New cafe: Jade Garden

By Monica Liau, December 8, 2013

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Shanghai is getting an influx of dim sum options this year, with Jade Garden the latest to wade into the culinary fray. Backed by the enormous Maxim’s Group – which operates more than 800 dining outlets in Hong Kong and China – this Cantonese spot is a jewel in their many-pronged crown. 

Marking their first time opening a Chinese restaurant in Shanghai, the group has gone big. Very big. Taking up the entire fourth floor of the Jing’an Kerry Centre’s South Wing, the main dining room seats 338 people and has more crystal dangling from the ceiling than you can possibly imagine. Suited, attentive waiters flit around the hall; monogrammed tablecloths and napkins meet the eye at every glance. 

Despite ritzy decor, Jade Garden – which has one Michelin star in Hong Kong – has kept its prices reasonable, especially at lunch when dim sum is served from 11am-3pm (and from 10am on weekends). The place is packed every day with lines of hungry hopefuls, eager to get a bite of the restaurant’s signature yum cha.

The dishes certainly boast beautiful presentation and flavors that ring true. Blocks of pan-fried turnip cakes with preserved meat (RMB18) are perfectly crisp, with a savory, creamy center. An enormous baked pineapple bun (RMB18), filled with chunky pineapple jam, feels like eating a puff of hot air and butter, while smoky, sweet barbecued pork puff pastries (RMB24) maintain a delicate, flaky exterior and gooey center. Shrimp dumplings (RMB28) are competent, but nothing to write home about, but vegetable and bamboo pith dumplings (RMB24) are surprisingly flavorful, the thin rice flour skin bursting with the crunch of lightly oiled greens.

There are worthy dishes on the main menu also, like delicate, trembling egg custard crowned with a sweet steamed tiger prawn, drawn into sharp relief by fragrant Taidiao rice liquor (RMB48). Crispy barbecued suckling piglet (RMB88) is, quite frankly, gorgeous. The little porker is stuffed with a savory marinade so the succulent meat is infused with garlic and brown sugar, crowned with crackling auburn skin worthy of a spotlight. Jade Garden succeeds in making heavy dishes feel weightless and light ones seem significant, making this a sure bet for yum cha enthusiasts, even after the new sheen wears off. 

// 4/F, Jing’an Kerry Centre, South Wing, 1515 Nanjing Xi Lu, by Anyi Lu 南京西路1515号嘉里中心S4-01, 近安义路 (5243 8088)

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