Quality Chinese restaurants in the capital are a rarity. Could JW Marriott’s offering fill a gap? Our anonymous food reviewer finds out. Photos by Julie Vola

 

Stationed in the outlying district of My Dinh, Crystal Jade Palace isn’t exactly the easiest restaurant to get to. But pulling up to the imposing façade of the JW Marriott, you instantly realise this is not your ordinary dim sum joint.

 

The new Hanoi branch is barely 12 months old and joins a renowned global empire of more than 120 Crystal Jade Palaces, dishing up Cantonese and Teochew cuisine. Although the menu has widened in recent years to include authentic Korean, the chain is famous for its awe-inspiring spread of both traditional and contemporary Chinese fare.

 

Dim Sum and Duck

 

Having arrived at lunchtime, the polished wooden tables were already buzzing with business clientele eager to make the most of the hotel’s reasonably priced (and lunchtime-only) dim sum menu. Enticed by the intoxicating aroma of fresh dumplings, we opted for batches of steamed minced pork and radish dumplings (VND48,000), steamed minced pork with mushroom dumplings (VND82,000), and deep-fried radish pastry (VND55,000).

 

This proved to be a good move, as within minutes we were presented with three piping hot bamboo steamers. Dipped in the accompanying sweet bean sauce, each dumpling delivered a tasty mouthful of rich, textured flavours, while the sweetness of the barbecued pork lingered pleasantly on our palettes.

 

Returning to the glossy menus, we marvelled at the illustrations before quickly feeling overwhelmed by a veritable encyclopedia of choices, ranging from the more benign barbecued meats to a long list of Chinese delicacies.

 

The main event, however, was half of an exquisite looking, blood-red Peking duck (VND400,000) that was wheeled over to our table. Parking the cart in clear view so we could watch, our server ceremoniously carved off generous chunks of perfectly cooked duck breast, crispy skin still intact, and folded them into pancakes ladled with hoisin sauce.

 

Minutes later, we dove into our plate of succulent, crispy, Peking duck rolls as our waitress whisked away the carcass so it could be turned into a delicious fried rice.

 

The deep-fried soft shell crab with pepper and salt (VND160,000) also impressed, with a generous sprinkling of fried garlic adding a pleasant crunch to the dish. Our accompanying side dish of stir-fried vegetables (VND190,000), doused in a generous helping of X.O. sauce, also gave us a satisfying kick.

 

Rounding out the main course, we also opted for the soup of the day — a very authentic chicken and corn soup (VND110,000). So authentic in fact, that upon raising my spoon for the second time, a pink, scaly, tendon-wielding foot came with it. Foot aside, the depth of the broth’s flavour was hard to beat.

 

The Finale

 

The desserts are listed on a separate menu but don’t offer much in the way of heavy continental pastries. However, with each spoonful of our refreshing mango cream served with grass jelly and pomelo (VND75,000), I became convinced that eating cake after five courses of Chinese food would have been a bad idea.

 

Taking our final sips of jasmine tea, we savoured the views of the Hanoi Convention Centre from our corner of Crystal Jade’s elegantly proportioned dining room. Just like the food, the destination had been an experience in itself.

 

Crystal Jade Palace presents a compelling choice for those who like their Chinese food authentic and their service with a flourish.

 

Crystal Jade Palace is in the JW Marriott, 8, Do Duc Duc, Me Tri, Tu Liem, Tel: (04) 3833 5588

 


 

 

The Verdict

 

Food: 13

Service: 12

Décor: 11

 

Food, Decor and Service are each rated on a scale of 0 to 15.

 

13 — 15 extraordinary to perfection

10 — 12.5 very good to excellent

8 — 9.5 good to very good

5 — 7.5 fair to good

0 — 4.5 poor to fair

 

The Word reviews anonymously and pays for all meals

 

Mystery Diner

The Mystery Diner is a person hailing from a country that may or may not be Vietnam. S/he can be seen frequently in the restaurants and cafes of Hanoi and HCMC, searching for the most delicious meals each city has to offer. Look for the masked figure in a cape, lurking in the darkest corners of your neighbourhood com tam or pho joint.

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