A sparkly snow was blanketing the Sunday evening as neighbor Robert and I slid across the Western Gateway Bridge linking the Stockade with Scotia.
Destination: the former Dragon Garden Chinese Buffet on Mohawk Avenue, which had recently morphed into the Jade Bistro. Our original plan was to take advantage of the last night of Restaurant Week.
The transition of both space and menu were breathtaking. An architect, Robert immediately noted the lighting and shoji screens. The lighting was subdued, he said, ranging from direct (small red and white pendant lights) to indirect (the translucent bar top and red shoji screen sides, and changing colors between the booths).
The interior was designed by a California architect and features Japanese, Chinese, and contemporary screens, which give an intimacy to the otherwise open space. The U-shaped sushi/beverage bar further divided the seating: bar stools, booths, banquettes and tables for four.
WHERE: 120 Mohawk Ave., Scotia, 377-6637, jadebistroscotia.com
WHEN: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, After Hours Lounge: 10 p.m.-1 a.m.
HOW MUCH: $80.32 with tax and tip, not including alcohol
MORE INFO: Parking lot. All major credit cards accepted. Noise level and music: permits conversation. Accessible.
We were greeted at the hostess desk just inside the front door by Xiau Wu, niece of owner Joseph Chow, who ran the former Dragon Garden on the site for 37 years. Along with cousin Billy Chow (who opened Zen in downtown Schenectady), she operates the establishment.
We were seated immediately, and were soon sipping tiny cups of hot saki to melt the winter as we marveled over the 200+ items listed (and pictured) on the menu.
Abandoning the special Restaurant Week menu, we decided to order a dish from each of the three different cuisines, Japanese, Thai and Chinese. We were hungry and ordered appetizers: the Crunchy Jalapeno Roll ($14) for me and two a la carte varieties of sushi — tuna and eel (each $5) — for Robert.
Both appetizers arrived on a single large rectangular platter, arranged like an abstract three-dimensional painting. The jalapeño roll was punctuated with two crispy shrimp, each nestled, tails up, in threads of carrot lining square shot glasses. Slender dark green leaves and a solitary purple phalaenopsis orchid completed the composition.
Too pretty to eat? No, but we took our time, deconstructing the appetizers as carefully as the sushi chef had designed them. They were as delicious as they looked.
It was close to a half hour before our entrees arrived. Fortunately, warm saki softens the edges of impatience.
We succeeded in choosing vastly different dishes. Mine was Thai Basil Fried Rice ($16) with slivers of chicken, bits of scrambled egg, medium shrimp, and basil chiffonade, seasoned with Thai spices.
It was a nearly plate-sized mound of molded fried rice, ingredients including peas and corn kernels buried within. Eating it was akin to an archeological dig, one delectable morsel at a time.
Robert’s Blackened Cajun Teriyaki Sirloin ($23) was a knockout — almost literally. The first bite of his perfectly cooked medium rare steak caused first a gasp and then a smile.
Forewarned, I cut a small piece from one of the strips of meat. Fiery, yes, but straight from heaven. The steak was accompanied by an artistic arrangement of crisp-tender broccoli florets, stalks of asparagus, carrots and snow pea pods, as well as a substantial scoop of fried rice.
According to the chef, the glaze on the sirloin was made in part from teriyaki sauce, butter and Cajun spices. The epitome of fusion!
Neither of us could think about dessert. But I noticed the dessert offered for Restaurant Week was Fried Banana with vanilla, green tea, red bean or chocolate ice cream. Next time.
Although we originally came for the special Restaurant Week offerings, Robert and I were seduced by Jade Bistro’s complete menu.
Their website proclaims “Jade Bistro is the new standard by which all Asian restaurants will be measured.” After being open for only a few months, Jade might be well on the way to accomplishing its goal.