“Fast ... Fresh ... Good for You. These are the things we strive for at Jade’s Market ... to deliver pure, simple food from our family’s prized recipes without any added MSG or preservatives.”
A laudable sentiment, especially when published on Facebook for the world to see. Given the restaurant-rich environment of Johnson City, it could be taken as a boast. When made by the likes of Tara and Hunter Morrow, however, it is a statement of fact.
The Morrows are well known for their other venue, the remarkable Cafe Lola. Jade’s Market is fast becoming just as well known, both for the food they serve and for the excellent Asian grocery sharing their North State of Franklin address.
Though compact, the grocery store has all the items you’d need including a favorite of mine, green tea ice cream. With this added convenience, dining patrons can not only enjoy some of the best Thai-Asian cuisine in the area, they can also take home the ingredients and try their hand at Asian home cooking.
Back in the restaurant, Tara and her team have created some of the tastiest dishes around, and aren’t stingy about letting both curious vegetarians or newminted epicures have a spoon’s worth of an entrée for approval. This practice is available for wandering browsers, as the dinearound bunch found out on a recent foray. We’d arrived for a later-than-normal supper and were made as welcome by Jade Market’s Maria as if we’d called ahead. Though reduced in available quantity, the cafeteria-style entrees on offer were still appetizing and more than enough to fill us up.
A single entree platter from the cafeteria line is $6.99, while a two-entrée platter is $8.99. Maria was especially proud of the evening’s Penang Pork with Yellow Curry, and let me have a taste of it and also the Asian Vegetables with Red Curry. I chose the Penang Pork platter ($6.99) and the Summer Shrimp Roll appetizer ($4.99).
My dining partner and the Carnivore both ordered the Shrimp Pad Thai ($7.59) from the menu, while the Dieter chose the Pineapple Fried Rice with Chicken ($7.59).
With our entrees came tofu and a bowl of soup, the latter choices being either vegetable or the delectable Tom Ka for a dollar more. I chose the latter, and was not disappointed. A delicate blending of coconut milk, infused lemon grass and lime leaf stocked with field mushrooms and chicken made Tom Ka a soup to sip, not gulp.
The Summer Shrimp Rolls were a tasty mixture of lettuce, lemon grass shrimp and carrot enfolded by a flat cellophane noodle wrapper, the sweet chili sauce being almost an afterthought. My dining partner’s not big on tofu, cooked or otherwise, so the Carnivore and I ate most of her side order, and it was quite good. On to the entrees, with the Dieter’s Pineapple Fried Rice with Chicken arriving first.
If there were a contest for best fried rice of the Tri-Cities, Jade’s Market would be the undisputed champ with this dish. The rice mixture used is steamed properly to start with. In the hands of the chefs it becomes a savory masterpiece, the pineapple blending an extra zing into the dish’s other ingredients. The chicken is added near the end of the cooking process, making it very moist and tender. The spices and sauces are used sparingly and do not overwhelm the dish.
I faced my Penang Pork with some trepidation. As a callow youth, I’d had a bad run-in with a dish heavily laced with yellow curry and spent a miserable night as a result. Not this time, however. The pork was lean, bitesized and mixed with some Asian green beans so crunchy-crisp I almost ordered seconds. Here, the yellow curry provided the correct background of flavors and just the right amount of curry heat to hold your attention on each bite.
While this was going on, my dining partner and the Carnivore were enjoying their Shrimp Pad Thai. The Udon noodles’ texture made it more “al dente” and substantial than regular pasta noodles. Tossed with the rest of the veggies and the good-sized shrimp, it made for a flavorful and substantial dish.
Jade’s Market also does some excellent salads, my favorite being the Seared Ahi Tuna with sesame-soy vinaigrette ($7.49), just the thing for a light lunch. They also have an Asian Chicken Salad with a sweet chili vinaigrette ($6.49) or some delectable fried shrimp shumai dumplings, five for just $3. If you need a sweet finisher for your meal, there is Lime Leaf Crème Brulee ($4.49) or try to finish their double-sized chocolate walnut brownie ($2.49). As you leave, don’t forget to pick up a can of wasabi peas in the grocery.
Jade’s Market Asian Eatery & Grocery
600 N. State of Franklin Road 929-1001 Mon-Sat 11 a.m – 8 p.m. Credit cards accepted