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En Guard Manger: Midnight in The Jade Garden of Good and Evil

Posted by Caitlin / August 6, 2011

jade orlong.jpgHere is a food criticism series like no other: searching for strange, hilarious and sometimes frightening food around Montreal and, more importantly, searching for the reasons why we love it so. Forget every trendy and creative eatery you know and take the plunge, dive into the underworld of this grand city's food industry. We're looking past the food here and might dabble in existentialism in attempting to assign words to the altering experience of eating good-bad food.

Going to The Jade Garden is really not primarily about the food. It's a lot more about the fact that it feels like you're walking into a different dimension the second you set foot into the red-and-gold-carpeted buffet. Firstly, the only right time to go is for the $8.95 all-you-can-eat Chinese food lunch buffet. Now I use the term Chinese food very loosely here, as you can go around the world in one sitting. Only here have I seen the combination of sushi and an attempt at spaghetti on the same plate. It's truly the land of possibility.20110805-sushi.jpg

Above all, it needs to be understood how fascinated you will be by simply being in The Jade Garden. If you sit and look around, it feels like you are sitting right in the eye of the storm, as those around you devour mountains of food, mostly in silence. It should also be noted that many people go to this place alone and seem to be consuming the mounds of mystery delicacies with a certain degree of shame.
There was a moment during my first visit there in years when I suddenly felt like time might have shifted and I had somehow ended up in a scene from a David Lynch film.
My two main pieces of advice when going to The Jade Garden are:
1. Don't go alone.
2. Be a vegetarian for a day.

Like with good writing, it is almost more important to think about what not to include rather than what you do at The Jade Garden. Steer clear of the General Tao. Just don't do it. It will disappoint you and might actually be the shove you need to push you into permanent vegetarianism. All fried noodle type dishes are tasty and generally a good bet. The changing selection of stir-fried vegetables is also a safe direction to choose. Then you can always top it all off with a few ole reliable onion rings and all will be right in the world.20110806-buffet.jpg

My personal favourite part of this place is the dessert counter always full of surprises and alternating ice cream flavours. This time around, I went for mint-chocolate chip (the brightest green thing since the Hulk's original temper tantrum) and then a scoop of guess-what-the-hell-flavour-this-is. It was most likely the left overs from other bins, but I'd never seen pink, beige and purple ice cream mixed with bits of chocolate, thrown in for good measure.20110806-dessert.jpg

There are also a few Jade Garden traditions that a wise individual passed on to me, the most important of which being to have one cup of black coffee and one cup of red Cool-Aid throughout the whole meal. The combination of caffeine, sugar and probably MSG will have you revert to a child-like state of wonder and amusement. Chances are, before you realize it you'll be playing with your food and alienating the strangest gathering of people I've seen in a long time.

The Jade Garden
57 Rue La Gauchetière Ouest, Montreal, Quebec



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