Feast at the Crystal Jade

Last Friday, I had the opportunity of being present at the media lunch/launch of Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao. “Xiao Long Bao” stands for steamed soupy pork dumpling, a popular snack among Filipinos. But the Xiao Long Bao’s reach goes beyond the local branch opened at Virra Mall, Greenhills. The restaurant’s international branches include Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Korea and Singapore. Pinoys can look forward to the La Mian, a Chinese noodle that is hand made by trained chefs. In order to introduce the Crystal Jade’s diverse menu, we were served a fourteen course meal of appetizers, soups, and viands.

First on our 14-course meal was the restaurant’s specialty, the Xiao Long Bao. Unlike the usual dumplings served in Pinoy-Chinese establishments, the Xiao Long Bao presents its taste as a subtle treat. The pork doesn’t overpower your mouth, and the savory hot broth with it makes it even more satisfying. We were served two rounds of this–I almost didn’t leave enough room for the rest.
Then we had the steamed vegetable bun. In eating layman terms, it’s siopao with vegetables. But the veggie bun is elegantly done, and could appeal to serious meat lovers. At the same time, it satisfies picky vegetable eaters like me. Their less satisfying vegetable appetizers were the radish pastry and cold cucumber with minced garlic. The former exaggerated the batter while the latter did not float my cucumber boat. I’m a big fan of cucumber, but it didn’t quite work with so much garlic. I prefer keeping it simple with little flavoring. Served with these cold vegetables was the sliced pork roll with cucubmer and garlic. Thankfully the pork balanced out the cucumber-garlic taste I didn’t enjoy.
The oddest appetizer of them all was the crispy eel wuxi style. It was savory and sweet, but was reminscent of dilis. By itself, it wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t sure if it jived with the previous and succeeding dishes’ tastes.

Despite the slightly disappointing appetizers, one-fourth of my appetite was already full. The next dish, however, begged to be finished: Spicy and sour soup in Sichuan style. It was an explosion of flavor, overwhelming my taste buds in all the right places. I also enjoyed the abundant use of black fungus and other mushrooms.
Soon enough, we got started on the main viands. I barely had any room after the soup, so I started just taking a few bites of each to know its taste. The sauteed chicken with cashew nuts was fragrant in the mouth, although I could barely taste the spicy sauce. The sauteed string bean and minced pork with olive was good in itself, but didn’t quite complement the chicken dish. But the string beans weren’t something I’d eat by myself either.
Thankfully, the noodle with dried shrimp and peanut in spicy sauce evoked a loud “mmmm” from my mouth. The dish reminded of kare-kare, but without the protein element. The peanut ingredients soaked the noodles perfectly. If only my stomach had enough room!
As the lunch ended to a close, we were served the ever-familiar Fried Race with Diced Chinese Sausage, Shrimp & Egg in yang Zhou Style. Three worlds: yang zhou fried rice. The nostalgic familiarity suddenly reawakened my full appetite, leaving a little space for the Filipino staple. Ending our meal were two desserts: the mango pudding and deep-fried souffle ball with red bean paste. The pudding provided the needed sweetness after a long meal, but lacked the fruit element fresh eaters after. The souffle ball, on the other hand, pleased with its red bean filling. It just takes awhile till you get to the pasty center.
Overall, the Crystal Jade offers a filling and extravagant Chinese food experience. It’s the appropriate stopover after a tiring day of shopping, especially now that the -ber months have hit. Taste it all for yourself to know what flavors await you.

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