Crystal Jade Restaurant
Updated: 2006-07-25 11:49
To reach Crystal Jade you must first find the right building and then ascend the elevators to the first floor. As you approach the entrance you can see the noodle chefs working their magic behind a long glass window. Here they perform the La Mian magic of producing hand pulled noodles. Bread dough is stretched and twisted then finally pulled and pulled until, with a final flick of the wrist, what was once a sullen mass of dough is now dozens of the finest strands of noodles.
You may have to wait for a table if you haven't booked even though the restaurant seats over three hundred diners. This is a testament to the popularity of the venue and the quality of the food it serves.
You will be shown to a large table with very comfortable chairs in one of the restaurant sections. Rather than it being one cavernous room it has been cleverly divided into a number of sections through careful use of open partitions so that you feel like you are in an intimate restaurant.
You can drink Long Jing tea (known as Dragon Well in the west) here. This is the tea grown on the hill slopes of nearby Hanzhou and prized by people from the surrounding areas. The variety used here is particularly good and was a refreshing accompaniment to the meal. We also enjoyed a bottle of ten year old Shao Xing wine from the city across the bay. This is a highly underrated wine in the west and is the perfect accompaniment to some of the local foods.
Once the food started to arrive we were entranced. This is a very serious food lover's restaurant! Ever dish was prepared with skill and attention to detail and none more so than the xiao long bao. These were impossibly thin, had lovely soup inside and the filling was seasoned perfectly. For those who are not familiar withthis specialty, xiao long bao are dumplings simply formed from a flour-based dough which encloses a filling usually made from pork (but can be chicken or crab or beef or various combinations of these meats). The dough is flattened into a circle with a simple flick of the ball of the hand and then the filling is placed on top and then the edges of the dough are pleated to form the dumpling. The additional trick is that the meat filling has been mixed with some solid gelatinous stock which when the dumpling is steam, melts to form a soup actually inside the dumpling. To eat a xiao long bao you must very carefully pick it uo with your chopsticks and place it in your Chinese ceramic spoon tilt it slightly to one side with your chopsticks and bite a little hole in the dough and immediately suck out the scalding hot soup! Then eat the rest of the dumpling.
Although we tried many examples in Shanghai in many places famed for their xiao long bao, these were the best we sampled and as close to perfection as you could hope for!
And so the meal continued through dishes such as perfect pan fried Shanghai pork buns with beautifully pink fillings, turnip pastries with meltingly soft centres, fried rice flour cakes (that look like gnocchi) flavoured with preserved vegetables and the most perfect Sichuan-style hand pulled noodles. We moved on to the local delicacy of sweet crispy eel (the best and most delicate we have ever eaten and also a plate of celery-flavoured vegetable.
We left knowing that we had just experienced a meal that was as good as any we have tried anywhere in the world.
Crystal Jade Restaurant
Location: 1F, House 6-7, Lane 123, Xingye Lu, Xintiandi Plaza