a weekday when I was able to corral some of my co-workers for lunch.
With worn carpets and fixtures, the interior decoration graded slightly above “hole-in-the-wall” quality. The place felt sufficiently clean to me though individuals preferences may vary. The push-cart ladies were friendly, at least on the first several passes. Price wise, the tab came out to a reasonable total of $65 for three people plus tax and tip.
On to the eats!
Clockwise from top-left: Tofu-Skin Rolls; Shu Mai; Beef Balls; Har Gow (Shrimp Dumplings); and Crab and Shrimp Dumpling
The tofu rolls are a personal favorite of mine, and these were pretty on the mark. The sauce underneath was a little too greasy, but the filling underneath had a good ratio of pork, bamboo shoots, and shiitake. The shu man had big chunks of shrimp mixed in with the pork. The beef balls had an off-color but were otherwise fine, having a bouncy texture contrasted with the water chestnuts mixed in.
The har gow had a very nice snappy shrimp filling with hints of sesame oil and white pepper. It also felt like there were scallops mixed it, but I cannot say for sure. The rice-flour skin was a tad too thick. The crab variation of the dumplings tasted more or less the same.
Turnip Cake (top); Pan Fried Shrimp and Chive Dumplings (bottom)
The turnip cake was disappointing because they were cold. Although it was peppered with chunks of Chinese sausage, the cake contained too much flour which overpowered the daikon. The dumplings were ok; the skin was too gummy for my taste, although the shrimp and chives mixture inside was well-seasoned and fragrant.
Char-Siu Pastry (top); Taro Dumplings (bottom)
The pastry was surprisingly good, flaky and not too dense. The char-siu filling comprised of chunks of sweet, lean pork. The taro dumplings came disappointingly lukewarm. The crispy exterior became limp, and the interior became like mashed potatoes when it should be more gooey. These could have been good if they were served hot.
Xiao-Long Bao (left); Steamed Chinese Broccoli with Oyster Sauce (right)
The XLB were unimpressive. These were clearly the last of a prepared batch. Because it was not served fresh, the skin XLB had tightened up, and the interior became less juicy. When I asked for the Chinese broccoli on the cart, the lady informed me that the serving on the cart was old and brought us a fresh one from the kitchen. These veggies were good, blanched just right so that the roots had bite without being crunchy. The leaves had the expected bitterness, and the oyster sauce provided the needed salt.
Rice-Sheet Roll with Shrimp
These came fresh from the kitchen and were pretty good. The skin had an al dente, glutinous texture. The shrimp underneath were fresh and had a snap to them.
Salt and Pepper Calamari
The final dish of the session and it was a winner. The calamari was tender; the batter was hot and crispy. The scallions brought aromatics and the jalapeños brought spiciness to the dish. We were pretty full at this point in the meal and still ate the whole thing. A high note to end the meal.
So, did Jade Garden live up to the hype? You should walk away satisfied as long as you have reasonable expectations. With consistency and execution issues, not every dish is going to be a home run here. But then again, everything generally tasted as it should. That is a good thing for Seattleites in the mood to satisfy their dim sum cravings without the need for a long drive north.