Jade: Thai and Mandarin

>> Sunday, April 22, 2012

Date of Dining: 4/13/2012
Price: $5-7 appetizers, $11-16 entrees
Location: 10330 Friars Rd Suites 104-105, San Diego, CA 92120
website


The Quick Bit:

+ high value per dollar
+ no-MSG in all menu items
+ authentic Thai and Chinese flavors in dishes
+ good and friendly service
Δ menu could be simplified
Δ beverage selection could be expanded

When I received a tip that there was a good Thai/Chinese restaurant in Mission Valley, I thought the tip was akin to discovering a Hunger Games winner out of the Twelfth District. However, I was assured that the food was well prepared and that the restaurant was a hidden gem waiting to be found.
While the restaurant was described to me as "Jade Thai," I was somewhat surprised to pull up to the restaurant and see the restaurant was actually named "Jade Thai & Mandarin." I didn't really know what to make of the development: on one hand, the improper language suggested a foreign owner who was likely intimately familiar with authentic flavors, but on the other hand having a single restaurant that served both Chinese and Thai dishes separately seemed a bit unfocused.
When I sat down in the restaurant, I was greeted with an extremely helpful server who explained the concept of the restaurant. Apparently the restaurant is under new management. The previous restaurant had a very talented Thai chef, who was retained for the transition, but the owner really wanted to operate a Chinese restaurant, so they brought in a second Chinese chef. While I had been recommended the Thai dishes, the rarity of such good and helpful service at a Chinese restaurant convinced me to try some Chinese dishes as well. 
Thai tea
I started with the Thai tea at the waitress's insistence. The tea was a good rendition of the Thai tea with the milk tasting especially creamy. Somehow, I felt that the helpfulness of the waitress was akin to currying favor with sponsors.
satay - chicken, peanut sauce, cucumber salsa
One of the signature dishes of the restaurant was the satay, so I decided to try it. Being used to overcooked chicken on satay skewers, I was extremely surprised to find an extremely moist, flavorful, and well-cooked chicken satay. I tried the satay with each sauce individually and together and was impressed as well. The cucumber sauce was especially refreshing, but the combination of the peanut sauce with the cucumbers was a big triumph. There was a great mix of sweetness, complexity and crunch well all the sauces were combined together.
bowl of tom kah soup
Since it was a cold and rainy day, I decided that a large assortment of soups was in order. We started with the tom kah soup. While I've never really been a fan of coconut milk based soups, I enjoyed the flavors present in this bowl. There was a good balance of coconut milk, lemongrass, and fresh vegetables to give a complex bowl of soup.
beef with cilantro soup
Following the Thai soup, a Chinese soup was brought to the table. While I don't want it to be, I would be lying if I didn't admit this was my favorite dish of the evening. I probably drank about 2/3 of this large family-sized bowl of soup in addition to the other dishes I ate.
The soup was the epitome of good Chinese cuisine - none of the elements were overcooked, there were delicate just subtly complex flavors, the entire dish was balanced, and the ingredients were fresh. The fresh cilantro in the soup really brought out a freshness to the dish stimulated both my palate and appetite. 
Note: For those who don't normally order Chinese soups, ask for white pepper and add it to your bowl. The soups are purposely under-seasoned, but some white pepper really brings out all the flavors.
Overall, this soup was coursed properly in the progression that it was almost like a parachuted care package.
larb pork
With the Thai chef claiming to specialize in Northern Thai cuisine, I ordered the pork larb as a measuring stick against some other versions of the dish. While the result was not quite a home run, it was probably a 2 RBI triple. The larb was cooked well and much better than most versions of the dish I've had in the past. It is certainly a dish that I wouldn't mind returning to eat regularly.
cumin lamb
The cumin lamb is one of my favorite Szechwan preparations of lamb. I found this rendition interesting as it used cumin seeds as opposed to grinding the seeds. The result was a lamb that was not so strongly cumin flavored, but it was not necessarily bad since it allowed the flavor of the lamb to be featured more prominently.
pad talay
I decided to finish off with a Thai seafood dish. The technical execution of this dish was impressive as each of the seafood elements were cooked perfectly. Further, the resulting sauce of all the seafood and vegetables was an extremely flavorful combination that really enhanced the dish.
mango sticky rice
For dessert, another signature dish - the mango sticky - rice was served. I really enjoyed this dessert as the rice was not overcooked or overly sweet. The mango was ripe, fresh, and flavorful. This was a great way to end the meal.

Conclusion:

While I don't want to go overboard and attribute any sort of "best" labels to Jade Thai & Mandarin, I had an extremely enjoyable time with my experience there. The Thai food was well prepared and contained authentic Thai flavors. I consider the Chinese food to be in the edible category, which places the restaurant in the upper echelons of San Diego ranks. I am anxious to return again in the future and try some more dishes to see if the quality holds throughout the menu. Finally, the price for a meal at Jade Thai & Mandarin was extremely economical and affordable. If the flavor doesn't do enough to convince you, let the prices seal the deal.
For the tasty authentic food at tasty and affordable prices, Jade Thai & Mandarin gets a bit award.

3 comments:

Rodzilla April 24, 2012 at 3:26 AM  

what is the almost rotini looking component with the pad talay? Pineapple?

James April 24, 2012 at 8:20 AM  

@Rodzilla - I think that is the squid. Usually in Thai/Chinese cooking they score it like that and it opens up when you heat it up.

Brand adam August 15, 2012 at 5:29 PM  

Your article about Mandarin food is really awesome and this meal looks delicious. Thanks for sharing this post. I love Mandarin food very much and i have tried many mandarin recipes which i got from YouTube , recipe books and many other website at home .

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gastro bits is a blog that juxtaposes the geeky with the foodie; it is an attempt to be educational about food, yet entertaining at the same time.
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