Atmosphere: Plain and friendly.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Monday through Friday; 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. Saturday; noon to 4 a.m. Sunday.
Price range: from $3.85 for beef fried rice to $19.95 for Peking duck; most dishes in the $5 to $7 range.
Reservations: Not necessary.
Credit cards: All major credit cards.
Special facilities: Street parking only; three steps make it inaccessible to wheelchairs; boosters and high chairs available; carryout menu.
Jade Palace seems an incongruous name for a small, plain Chinese restaurant three steps down from the street in Chinatown. Palatial it isn't. With its plastic tabletops and old wallpaper and carpet, it lacks the usual splashes of red lacquer and hanging lanterns seen even in modest Chinese restaurants.
But the enthusiasm of the laughing golden Buddha just inside the front door is not misplaced. Jade Palace turns out good food with friendly service and you likely will feel as well-fed as the round-tummied Buddha when you leave.
Should you find yourselves feeling both hungry and informal on a slow summer Sunday, try Jade Palace.
The menu comes in two forms: the usual, elaborate kinds of seafood, poultry and fried rice, and a smaller, more interesting mimeographed list of house specialties. The specialties are slightly more expensive than the regular menu, but these are the dishes to try.
Notable among them are Jade Palace's hot pots -- rustic, filling soups and stews cooked slowly in clay pots. Using slow heat and retaining natural juices, clay pots produce flavorful, hearty fare and these Chinese versions are no exception.
We ordered Jade Palace Supreme Hot Post, $6.95, as an appetizer. The pot of soup was crammed with a melange of chicken, pork and seafood, bean curd, Chinese cabbage and cellophane noodles, and was much more or an appetizer than we expected. The children were not too thrilled with its pieces of squid, in spite of a beautiful diamond pattern cut into them, nor did they like the bland chunks of bean curd, but the adults were glad we tried it.
Our daughters were pacified when the egg rolls arrived. These special Mandarin rolls, stuffed with pork and shrimp without the usual heavy dose of vegetable filler, were wonderfully good. The filling was rolled into cigar-length cylinders of thin crepe wrappers and deepfried to crispness. Delicious.
And so were the remaining dishes we sampled: crystal, shrimp, $7.50, mu-shu pork, $5.50, and salt roast Chinese chicken, $7.25 -- a traditional dish cooked "native style," according to the menu.
The crystal shrimp were medium-sized, tenderly cooked shrimp without shells, glazed with a delicately flavored egg white sauce. They disappeared in one pass around the table.
Mu-shu pork, although a common dish, is listed as one of Jade Palace's specials, which means the restaurant should do it well. It does, with one exception. The pork and vegetable filling itself was delicious and the plum sauce properly tart. Only the crepes it must all be wrapped in were disappointing. They were heavy and dry, too inflexible to roll easily.
The salt roast chicken was half a bird, but so meaty it was more of a serving than we could finish. It was served cut in pieces in its own juices on a prettily garnished platter. The meat was especially moist and flavorful, although unlike most roast chicken, the skin was not crisp. We like it very much, although our daughters are not wild about any chicken they can't pick up and eat with their fingers.
Our friendly and efficient waitress brought us fortune cookies with our check, saying that was the only dessert available.Our bill, tax and tip included, for a better-than-average Chinese dinner, was $43.43. When you leave, rubbing the Buddha's tummy for luck is free.