Monday, April 20, 2009

Crystal Jade

Restaurant: Crystal Jade
Address: 7255 Cedar Street
Website: N/A
Genres: Chinese, American, fusion
Check Constraints: None
Chain: No | More Omaha Locations: No

  • General's Chicken (7.95)
  • Eggdrop Soup (w/main dish)
  • Crab Rangoon (2.95)
  • Thai Iced Tea (2.50)
Howdy, true believers. We've skipped lunch for the past few weeks, for various reasons, and even worse, there are some places that we went to, but won't be reviewing until we go again, mainly because we got owned by work and can't remember what the heck we had. This is one of those revisits.

Tucked back behind the Omaha Tower, trapped inside an old Village Inn, is where you'll find Crystal Jade. Outside, it's... well, it's a Village Inn. Inside, it's a surprisingly nice place, with well padded chairs with steel backs and no arms (a blessing if you're larger than life). More importantly, though, there's a simple two page menu, half of which is filled with American food. barbecue ribs, chicken alfredo, stuff like that. We went there for Chinese, though, so no alfredo for me. The other half of the menu is a somewhat truncated selection of traditional Americanized Chinese food.

I've now had the General's Chicken twice, and this is sort of important, because General (whether Tao or Tso) chicken is always a tossup. One version of the dish is basically chicken McNuggets in corn syrup. The other version, the one that Crystal Jade serves, is chicken McNuggets in corn syrup and lots and LOTS of spice. Okay, that LOTS is probably overkill, because while it's at the top of my spice range, Cham still couldn't taste it at all, which I teased him about mercilessly. On the other hand, I'm going to be joining him in the spicehag club, eventually, I think. Mostly thanks to my growing love of horseradish.

The first time I was here, I actually got TWO bowls of soup. The eggdrop I got this time, and the creamy potato on the other side of the menu. I'll tell you now, to be complete, that the creamy potato is nothing special, and if you're out for potato soup, go to Petrow's or Brazen Head. The eggdrop soup, on the other hand, is pretty good stuff, enough that I grabbed it a second time.

The crab rangoon, everybody pretty much agrees, are above average, and both times I've been there, they came out piping hot straight from the deep fryer. Ditto the fried wontons, which Cham ordered twice, and both appetizers are quite affordable, at 4 or 6 for three bucks. There are also carafes (syrup bottles, no kidding) of sweet & sour at each table, for dipping. It's pretty good sauce, too, no catsup base here.

And then there's the thai iced tea. I love thai iced tea. Unfortunately, there's no refill on it here, but I gave strong consideration to getting a second glass anyway. If you love thai iced tea, you will not be disappointed, and the milk in the tea makes a good way to kill the burn of a spicy dish.

In any case, Crystal Jade's a great restaurant, and I hope anybody who reads this gives it a try, because it's totally worth the money. Give them a shot, you won't regret it.

  • Mongolian Beef Sandwich (8.95)
I've been a little sick of Asian food lately. There's no real good reason for it, but it caused me to take a look at some of the non-traditional food items here. The have some American-type dishes, like ND mentioned, and a couple of things listed under "fusion". I went for a bit of a fusion dish. The sandwich was really just mongolian beef on a ciabatta bun. It was hard to hold due to the soft bun and quite messy, but it was actually pretty good. The mongolian beef worked well as sandwich innards. The look reminded me a bit of a cheesesteak, but there was no cheese and an Asian flavor of course. I thought the mongolian beef here was really good by itself. The last time I had the dish, it was from China Garden, and it was overrun with (probably yellow) onions. I couldn't stand it. Here they were green onions, and they faded into the background, providing more of a look than a taste.

A bad mark on the service, however: the sandwich was supposed to come with fries, and I never received them. I didn't really notice they were missing until we had left, but it did seem a bit strange to see just the lone sandwich get delivered to the table. I considered ordering eggrolls (because the meal seemed so light), but the waitress was never at the table long enough for me to ask. She'd quickly drop something off, then take off again for who knows where. I believe they also forgot something of Maple's. I don't think there was any issue last time we went, however.

  • Wontons ($2.00)
  • 2 Eggrolls ($1.50 each)
  • Chicken Rendang ($7.95)
    • Hot & Sour Soup
    • Steamed Rice
    • Side Salad
ND's characterization of the place is spot on. It's actually a bit of cognitive dissonance to walk inside what appears to be a Village Inn and find a restaurant with place settings and tablecloths. So don't let the exterior fool you, this really isn't someplace you should walk in with flip-flops and a shirt with the arms cut off. Not that you should do that anywhere; there's sanitation to be concerned about.

I am pretty sure this is exactly what I ordered the last time we visited, and I am pretty sure I had exactly the same experience, so the place has that going for it. Their wontons were crispy and had a delicious nugget of pork in the middle; though some at the table weren't fond of them, I liked them enough to get them again. The eggrolls seemed off to me, however, though I couldn't put my finger on why. They were fairly large in size, though at $1.50 they really ought to be. A small note; the "salad bar" here is a chilled pot of salad mix sitting on a table at the middle of the restaurant. They don't tell you this, so if you're waiting for them to deliver a side salad to your table you'll be waiting a while. Though honestly it's not worth getting up for unless you're hard up for iceberg lettuce in your diet. The only interesting thing are the wonton strips you can add, and perhaps the sesame dressing. On the other hand, the hot and sour soup is good, if not much above the average.

Despite my mixed reviews on the appetizers and sides, I can unequivocally recommend the chicken rendang. It's a curry-like concoction, and though I wasn't able to pick out many of the components of the sauce, it's pretty good. It comes with rice, either fried or steamed. I've gotten steamed both times so I can't speak to the quality of their fried rice. Still, when ladled out over the rice it's a tasty meal and while it's more filling than you'd expect, I'm still glad it comes with the extras.

  • Thai Iced Tea (2.50)
  • Lemon Chicken (6.95)
    • Hot & Sour Soup
    • Fried Rice
    • Side Salad
I actually missed the first visit here, due to something a long while back. Place is pretty solid on the overall, though, so I'm glad to have given it a shot. The Thai Iced Tea came in a big mug, actually, it's worth noting, as did the water and I think the other drinks. They do alcoholic drinks too, but it being lunch and us being responsible, we didn't have any. I agree with ND, it's very good. I need to not keep forgetting to look up how to make it myself.

The Lemon Chicken dish came with Hot and Sour of the good variety, and Cham is right about the salad bar: iceberg to fill up on. The dish itself was breaded chicken absolutely covered in a bright yellow lemon sauce. The sauce was exceedingly strong, sweet, and bitter, (and lemony), to the point where someone who wasn't huge on lemon couldn't have eaten it. I was expecting something with a lighter lemon flavor, so I was surprised. I still ate quite a bit of it and enjoyed, but be forewarned, this is not 'chicken with some component of lemon flavor', this is lemon chicken, heavy on the lemon sauce like general tso's chicken is usually heavy on the sauce.

I don't think the place will be supplanting as my favorite chinese anytime soon, but the increase in options and difference in styles gives me the option of a slight break in ordinary chinese food, and that's a good thing.

Editor's Note: MapleSyrup is being a huge tool and refusing to write his post. I am posting this anyway.