Chic Jing is no place to go for Sunday dim sum, because they don’t really have any.
A group of us who frequent the chowhound.com on-line discussion group wanted to get together for an in-person feast. Dim sum seemed like a great idea for a Sunday afternoon. We initially thought we’d try King’s Land or Super Star, but there were going to be roughly a dozen of us, these places don’t take reservations and most of us hadn’t met yet. The idea of milling around trying to identify each other in a crowded restaurant in unpredictable winter weather made little sense. So we opted for Jing, a modern Chinese restaurant serving updated Chinese and pan-Asian cuisine in a sterile new shopping center in Greenwood Village.
First the good news: The food was very tasty and prettily presented. The restaurant decor is hip (black/white plus purple in the even hipper lounge). One of my companions likened it toa restaurant in a W Hotel. The waitress was knowledgeable about the food, and the service was attentive (maybe because hardly anyone else was there). Then the bad news: I called a month ago and was told that Jing does dim sum on weekends, offering quite a few dishes — eight or so is my recollection. In truth, there were just two traditional styles of dim sum dishes (dumplings and wontons), and even those are ordered a la carte from the kitchen rather than being offered from a cart (but then, a clanking cart and hawker waitress wouldn’t go with the high-style surroundings). The other bad news is the high prices when compared with traditional Chinese restaurants with less decor and more realistic atmosphere. Personally, I can do without hip, stylish, trendy, etc. and would rather have closer-to-authentic cuisine.
My feelings have a lot to do with my formative dim sum experiences in New York’s Chinatown, specifically at a now defunct 900-seat behemoth on East Broadway called the Silver Palace. The restaurant was subsequently embroiled in a scandal over labor-law violations and is a different place from the less well-regarded New Silver Palace on The Bowery, but none of that dims my fond memories of the original Silver Palace. Patrons were seated at huge round tables as they came in. If your party filled a whole table, great. If not, you were seated with strangers, which was also great. Chinese faces far outnumbered Caucasian ones, and I learned a lot about Chinese food and customs from my tablemates.
Carts wheeled through crowded aisles bore bamboo steamers, metal steamers, small round plates, small oval plates, small rimmed bowls and so on. When a cart rolled by, you’d point to something that looked good. The waitstaff spoke little English but knew what was over-the-top for most non-Chinese guests. When we once pointed to something that appeared intriguing, one waitress shook her head and said, “You no want. Duck feet.” She was right, but everything else was exciting, exotic and cheap. The empty dishes — each shape and size representing a different price — piled up, and when you were ready to pay, the server would count the different shapes and come up with your total. It really felt like China. Jing, by contrast, feels like Cherry Creek North.
As I wrote above, however, the food at Jing was tasty, despite my disappointment at not having a dim sum chow-down. Much of the meal was gringo-ized and yuppified, in keeping with the decor. The waitress said the dishes were served family-style so we could share, which must be a revelation of some sort in Denver’s shiny new southern ‘burbs. The tea came in a choice of yuppie flavors, served in a Western-style tea cup — and tea bags. Tea bags! Several dishes marked on the menu as spicy were detuned. Nothing we ate had a real kick, even when it was supposed to. Steamed broccoli flowerettes and bits of red or green bell pepper garnished several dishes, and a slice of tomato graced at least one.
I do want to thank Denveater for sharing these images, because we forgot our camera. Denveater isn’t just good with a camera but with words too, and that blog contains a great desciption of the decor and the ambiance.
Here’s what we ordered: Crispy Shanghai Duck Rolls were made of flavorful and moist pulled Peking duck in a truly crisp wrapper with hoisin-plum sauce (two rolls, $8.) A quartet of Dragon Dumplings (right) in a bamboo steamer were delicate Shanghai pork dumplings with sweet ginger-soy vinaigrette (four dumplings, $8). Even though the portion was modest, it was the most Chinese-looking dish of them all served as it would be at a dim sum restaurant.
The Cool Lettuce Wraps consisted of four leaves of butter lettuce and a small bowl with a tasty mix of minced chicken, finely chopped pine nuts and finely chopped shiitake mushrooms ($9). My husband also ordered a bowl of Wild Mushroom Sweet and Sour soup ($3), his favorite even without the wild mushrooms, that he said was very good.
Because it is close to Chinese New Year, a Chinese-American in our group reminded us that we
had to have whole fish for good luck. We ordered two. Both were sea bass, served headless in deference to gringo sensibilities and very small for $30 each. The crispy fish with sweet and sour sauce (right) was surprisingly rubbery and not all that crisp. The flesh of steamed fish with ginger-soy sauce and scallions had a nice flaky texture and a pleasant, slightly nutty taste. We were told that we also had to have noodles, another New Year’s tradition. The Chicken Lo Mein ($12) was delicious and included al dente green beans and substantial chunks of tender chicken.
The Peppercorn Tenderloin ($25) comprised a very modest portion of tender, large-cubed beef that had been stir-fried medium-rare and was served with onion and red bell pepper slivers. Ma’s Po Tofu ($13) was a tower of eight brick-shaped pieces of firm tofu encircled by steamed vegetables and topped with a shiny red, sweetish sauce that claimed to be Sichuan but wasn’t. We had a bowl of white rice and a bowl of brown rice. I didn’t look at the bill, so I don’t know whether they came with the meal or were extra.
The manager apologized for the dim sum misunderstanding and listened to our comments that $30 was a high price for such small fish, so she sent out one of each of three tasty desserts: a Strawberry-Banana Spring Roll with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce, a Poached Asian Pear with a ginger crust and plum wine reduction, and Green Tea Fried Ice Cream. There were no fortune cookies.
Jing’s menu offers Soups and Greens ($3-$13), Small Plates ($5-$14), Charlie’s Favorites ($14-$32), Classic Chinese ($13-$18), Sides ($6-$9) and Grains and Noodles ($12-$15). Wines are available by the glass ($7-$15) or by the bottle from the regular menu ($26-$395, the latter for Louis Roederer Crystal Brut). The desserts are recited. Since the hostess provided them as an apology, I have no idea how much they cost.
Jing Restaurant is in a spanking new shopping center called the Village Shops in the Landmark. 5370 Greenwood Village Boulevard, Greenwood Village; 303-779-6888.