There's a phrase used by jazz musicians when referring to someone who plays well. "He has good chops," it's said.
The only place Joe Duen doesn't have chops is on the menu of his family-run restaurant, Jade Bistro, a new addition to the eclectic food scene in College Park. He earned his proficiency during 21 years in New York working at the Four Seasons and the Rainbow Room, and at his brief stint helping open the late Shanghai Tang on Church Street.
Jade's location is no stranger to Asian cuisine. The former home of China Master (and Ruby Chinese before that) had not changed in several decades, and a sorry state it was. "This was a Chinese restaurant for 48 years!" Duen said emphatically. "It took six months to fix everything!" The thankfully refurbished room is done in dark reds and subdued lighting, with a small-but-elegant sushi bar along the back wall. Behind that bar are two sushi chefs who are more mature than many you'll find slicing fish in Orlando, veteran itamai-san from Japan who turn out particularly splendid creations.
A quick bite of shiro maguro (white tuna; $4) reveals buttery albacore that almost melts on the tongue. It shows up again in the signature Jade Roll ($9), white layered with red maguro tuna and asparagus, then quick-fried in tempura batter. The Spider roll ($9) has deep-fried softshell crab, creamy avocado and cucumber for a crunchy crispy mellow combination. And when they say spicy tuna, believe it.
A simple and standard dish like General Tso chicken ($10.95) is made with high-grade, tender chicken, not the poultry knuckles a lot of places think they can pass off. Juicy, firm, crunchy and spicy all at the same time, the salmon with black-bean sauce ($13.95) is saut?ed in the dark paste so the crispy parts of the fish are infused with ever-so slightly salty goodness, then topped with almost raw onions and red peppers. And the "Double Wonder" combines thin slices of chicken with toothy shrimp and garlic-saturated eggplant that fills the mouth with deep flavor ($13.95).
The good chops (third definition) extend to metal chopsticks next to your plate, a welcome change from wasteful disposable wood.
Service is attentive and head-spinningly fast (Duen family member, Ben, is a co-founder of Jade Motorsports, a local sports-car club, so they know something about speed) and there's a good chance Joe himself will pay a visit to make sure everything is fine. Welcome him to the neighborhood and enjoy his chops.