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Vance Gilbert

Jade Garden

Jade Garden
It’s no secret. Anyone that knows me knows my love of Chinese food. And wings. So Chinese wings are The Second Coming, of course. Sorry, God, but I believe you’d understand if you were here...Alas, they are not the greatest for my gout. So let’s go as far as how much I love Chinese food for the sake of what I’m writing here, wings notwithstanding, tofu begrudgingly supplanted.
So, I’ve lost about 18 pounds this last 2 months, and while I’m terrifically proud of that, it was the result of a greater change in my life. See, I love this local Chinese Buffett named Jade Garden. Portions large. Lunch inexpensive. It’s the place me and my neighbor and his kids and wife would all default on weekend evenings. It’s the place where an odd, socially awkward hobby friend of mine would frequent when one of us was a bachelor that evening, or just in need of lunch company. It’s also the date place of note for me and my niece - me being the prominent adult male in her life - as I began bringing her there about the time she had just finished using a car seat. She’s at Brown University now. In fact, we would remark and rename Jade Garden “The House Of Brown Food”, as they seemed to never, ever have a sauce on a dish that wasn’t, well, brown. Note that we usually joked and said this with full bellies and fresh fortunes.
The wait staff there was lovely to me, always, over the 12 years I went there. I learned the basic “hello” and “goodbye”, “thank you”, “you’re welcome,” and I can even manage “This chicken is good!” in Mandarin. Boy, how to impress your friends and look pretty racist at the same time! Oh well. They took my language mangling as all good fun as the staff would slowly pronounce something and I’d furiously jot it down on a napkin of into my iPhone, being as phonetically true to the sounds as I could.
Poor Stupid American Romanized Language Shithead! Now I know why Beijing became “Peking” to our ears…
The decor never, ever changed. The carpet was once a deep gingham green, but the trail around the hot table was black-grey. The best hot and sour of anywhere I’ve eaten, anywhere - New York, San Francisco, and Chicago included.
One rainy, slow for them evening about 2 months back my awkward pal and I went for buffet, and it was down. “Mama” came out a bit chagrined as we decided to just stay and order off of the menu. What came out food-wise was insane. Our main dishes, which neither of us could finish - a first for me, and our single order of wings.
There were 12 wings on that plate. Twelve. 12. += (that’s the closest I can get to 12 in Chinese). I had wings for 3 days after he and I split our portions and headed home.
About a week later I was headed there after the Post Office and they were closed. Gone.

Yeah, I was heartbroken. But I took stock of the renovation sign, and even with that, I knew those folks would never be back.
The new place, Sczehuan’s Dumpling, is phenomenal. No buffet, menu in English and Chinese, huge Chinese clientele, far-ranging menu, light brothy soups, garlic basil sauce that actually smells like both fresh, well, yeah they’ve been open 5 days and I’ve been there 3 times. I took the chance and told the kind, solicitous staff that I was a frequenter of the previous place, yet I wished the new place well and that I was happy they were there. “Peter”, the manager Saturday night, took some time with me and told me. “Oh yes, they made plans to sell 6 months ago. Finally did. Now they retired. They move back to Taiwan...”
I’ll miss Jade Garden. I’ll miss greeting “her” with ‘Ni hao, Mamma!!” I’ll miss watching their granddaughter grow from a bulge of the belly of one of the wait staff to an infant to a blur running beneath the tables, then I’ll miss seeing her mother grow round again with another child, then the boy running beneath the tables, the grade school granddaughter corralling him. I’ll miss the thin gray haired head chef, the ever in motion husband who I call under my own breath so that I can‘t even hear it “Mr. Brown Food”. I’ll feel a little lost knowing that they won’t be there, yes, 364 days out of the year (they took Thanksgiving off). I’ll miss the two sons, one of whom was the evening manager, the other who is a local policeman, stopping by for a minute, maybe taking an order over the phone.
Both places make the world stop for the staff to eat communally, all at once. There’s something to learn there..This place is also tolerant of my near pidgin Chinese. “Shay-shay” I recite after receiving a dish. “Oh, very good” says my server. “But I speak Mandarin”. So it won’t be the last time that the iPhone will come out for more words in another language, Stupid American Shithead.
I just texted my niece telling her about this blog-to-be. It was an important place for us, Jade Garden was, and I’d like to think that this was somewhere this child frequented with this trusted adult and that it meant something to her life. Did I say she was at Brown? It looks like she may declare Chinese Language and Culture as her major.
And although I usually use it as the litmus test as to whether I am going to like a Chinese restaurant or not, I’m not crazy about Sczehuan’s Dumpling’s hot and sour soup, but I still like what they do. I’m changing too.
Downton Abbey - There They Were!!
There they were! Last episode of the season!! The only ones in 2 seasons. The wayward cousin of some relative ends up at a dance hall somewhere, and there they were, on the bandstand - granted - but present. Black People!! Like 4 of them!!

Somebody pass me the Chinese menu...I’m ordering me some damn wings!!
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updated: 4 years ago