A Corner of China On Central Avenue
The best shark-fin dumplings and chicken feet you may ever taste
Chinese restaurants have become as much a part of our culinary landscape as pizza, fried chicken and hamburgers. Unfortunately, most offer an Americanized version of one of the world’s great cooking traditions, a far cry from the authentic cuisine, such as the exquisitely simple Cantonese, emphasizing fresh ingredients with sauces that punctuate rather than overwhelm.
In Westchester, you can find good Cantonese food, but you have to go to one of the county’s most commercial roads, Central Avenue, to do so. Here, David’s Jade Palace restaurant occupies a large airy building just south of Four Corners. The interior is quietly furnished, pleasant with a few touches of Chinese art, but what draws your eyes when you first walk in are a series of fish tanks along the back wall that contain some of the county’s best seafood: lobster, several varieties of crab—including the large sweet Dungeness—sea bass and shrimp.
Although around a tenth of the menu is devoted to non-Cantonese food, mostly Szechwan and Hunan dishes like Sesame Chicken or Kung Pao Chicken, stick to the serious Cantonese dishes for which David’s Jade is known. At lunch, you can order dishes from the menu, but it is more fun to enjoy dim sum, which is offered between 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. For those who come hungry, it is a glorious way to eat. As soon as you sit down, a waiter threads one of the small carts of delectable steaming small dishes to your table. Each dish contains two to four pieces, and you are charged by the plate (between $3 and $5 each).
The best dish is shark-fin dumplings, little pockets of shredded shark fin, pork, parsley and shrimp, so tasty that my eight-year-old son can polish off three portions at a sitting. And anything with shrimp is likely to be excellent: shrimp spring rolls, shrimp dumplings, eggplant with shrimp and the greasy but delicious taro-coated shrimp fritters. Another favorite is tiny, bony fat pieces of spare ribs in a black-bean sauce. And, although it took some time to build up the courage to try them, the chicken feet proved equally good, much better than the rather flavorless pork dumplings (Siu Mai) and the doughy pork buns. And if that is not enough variety, every so often a waiter will appear with plates of specials, like salt-and-pepper shrimp and clams with black-bean sauce, which are best when they have just come from the kitchen piping hot.
Specials of the day are handwritten on white boards. As one would expect, the seafood stole the show. The Dungeness crab is superb, served with ginger and scallion—the sweetness of the crab is highlighted by tiny shards of ginger.‑A mixed seafood dish with vegetables contains large pieces of lobster, shrimp and scallops, served with bok choy. Again the sauce is delicate, and the unadorned flavors of the seafood come through beautifully.
Perhaps the best thing about David’s Jade Palace is the pricing, with most entrÃ©es costing between $10 and $20. A meal for four adults and two children cost us a little over $100, probably half of what it would have cost at a comparable French restaurant. This is fine dining at a sensible price.
DAVID’S JADE PALACE
156 South Central Avenue
Sun. to Thurs. 11:30 am-10 pm
Fri. and Sat. 11:30 am-11 pm
Appetizers (dim sum): $2.95-$4.75