Saturday, January 08, 2011

Xiao long bao and other tasty Chinese bites at Crystal Jade

If Wee Nam Kee has chicken rice, Crystal Jade has xiao long bao.

These soupy pork dumplings steamed in small bamboo baskets (and best eaten on ceramic spoons) are more than enough reason for people to wait in line for a table on weekdays. Others even travel by plane just to savor this yummy treat.

Lucky for foodies here in Manila, Asia's famed xiao long bao has found its way to Greenhills, San Juan.

Located on the ground floor of V-Mall, the country's first Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao restaurant boasts of 11 foreign chefs (the head chef is from Hong Kong), 150 seats, and longer lines compared to its main branch in Ngee Ann City on Orchard Road in Singapore.

"The Singapore chefs were surprised when they saw the lines here in Manila during the launch," said Dr. Mike Muñoz, one of the owners of the local Crystal Jade franchise (the other is Dr. Edward Hwang).

Crystal Jade's many branches have won numerous citations, but one of the most notable is the Bib Gourmand of the prestigious Michelin Guide, which is awarded to restaurants that offer "good food at moderate prices."

Muñoz hopes that the Manila crowd will "maintain their interest" in Crystal Jade as they plan to put up a bakery or a Cantonese restaurant (or both) in the future.


Crystal Jade is famous for its xiao long bao, but the restaurant is more than just the soupy pork dumplings.

For starters, try the cold drunken chicken marinated in Chinese wine and wolfberry (P288) to refresh the palate, or the crispy deep-fried sliced pork with sesame (P188) for a sweet-salty treat.

One can't find the usual siomai and siopao in Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao, but the restaurant offers tasty alternatives -- from the pork dumplings with hot chili sauce (P150 for 6 pieces) to the pan-fried Shanghai pork buns (P135 for 4 pieces).

The buns make great snacks, but should be accompanied by other dishes since an order is not enough to fill a hungry person's stomach.

There's also the la mian or hand-pulled noodle (Crystal Jade's other specialty), which is made only upon order and cut with scissors upon serving.

A popular choice is la mian with dried shrimp and peanut in spicy sauce (P288), but also worth trying is noodles with minced meat and mushroom (P288), which is ideal for those who can't handle too much heat.

The braised pork knuckle (P888) is a comforting dish, especially when accompanied by a helping of Chinese pancakes, or mantou.

Other main dishes include deep-fried chicken with dried chili (P288) and stewed pork in black vinegar with salad dressing (P288), but these were nothing out of the ordinary especially when compared to the tender pork knuckles.

What's surprisingly delightful to eat, however, is the sauteed string bean and minced pork with olive (P248), which is good for those who usually skip vegetables.

Any of these dishes are great with either the Beijing-style fried noodles (P250) or the Yang Chow fried rice (P248), which has diced Chinese sausage, shrimp and egg.

To cap off the meal, try Crystal Jade's red bean paste pancakes (P128 for 8 pieces). Just a word of warning, though -- it's uniquely addictive especially when served hot, and one order may not be enough for one person.

Crystal Jade, indeed, holds a lot of promise for Filipinos with its extensive array of old Chinese favorites.

With new dishes set to be launched this year, the restaurant is bound to win the hearts of more customers in and out of the metro.

Unit 117-121 Virra Mall, Greenhills Shopping Center 
Greenhills, San Juan City
For reservations, call (632) 570-6910 or (632) 570-6912

KEIX'S NOTE: This piece first appeared on (Click here to view the article).