As Red Funnel‘s bulldozer of progress finally subsumed its neighbour the White Hart pub, Chinese takeaway Jade Garden stood its ground. The venue’s little beacon of light shines smack bang in East Cowes’ regeneration quarter. The modern Waitrose, a block of over-fifty-fives’ housing, and, of course, that smooth new marshalling yard are all testament to the new hope for the town. An aspiration old Queen Vic herself had when she tarted up Osborne House back when, well, old age probably DID mean being over fifty.
It’s easy to stick with your nearest takeaway and spank its menu til there’s nothing new left to try. Or you could steadfastly eat the same reliable favourite dish (yes,Cat, you are pointing the finger at yourself with your adherence to chicken chow mein).
So we thought we’d venture away from Ryde’s China Garden and try out another of the Island’s Chinese Gardens, the Jade one. With an unfamiliar menu to peruse, we hoped we might find something new to try, and so it proved.
Jade Garden is in a good location; a moment from the car ferry for weary travellers, and with nearby free on street parking (shh, don’t tell the council). We parked outside the new flats for old gubbers and went in search of our dinners.
The venue is bright and welcoming and the lady behind the counter greeted us warmly. After the obligatory chat about the weather – in this instance, the wetness of the day, but in summer presumably the topic is its heat or dryness – we deliberated over the counter menu. The assistant seemed well-informed about the dishes and joined in our discussions as we speculated on which to order.
We ordered enough for three of us, saw the smartly-uniformed chef cook our order in the open kitchen – then in moments, it was done. At a pal’s nearby dining table we unloaded crisp prawn crackers, a box of mixed starters, three mains, two rices. Or should that be rice? In fact, should the singular of rice be rouse – like mouse?
The special mixed starters was a different array to, say Hong Kong Express hors d’oeuvres – which has chicken satay and ribs. In the Jade Garden box, we found moist sesame-seeded prawn toast, Cantonese-style meaty pancake rolls and crispy wontons. The wontons were weakest of the starters; more a triumph of brittle texture over taste. The seaweed was, as always Cat’s favourite element; crumbly, salty and with a nice flavour – it was also a good garnish for the rest of the meal.
Starter (for two) £9.40
Crispy shredded beef £6.50
Chicken with mange-tout and garlic £6.40
Bean curd with mixed vegetables £5.40
Egg fried rice x 2 @ £3.40 £6.80
Prawn crackers £2.50
We’ve speculated for a while how some Chinese restaurants create that soft, textureless chicken. You know the sort, with pallid hue and rounded corners like it’s been in some sort of tumbling device. Although not so smoothed off, Jade Garden’s chicken – which came with mange-tout and garlic – still had that anaemic look, and its sauce was slippery and rather bland. The dish’s veg was plentiful and fresh but, although the meat was slightly peppery, the garlic was indistinct.
The second dish out of the bag was bean curd with mixed vegetables. Tofu can be awful, let’s face it. Although high in protein, in its native state it is low in texture, colour and flavour. Jade Garden tofu was a definite improvement on the default. Cubed, browned and possibly marinated, the curd absorbed the mild flavours of the vegetables with which it shared a sauce.
A big pile of crispy shredded beef was the star of the show. A tangy sticky red sauce gave it real depth, and had plenty of recognisable pieces of soft onion.
We served the lot up with textbook egg fried rice. If we had had the foresight to read our review of Jade Garden from back in 2010, we would have realised that we probably only needed one rice portion between us.
Jade Garden is good, and whilst the competition for the best Chinese on the Isle of Wight is a particularly small one, this place must be a contender. The three dishes were a reasonable combo; we were really pleased with the variety of fresh vegetables, including sparky spring onions, firm bamboo shoots, bean sprouts and mushrooms. The portions were generous, service was jolly and lightning-quick, and the choice broad. We are pleased that East Cowes’ Chinese eatery defies the inexorable march of progress to wield its wok another day.
This is the full-length version of the review first published in the Isle of Wight County Press.
- Quick and friendly service
- Good portion sizes
- Decent selection