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Jade Garden Restaurant

In a word:  $7 all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet (and thus, you already know what your opinion is).

The specs: #0271
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; Jade Garden on Urbanspoon

Latest Jade Garden news and reviews

JM, John, Nichole and Rose all ate at the buffet. The bill was $28, or $7/person, plus tip.
JM gave Jade Garden a B-; John and Rose gave Jade Garden a C+; Nichole gave Jade Garden a C (see our grading rubric).

Jade Garden

Jade Garden was doing a brisk carryout trade the night we went. The moment we stumbled into the dim dining room, we guessed why. The ambience left something to be desired. Something like a flashlight, or an antidepressant. Stained and missing acoustic tiles, totally absent lighting in half the room (replaced by an extension cord and a bare 75-watt light bulb), and drab wallpaper all contrasted strikingly with the brand new, shiny tables and seating. It might be that they're working on improvements gradually, for which they can be commended for starting with the parts that diners come into the most contact with.  But seriously, a bare light bulb?

Though the dining room was packed, it was very quiet, full of people intent on their plates. We were seated quickly and treated well throughout the meal. However, we discovered that Jade Garden's buffet is not the most flattering presentation of their food. The steam trays, though small (which might encourage turnover), didn't keep stuff hot enough, and so most of our choices were past their prime.

Hot and sour soup

The scallion pancakes, for example, hinted at brilliance, with a flakiness that had great potential. But by the time Nichole tried one it was room temperature, so she made a mental note to order one fresh sometime. The hot and sour soup had that pleasantly barnyardy flavor, but was too gloopy and salty for her taste. The strangest thing she tried was the "chicken balls." Imagine hush puppies seasoned with chicken-flavored Ramen packets.

DinnerMore dinner

JM tried the black pepper pork, chicken with broccoli, General Tso's chicken, egg rolls, and rangoon. The black pepper pork was too much of the former and not enough of the latter, while the broccoli with the chicken was just blah. The rangoon he caught right after they emerged from the kitchen and so was able to appreciate their flavor of hot oil.  Five minutes later and they would have been grease-stained and inedible.

Rose had a bit of the fried rice, lo mein, General Tso's and sweet and sour chicken, and mushroom beef, all of which were just OK.

John tasted the sweet and sour chicken, among other things. The chicken was pleasantly crispy for a dish that can often be soggy. The salads and fruit selections, however, seemed thin. The fruit was the colorless canned variety, except for the dessert bananas, which sat so forlornly in their tray he didn't want to separate them from their friends.

The whole experience suddenly became much better when we got the check, which came in at a sweet $28 for four, including drinks. Especially since there's a further discount for kids, we could see where one could put up with a dingy dining room for that kind of value.  Indeed, it seems as if that's Jade Garden's whole raison de'cuisine.

Comments

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Jade Garden has really gone downhill in the last few years. When Laura and I lived off Fish Hatch, this was one of our favorites. I was there recently, and hardly recognized the place (so to speak).

hhhhhhhaaaaaaaaa

They've redone the dining room; it's a lot brighter than it used to be. Not that I'd go across town to eat there, but it's a block and a quarter away.

I've only been to Jade Garden once, but we order delivery all the time.

In my experience it's the best delivery Chinese in town. The food must be better timed than the buffet, and if you're looking for the less crabby flavor of a "Cream Cheese Puff" – the "Crab" Rangoon at Jade Garden is the best in town (IMHO).

The Jade Garden has remodeled and improved both the caliber of their buffet and ambiance. Their hot and sour soup is delicious and their salad bar is awesome.

holy crap...could you be any more critical?

Yes.

We eat here occasionally because it's cheap and quick, but every time we go, we ask ourselves why. The food is pretty blah. But who knows, it could be because it's been sitting on the buffet for too long. The interior looks pretty good now that they've remodeled, though.

Much of their food is just mediocre, but their chicken lo mien is very good. They have decent egg rolls, and it is hard to beat their egg drop soup when it is fresh.

You need to hit it when the food is fresh. I work nearby and go there about once a month, if only for the Hot and Sour soup, which may be the best in town. I try to get there around 11:30 for lunch. Most of their chicken dishs are pretty good. I also like the pork and green peppers and the Teriyaki Chicken skewers are usually pretty moist and tender compared to some other buffets arround town. Hard to beat the price.

Being one of the few people working on this last Friday of the year, I decided to treat myself for lunch with one of my favorite Chinese dishes, Empress Chicken. A quick Google search revealed only three or four restaurants in Madison which serve it, almost all take out places for the most part. As this dish features deep fried battered chicken in sauce, it suffers greatly from being stuffed in a container for any amount of time. The one sit-down restaurant I found it on the menu was Jade Garden. Now, I’ve been going there for years for the buffet as it’s close to my work, but never ordered off the menu. I decided to give it a try anyway and boy, was I glad I did.

The dish, which was large enough for two (I ate it all myself) came in at a more than reasonable $7.25. They served it with the lightly breaded crispy chicken piled on a plate with a few perfectly cooked vegetables. The flavorful sauce was served on the side, allowing the chicken to remain crispy throughout the meal, which didn’t take long despite its size. (Sorry mom, I never did get that “don’t wolf down your food” thing very well,) especially when it’s this good. It was almost surreal, sitting there eating this fine meal while all around me people were returning from the buffet line with their prizes, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it. I will also try ordering off the menu more often. It’s almost like finding a new restaurant.

Have a happy foodie new year everyone and may all your meals be fit for an empress.

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