Choices, choices! The familiar comfort of classic Chinese entrées or the fresh sensations of fusion cuisine? The reassuring simplicity of sushi or the adventurous appeal of appetizers found nowhere else? You can have it both ways at Jade, one of the North Shore’s newest restaurants. Located in the stylish North Andover multi-use development at West Mill on High Street, Jade brings a genuinely original dining experience to the area.
On entering, you are welcomed by a venerable multi-hued jade sculpture, but subtle cues signal that this is no generic rehash of a Chinese restaurant. The décor artfully blends Chinese iconography and Japanese understatement with the West Mill aesthetic of exposed brick and massive wooden beams. Generous glass up front, high ceilings, and clerestory windows give the 198-seat restaurant and bar an airy, open feel, with acoustics that support a pleasantly active buzz but still permit easy conversation.
If you prefer to stay on the beaten path with old standbys like spring rolls or hot and sour soup, moo shu pork or orange-flavored chicken, they are here, prepared to perfection by head chef Jin Chao Li. But for those in search of more exotic fare, restaurateur Kenny Foo is ready to lead the way.
Within a food landscape where Chinese restaurants sometimes seem like clones with menus cranked out by a photocopier, Jade is a refreshing change. At Jade you’ll discover intricate dishes whose complexity delightfully contrasts the restaurant’s monosyllabic moniker. The menu is extensive without becoming overwhelming, and uniquely crafted after extensive testing and tweaking by the chefs and owners. It echoes the multicultural world of Kuala Lumpur, where Kenny Foo grew up, a crossroads where cuisines collide and mingle.
If your inclination is to stray off the beaten path, you could start by flipping the Chinese menu over to the Japanese side. There, a solid assortment of sushi and sashimi is headlined by inventive creations by sushi chef Young Wu You. You might begin your adventure with the pepper tuna and complement it with sips of warm sake. Despite its unassuming name, this is edible artwork—deep plum-red tuna is rolled in cracked pepper, seared just enough to enhance the flavor and barely warm the interior, sliced thin, and arrayed on a bamboo leaf canted against a cocktail glass of ponzu sauce. The soy, citrus, seaweed, and rice wine in the sauce are the pitch-perfect accompaniment to the buttery, peppery tuna. A nest of glassy rice noodles lit from below by a tiny LED bulb adds a lighthearted visual touch to the whole yummy affair.
The maguro awase is another excellent starting point. This beautifully plated salad combines sushi-grade tuna with ripe avocado and seaweed, accented by tempura flakes for a touch of crunch and topped with a sprinkling of flying fish roe. Subtly spicy, this starter is as delicious as it is lovely to look at.
Back on the Chinese face of the menu, you might go with a house specialty such as the Jade’s style shrimp, giant butterflied shrimp stylishly posed on a bed of baby bok choy and finished with a light and garlicky sauce. Feeling more adventurous? The Mala spicy pot is a rich and satisfying Sichuan-style mélange; the combination variant incorporates meats, seafood, exotic mushrooms, cauliflower, and even potatoes. The spectrum of flavors—spicy, smoky, flowery, sweet, peppery—has been tempered and tuned by the chef for serious heat without offense.
Even that staple of modern-day speedy lunches, ramen noodles, is given an unexpected twist. Jade offers it Hong Kong style, not as a soup but as a savory mound of al dente noodles, meat, and vegetables almost reminiscent of pad Thai.
Saving some of the best for last, you could finish with the green tea tiramisu, an exotic slice of heaven accented with chocolate striping and dollops of whipped cream. The guava mango flute is a lighter but equally delicious way to finish a food adventure.
For drinks, you have your pick from pages of Asian-style cocktails and exotic concoctions by partner and mixologist Jackie Zhang, as well as an array of beers, including nine on draft, and a modest wine list. Or you can savor an assortment of teas, including jasmine, rose, and chrysanthemum.
For a culinary excursion into the best of both worlds—modern and traditional, Chinese and Japanese —Jade restaurant in North Andover is highly recommended.
THE MENUAppetizers: Pepper Tuna with Ponzu Sauce, Maguro Awase Salad
Entrees: Jade’s Style Shrimp, Mala Spicy Pot Combination, Ramen Hong Kong Style
Desserts: Green Tea Tiramisu
24 High St., North Andover