I mentioned in my ode to the retro Chinese food I grew up eating that there were a couple restaurants that fit the bill in the Philly suburbs I hoped to get to in the coming months. It turned out that one of those – Golden Dragon – is still only open for takeout. While I enjoyed and posted about my meal from there, it didn’t satisfy my itch for the full experience of eating at an old-school Chinese restaurant.
I finally made it to the other place today, and thankfully they were open for dine-in service.
Jade Garden of Dresher, Pennsylvania, sits in a fairly typical and slightly worn-looking suburban shopping center and doesn’t look like much from the outside. There was another Chinese restaurant in the same strip of shops called King Tien where I used to eat during the late 80s and early 90s.
I discovered Jade Garden and the fact that it serves Chicken in Foil as part of a menu with lots of retro classics online before Covid hit. The pandemic and then various circumstances prevented me from getting there sooner. So it was with great anticipation that I walked into the place today.
Although the outside is nothing special, the restaurant’s inside decor more than made up for that. It’s virtually exactly what I expect an old-school Chinese restaurant to look like.
After settling into a comfortable booth, we perused our menus while enjoying crispy noodles with duck sauce and spicy mustard.
I’ve written a couple times about my fondness for Chicken in Foil, an appetizer I ate a lot of during the 80s, but which is very hard to find in the Philadelphia region nowadays. Jade Garden and Golden Dragon are the only two restaurants in the area I’m aware of that still offer it. So there was no way I was passing up an opportunity to order it. And I figured it would be ideal if I could get it as part of a PuPu Platter. I was in luck. When I asked our server if it is included, she checked and came back with an affirmative answer.
A PuPu Platter is unquestionably the most visually impressive and probably the funnest dish one can order at a retro Chinese restaurant. There is something very satisfying about heating your ribs and beef sticks over the flaming hibachi.
The Chicken in Foil was outstanding; probably the best I’ve had since the days of yore (the 80s). They were wonderfully soft, juicy and perfectly seasoned.
My wife was all in on the PuPu Platter. Jade Garden also serves Japanese food and she added a green salad, I imagine to offset some of the grease from the PuPu Platter. I have no such qualms.
She then had Cold Noodles with Szechuan Sauce for a main course.
Those looked good, but I was too focused on my Sweet & Sour Shrimp to bother with them.
Perhaps my leading complaint about various versions of this dish I’ve had over the years has been that the shrimp are often tiny and encased in a massive amount of breading. But the ones I had today were truly jumbo, filling out the crust around it completely.
We were slightly full by the time we finished the PuPu Platter and wound up taking much of our entrees home.
Our check came with the traditional complimentary desserts; orange sections and fortune cookies.
Eating at Jade Garden was really like taking a step back in time, to what I consider to be the glory days of American Chinese food. I have no doubt I’ll return there. They are a rare gem given the extent to which the other area retro Chinese restaurants I know of are now only serving takeout.