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Jun 5, 2009 11:55 PM

Shanghai Wontons and Lunch Specials at Jade Palace in Palo Alto

Last week my mom and I had lunch at Jade Palace in Palo Alto. I’ve had dinner here several times, enough to be recognized as a regular customer (and promise to report on our favorites and a few misses). This was my first visit during lunch time, and I had wanted to get back here at the first opportunity after hearing the terrible news about the violent attack in the kitchen.
( )

I wasn’t the only one, as several others, some just stopping by and not eating, came by to offer their best wishes and support to the owner during these trying times. I did learn that the injured worker was in stable condition and would soon be discharged from the hospital.

Anyway, back to the chow, we did have quite a good lunch. Nearly 50 lunch specials are available, which include soup of the day, an eggroll and steamed rice. Mom ordered the asparagus beef lunch special, $6.95, and I went with Shanghai wontons (listed on the dim sum menu), $6.95. The soup of the day was hot and sour, and the owner was kind to comp me on a bowl and an eggroll as well.

Usually I avoid the generic h & s soup offered with lunch plates as its typically more akin to cornstarch-thickened dishwater than the real thing. The version here was surprisingly good, even including expensive lily buds, as shown in the photo, plus slivered tofu and wood ears in a tangy and relatively spicy, non-gloppy broth.

Hot and sour soup -

The eggrolls tasted vegetarian, filled with cabbage, carrot and onion. Nice and crispy, they were freshly made and as greaseless as I’ve ever encountered. We avoided the dayglow sweet and sour dipping sauce served on the side.

Eggrolls -

I had to squelch a wince when my mother wanted to order asparagus beef, since Jade Palace is a Shanghainese restaurant. However, the kitchen did a great job with this Cantonese-American classic. The portion of asparagus beef was quite generous, and almost enough for two light eaters to share with the accompanying overflowing bowl of rice. Unlike too many places, the thickish slabs of beef here had not been tenderized to mushy sponges and had retained good beefy flavor. Nice searing in the hot wok and a touch of oyster sauce added complexity. The asparagus pieces were very fresh, well-trimmed, and cooked perfectly.

Asparagus beef lunch special -

My Shanghai-style big wontons, $6.95, were equally good. The dumplings had a higher proportion of ji cai blended with the coarsely ground pork to lighten the texture, giving them more crunch and fresh green vegetable taste. The wrappers were al dente and not overcooked. The light and delicate seafood stock was quite refreshing on this warm afternoon. Some tiny brine shrimp and dried seaweed added another marine accent to the dish, along with some scallions for fragrance and bite.

Shanghai wontons -

If I worked in Palo Alto, I’d be here often for a delicious and well-priced lunch out on the patio.

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Remembering the Tiananmen Massacre

Jade Palace
151 S California Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94306

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  1. I see this place all the time, as I go to Bodeguita del Medio for a cigar from time to time, but never tried it. This is one of those place where you have to order off the Chinese menu to get the good stuff, isn't it? I always find myself a bit frustrated with that.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Deeg67

      Actually no, everything but the banquet menus are translated into English. The menu is huge, consequently. Sometimes I try to figure out what the dish is from the English translation, then have to ask the waitstaff what the Chinese name is to know what the dish really is!

      It changed hands a few months ago and shifted from Cantonese to principally Shanghainese food. The interior is lovely, and I enjoy the attentive service. It's been a relief to not have to drive to Mountain View when I visit my brother and we want some Chinese eats.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        Hmmm - thanks, I'll check it out the next stogie night.

    2. Thank you for this report. Went for lunch today and enjoyed the lunch specials. We had the Spicy Fish Fillet w/ Tofu and Sautéed (yellow) Chives w/ Pork & Dried Bean Curd. Soup was Hot and Sour, egg rolls were crispy and greaseless, rice was unusually tasty.

      We will be back soon with more people to share more dishes. This is a hit! Thanks!

      1 Reply
      1. re: anyhow

        Glad you enjoyed it. The setting is quite a bit nicer than the norm, and while the prices aren't low, the portion size is more generous here so you do get good value. Scanning the dishes available on the lunch special, I appreciate that some authentic regional specialties, such as you ordered, are available as well as the typical take-out kind of dishes.

        I've had dinner there maybe 6 times or so, and have tried different dishes each time. It's kind of unwieldy to try to report on now, but I'll take a stab at it soon. We've not had very good luck with seafood dishes, a couple were outright terrible. When we first started going here, most of the customers were non-Chinese and few at that. Now, the place is busier and nearly all Chinese, mostly Shanghainese.

      2. Interesting place indeed. I had lunch here today.

        As reported, the menu is huge and broad, covering many kinds of chinese food. There's a decent "everyday dim sum" selection, a very small cold appetizer section, some clay pots, and a few thai dishes (basil chicken, thailand rice, thai style prawns). The menu doesn't go into depth an any one area - it's somewhat smaller than China Village in that regard - although, what is "tuanit strips cake" (google says nothing about "tuanit" - turnip?) - and no offal.

        Lunch special is $6.95, which puts you out the door at around $9. This is a good deal at that price, and fast, given the sit-down nature. A solid percentage of dishes are available at the lunch special price - they quote 45 dishes in the sign by the door. The atmosphere is a little too "nice" for my taste, but the food came quick. I'd bring my mother here.

        I had the spicy bean curd and fish fillets, which is more Sichuan, and thus perhaps not the best choice. The dish was very passable but not great. The sauce was a fairly simple concoction of red pepper and maybe some black bean, without any great artistry and maybe too much salt. Very acceptable for $9 though - a huge plate of food, good quality fish & tofu.

        The place is certainly kitted out for banquet. The place should easily accommodate 100,and has video projection and such.

        It's an excellent addition, although so far hasn't taken the place of Little Shanghai or Crouching Tiger in my heart. It sure is closer to my house - and if you go through California Street CALTRAIN on the way home, maybe a togo order would work.

        I look forward to Melanie's discussion of the dishes to order, just because it's such a crazy hodgepodge of a menu.

        PS. I ate this week at Chef Liu in MV, and I still love their shrimp and chive dumplings. It's a northern style, thick skin dumpling, somewhat unrefined, but I find it so tasty.

        3 Replies
        1. re: bbulkow

          Here's my post from a year ago from my first dinner at JP under the new owners.

          That pork belly is delectable and really showed how good the Shanghainese cook is. Not positive, but I think that's called braised side pork on the menu.

          JP's lead owner was a partner in New China Delight on Castro St, which combined Sichuan and Shanghai specialties. He is from Shanghai, so I've focused on the Shanghainese dishes at JP for the most part.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            There's a bunch of "side pork" on the menu:
            Shanghai style braised side pork
            braised side pork with preserved vegetable
            green leek with smoked side pork
            ---- all of which sound great, but require stepping off the lunch special train
            ---- and none mention the belly you've spoken highly of in the english translation

            How many lunches in a week?

            1. re: bbulkow

              Sorry, most likely the Shanghai style braised side pork. The one with preserved veggie is a Hakka dish and the green leek one is Hunan. You've nailed the XLB, they're pretty good here with good flavor but just a tad thickish. The red oil won tons are not water dumplings. Instead of the ingot style water dumplings, these are actually folded like won tons but served dry, that is without soup, in spicy red oil.

              Hmm, how many lunches in a week . . . if the weather's nice, I know I'd be out on the patio as often as possible.

        2. Here's the summary of several dinners . . . warning, very long.