Too many people. Waits that stretched up to an hour. Butt-to-butt bumping because of the tiny confines. A kitchen that required new equipment. Those factors -- and more -- contributed to the recent remodel and expansion of China Jade, arguably one of the city's best Szechuan Chinese restaurants, especially when you delve into the "traditional" Chinese menu, a thrill ride stamped with pig stomach and sea cucumber, pig's feet and preserved bean fish.
The Aurora restaurant closed in mid-January and reopened late last week, trumpeting double the square footage, a mission that was accomplished by taking over the former Quizno's space next door. The expanded dining room now boasts 120 seats, compared to the forty it had previously, and a private room that can hold up to thirty people was also added. "We had customers who were waiting thirty minutes, and sometimes up to an hour to eat -- we absolutely had to expand, and we wanted to make the space more inviting," says manager Lintong Li.
New paint, the hue of mustard seed, have brightened the walls, granite tables give the room a degree of elegance, and the porcelain tile floors, shimmery with a copper finish, add to the cosmopolitan flair. The result is a space that's far more modern and stylish than the past incarnation, which was comfortable enough but not much to look it.
And while the walls are currently bereft of accents, art, says Li, is forthcoming. And, so, too, is a full liquor license, as well as additions to both the traditional Chinese menu and the Americanized one, which, while geared toward more cautious palates, is nonetheless prepared with finesse.
"We want to expand both menus, and we now have the kitchen equipment to allow us to do that," says Li. But first, he admits, he has to hire additional kitchen staff -- staff that can cook the way "they do in China." And that includes, he says, the ability to execute the art of Chinese grilling, specifically things like Xinjiang lamb sticks, a popular Chinese street food that's marinated and rubbed with ziran (cumin), salt and chile dust. "We have a large American population, so we want to make those people happy, but we also want to make sure that we continue to give people the traditional perspective, too," explains Li.
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Along with the menu expansions, the liquor license, he hopes, will be approved within the next few months. "This is the kind of food that goes really well with a great draft beer," says Li.