While the opening of a branch of the Crystal Jade chain obviously won’t draw as much fanfare as many of China World Mall’s other restaurants, it’ll nevertheless rank as one of the complex’s best options when it’s all said and done.
Having been founded in Singapore, with only a couple of other locations in Beijing, Crystal Jade aims to transport your taste buds to Shanghai, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang, where the xiaolongbao soup dumplings (RMB 42 for four), soup with bamboo shoots shell and tofu (RMB 56), and qingdun shizitou stewed meatballs (RMB 42) are prepared to delicate perfection. That already established track record, along with the fancier digs at its new China World location (minimalist white walls, faux cherry blossom trees, light fixtures that look like upside-down umbrellas) had our stomachs rumbling and feet flying to the recently opened branch in no time.
Though nothing at Crystal Jade may satiate the cravings for a Jiangsu resident’s favorite greasy spoon, the kitchen still takes great pains and often comes close to that southern region’s authenticity. Take the tofu soup, which is boiled for hours with pork ribs, gives its firm bean curd chunks a soothing juiciness. Bits of very fatty pork from that preparation are astoundingly sweet and boast a firm bounce that rivals the tofu, though we'd argue it could certainly do with more of it. The salty and savory broth, meanwhile, will warm and soothe you right down to your toes.
The braised meatball stew was an equally comforting soupy option that thankfully one-upped the tofu dish in the meat department, it’s bulky, cushy pork mound luring our spoons back again and again.
We also enjoyed Crystal Jade’s xiaolongbao thanks in part to creative options like cheese-stuffed varieties (which have a “just right” quality thanks to the bits of stringy cheese that thankfully never overpower) and bitter black sesame dumplings (see the image at top). The classic pork soup option is of course the time-honored favorite of the bunch, its mottled, hot, flavorful inner broth, doughy skin, and cushy pork innards all amounting to a mouthwatering combination. Din Tai Feng’s option (a few floors up) may be better in terms of intricate textures and lip-smacking flavors but Crystal Jade’s renditions are resolutely satisfying in their own regard, and definitely set the restaurant apart from blander mall restaurant chains.
Crystal Jade (China World Mall)
Daily, 11am-9.30pm. 4/F, North Zone, China World Mall, 1 Jianguomenwai Dajie, Chaoyang District
Photos courtesy of Crystal Jade
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