Review: Jade Garden Chinese in Helena, Montana
“The Jade Garden offers contemporary Chinese cuisine in a relaxed, elegant, family oriented atmosphere. Year after year we strive to innovate and create original recipes beyond traditional offerings,” so says their website. I’m not going to agree with all of that, but I will say that Jade Garden caught me off guard a bit by actually serving some tasty, fairly authentic dishes. I was especially impressed that they had a whole Peking Duck on their menu, and would have ordered it (oh how I love Peking Duck), but it requires 24 hours advanced notice to order. Sad day. But let’s review the dishes I did get to experience.
Jade Garden Helena Garlic Riblets Appetizer
I love Chinese-style pork riblets/spareribs. They’re just so tasty, so salty, so delicious, and so fun to eat off the bone. So I was excited to see these on Jade Garden’s menu. Of course I ordered them, despite the rest of my group’s objections. They showed up, and looked perfect sitting on a bed of chopped iceberg lettuce. I grabbed the biggest one with my chopsticks and anxiously took a bite. Good, not great.
The riblets were savory without being overly salty (but salt was definitely there!), but missed all the flavor combinations of garlic and lemon the menu described. There was garlic, yes, plenty of garlic, but no lemon anywhere to be found. Oh wait, I found it on the plate in the form of a lemon wedge. So I guess when the menu says, “sauteed in garlic and lemon,” they really mean, “we’ll cook the hell out of your riblets in loads of garlic and give you a lemon wedge on the side should you want to add lemon yourself after the fact.” Once I squeezed the lemon on them, they were much better. Still not supurb, but adequate.
Jade Garden Helena Orange Delight Beef
“Lightly breaded pieces of meat (chicken or beef) fried until crispy and sauteed with a spicy orange sauce.” Sounded good. Picture looked good. Ordered we did. The light breading was not seasoned and was a bit greasy. The beef was very moist and tender. The sauce was good, but it really didn’t have much orange flavor.
I really don’t understand why American Chinese restaurants don’t load up their orange dishes with tons of orange. Aren’t they abundantly available and fairly inexpensive throughout the entire nation? Wouldn’t it be pretty simple for a restaurant to dehydrate their own orange peels and use all the juice of the oranges in great abundance? I really don’t think it would be that much effort and would make an OK dish absolutely fantastic. Whatever.
Jade Garden’s Orange Beef is savory, slightly sweet, not very spicy, and is much better than most other American Chinese joints. Expect to enjoy it. Just don’t expect to be blown away.
Jade Garden Helena Honey Chicken Entree
Crap. Greasy, completely bland and dry chicken. Very sweet, but no flavor. The honey sauce tasted more like corn syrup than honey. I ate two pieces and left the rest for the bus boy. Don’t waste your time or money on this dish. Next!
Jade Garden Helena Has a Winning Dish: Thai Curry Noodles
This dish is absolutely terrific! A sweet and spicy Thai curry coconut sauce poured all over Lo Mein noodles with perfectly cooked (meaning soft but still crunchy) snow peas and broccoli, along with carrots, baby corn, and mushrooms. We ordered the shrimp version, which was just fantastic. The shrimp were lightly dusted in corn starch and then sauteed in the wok. They were perfectly seasoned and very delicious. An exceptional choice with the sweet coconut milk curry. Thai curry with Lo Mein. Freaking genius. Going to make this myself at home.
Concluding Opinion of Jade Garden Chinese in Helena, Montana
Decent dining experience with some shining jewels on their menu (like Thai Curry Noodles and Peking Duck). Jade Garden is better than any Chinese restaurant I’ve found in Idaho, but still has far to go to achieve authentic Chinese food perfection. You’re on the right track though Jade. Keep improving your dishes and I may just fall in love with you.
The Bald Gourmet’s world travels and cooking knowledge allow him to rate Asian dining experiences as authentic or not.
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