Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Made in the Jade

Join Abbe and Jebby as they get their tea on at Jade Teahouse and Patisserie in Sellwood!

Abbe’s meal: BBQ Pork Humbao
Who doesn’t love a giant doughy pillow filled with tasty meat? I used to go to West Coast Bento when I was in high school almost every day and get their hum bao, it was that good. Is Jade Teahouse’s hum bao that good? Not really. It was sub-par in my book of delicious hum baos, although they do go the extra mile to make it look good and make it big. I think my hum bao would have packed more punch if the meat hadn’t been so dry. When I think of BBQ anything, I think of sauce and a good amount of it, but inside my hum bao was just fairly dry and overcooked meat.
Biting into it, I was filled with joy at the taste and texture of the dough. It was like biting into an edible memory foam pillow of delicious awesomeness, but then the meat hit my tongue and I was disappointed. It had a texture all too familiar, that texture of my past endeavors at restaurants that served me dry, chalky meats and then watched as I dribbled half-chewed food out of my mouth and onto my plate in dismay.
I was sad that the filling was so un-filling, because that dough was really good. I think Jade needs to consider their cooking times for the meat and possibly adding a bit more sauce to the mix to combat the dryness of the dough itself. The best part of a good hum bao is biting into the dough and then getting a burst of sauce and meat. I mean who wants to bite into something dry and then get some dry filling to go with it?
I have to admit the best part of my visit to Jade Tea House was my Izze Grapefruit soda. 

Jebby’s meal : Beef noodle soup, hum bao, ginger peach iced tea, Vietnamese wedding cake, passionfruit macaron. 

I was really hungry, okay? Leave me alone. 

                I was going to leave the hum bao review to Abbe, but our opinions were different so I thought I’d just throw in a sentence or two about it. It was the size of a small plate and had a gorgeous red stamping on top. I found mine to be quite tasty, even though the pork inside was cut into small cubes, rather than shredded, and was a trifle dry. Still, I ate all of mine and half of Abbe’s, and I’d order one again.
I balked a bit at the price of the pho at first, but when it arrived, it was quite large. Our server thoughtfully brought us two bowls, two spoons, two pairs of chopsticks and a ladle, even though I had only ordered it for my own gluttonous belly. The pho was immensely fragrant and I could see huge slabs of beef drifting placidly through the broth. Upon closer inspection, the slices of beef in Jade’s pho were larger and more plentiful than any pho restaurant I’ve eaten at in Portland to date. Seattle is another story, but in the beef department, Jade is leading the Portland pack.  
The broth was a different story. Despite the aggressive aroma, the broth was mild and not particularly beefy. I was a little disappointed, since the broth is supposed to be the main focus of a good pho. The relish tray that came with it had some unexpected surprises. Along with the standard sprouts-basil-pepper combo, Jade’s relish tray included long beans, which were a really nice, crunchy addition to the pho. A less pleasant surprise was a tiny dish with a meager dollop of siracha and hoisin. Not enough to flavor the broth, and definitely not enough for dipping the multitude of meat. I suppose you can’t really expect a restaurant that doesn’t specialize in Pho to have dedicated condiment bottles for each table.   Despite these shortcomings, I would probably order this pho again, especially since it’s the only pho within walking distance of my house.
The tea was gingery, peachy, and refreshing. Well-blended, didn’t need sweetening. Unfortunately, I was not fond of the desserts I ordered. The Vietnamese wedding cake came highly recommended by Yelp reviewers and I was excited to try it, but it was too sweet and I wasn’t fond of the flavor, the texture of the frosting or the crunchy puff pastry in the middle. I don’t think the cake was poorly made, I think it is just more likely that I am not a fan of Vietnamese wedding cake. The macaron, which was my first one ever, was also somewhat disappointing. It tasted a little like Barbies smell, but other than that it didn’t taste like much. It was a weird sort of doughy cookie with a tiny tart bite of passionfruit in the middle. Maybe I just don’t like macarons either. 

Our overall review:
Abbe and I visited Jade Teahouse and Patisserie on an uncharacteristically warm November day, hoping to bring our laptops and get some work done on the blog. Jade’s décor was calm and soothing, with soft green and orange walls, bamboo everywhere, paper lanterns and soft music. This place is zen as hell, and it feels like a slightly less uptight library… definitely somewhere you can just comfortably enjoy the silence. It would have been awesome if there wasn’t some kind of construction crew banging merrily away somewhere down the street. We could barely hear ourselves think… but that’s not Jade’s fault.  
                The food menu at Jade is extensive for a place that claims to be a teahouse and patisserie. They have a surprising array of dishes – soups ranging from udon to pho to sweet and sour, banh mi, curries, and even French fries with Oregon truffle oil. The food is a little hit and miss, and can be somewhat pricey. We couldn’t bring ourselves to spend seven dollars on banh mi when we could go to An Xuyen and get an amazing sandwich for half the price. The dessert case is full of sugary goodness to tempt you from your work but we also found those to be underwhelming.
                Jade’s most redeeming qualities are their dizzying array of teas, and their atmosphere. They offer every seating possibility you can think of – couches, tables with ridiculously comfortable chairs, even a bar overlooking 13th avenue. Even with a nearly full house, things were quiet enough for us to get some serious writing done. Despite our mediocre food experience, we will definitely head to Jade the next time we need to get some studying done. Coffee shops are fabulous, but new options are always good.  

You can find Jade's extensive menu here


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