Crystal Jade Dining In: Not Your Average Chinese Restaurant
SPOT.ph blogger Yvette Tan finds out if the Chinese chain can go beyond <em>xiao long bao</em>
Crystal Jade Dining In
Bonifacio High Street Central
Bonifacio Global City
Tel. Nos. 808-5233; 519-8191
Open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
(SPOT.ph) Whenever someone mentioned Crystal Jade before, my first thought was always 'xiao long bao,' made famous by their La Mian restaurant, like the one in Greenhills. It wasn't until I dined at the new Crystal Jade Dining In at the Fort that I realized that 'Crystal Jade' can refer to a bunch of restaurants that served different kinds of Chinese cuisine at different price points. One of the higher-end ones is Crystal Jade Dining In, which is a casual dining restaurant (they didn't kick me out for not wearing a dress) that serves high-end Chinese food. By 'high-end,' I don't mean your typical Chinese lauriat. I'm talking about modern Chinese dishes that until now, I've only managed to get in Singapore, until now.
Double Boiled Crab Claw Soup with Superior Mushroom in Fresh Coconut
We started the meal with Double Boiled Crab Claw Soup with Superior Mushroom in Fresh Coconut. Each serving comes in a young coconut (buko) shell. The cloudy broth is very flavorful thanks to its long cooking process. I expected it to taste like buko (sort of like chicken binakol) but it didn't. Despite its tropicalesque presentation, its flavors remained Oriental.
Crispy Duck Sandwich
The Crispy Duck Sandwich is an interesting appetizer. Served with Shredded Duck Fruit Salad, it's a condensed version of the traditional duck served X ways. The crispy duck sandwich looks heavy for an appetizer, but the cucumber, tomato, and bean curd skin 'filling' detracts from the duck's density and adds crunch. It complements the Shredded Duck Fruit Salad, which in turn is soft, creamy, and heavy in a comfort food way via the mayonnaise.
Sauteed Prawn with Chicken and Assorted Mushroom Served in Pumpkin
One of my favorite dishes is the Sauteed Prawn with Chicken and Assorted Mushroom Served in Pumpkin. It's your basic Chinese sauteed dish with lots of sauce, except with better, fresher, more unique ingredients. Fat prawns (which you can substitute for scallops), assorted fresh--FRESH!--mushrooms, and a yummy gourd container (yes, I ate the inside part of the squash container) drenched in a savory sauce make for a surprisingly filling dish, which I enjoyed with the E Fu Noodles with Prawns and Mushrooms. I know it's a bit redundant since both dishes have prawns and mushrooms, but they taste different, the noodles being saltier, and with a deeper-tasting sauce.
Fried Assorted Grain Rice in Hot Stone Bowl
It's weird to eat in a Chinese restaurant and not order rice, even if you've already ordered noodles. In a lauriat, the fried rice is one of the last dishes to arrive, because it is thought of as filler, just in case guess haven't eaten their fill. But in an a la carte setting, the rice is usually eaten the Filipino way, paired with whatever viand is on the table. The Fried Assorted Grain Rice in Hot Stone Bowl is very different from the Chinese fried rice that many of us are used to. The different colored grains make the dish a delight to look at, while the corn kernels add a sweetness that elevates the dish's taste. The hot bowl keeps it hot longer than being served on a plate would, and for some reason, does not burn the rice grains, which is too bad, because I like the burned rice that sticks to the bottom of the cooker.
Braised Pork with Special Sauce served with Bun
If you're in the area for a snack, you might want to try their Braised Pork with Special Sauce served with Bun. It's a fancy take on the kua pao, the Chinese pork sandwich, which I remember being served as merienda on weekends when I was a child. The pork is sweet and beautifully glazed, and so soft that it falls apart when you cut it with your fork. But more than the pork, I love the fried bun, or man tou, which I am glad that I can finally get in Manila. The fried bun is crispy on the outside and soft and milky on the inside. Use it to sandwich the pork, or ask if you can order more (which I have yet to try) and use it to mop up whatever sauces are in front of you at the moment, especially if they are of the chili crab sort. You can order the bun steamed, but it's not as much fun.
Glutinous Rice Dumpling with Mango and Cream
I am also glad that Crystal Jade Dining In serves one of my favorite Chinese desserts, mango with pomelo bits. Their version rests on a chilled avocado pudding, which makes me feel like I'm eating three desserts (pudding, mango pomelo, pudding and mango pomelo mix) at once. I can imagine myself stopping by the restaurant in between meal times just to order this and a cup of coffee. That’s how much I love it. They also have Glutinous Rice Dumpling with Mango and Cream, which is the Chinese version of a mochi, using traditional Chinese dough but filling it with frozen goodies instead of the usual hot fillings. It's very good, sweet, but not heavy, and ends the meal on a good note without weighing your stomach down.
I've eaten Chinese cuisine all my life, so much so that I, or any Filipino-Chinese person, for that matter, can recite the lauriat menu even before we set foot into the restaurant. Dining at Crystal Jade Dining In keeps my palate looking forward to delicious dishes that fall within the realm of traditional Chinese cooking, but with an exciting, sometimes unexpected spin.
[Ed’s note: We contacted Crystal Jade Dining In for information on the prices of their dishes, but were informed that they would not be releasing said information until they have officially opened.]