Thursday, August 09, 2007

Apple Jade - Taste of Taiwan

Apple Jade in Frandor has been around for a very long time. It was one of the first Chinese restaurants in town, going back to the days when Chop Suey and Chow Mein were the staples of such a restaurant. They have a loyal following from those days, and still have Chop Suey on the menu.

But over the years they've evolved to have more -- they were the first to offer potstickers in town -- and the current owners have added a number of delicious Taiwanese dishes. They are unique in Lansing, and worth a try.

My favorite dish is on the lunch menu as well as on the Specials board up front: Taiwanese Ground Pork, a plate of rice with seasoned chopped pork, a huge side of stir-fried vegetables and a fried egg. (Okay the egg may seem odd to us, but it's good -- fried hot enough to have lacy crunchy edges, that contrasts with usual textures of white and yolk.) The vegetables give you a healthy and tasty lift to your meal...and the pork! It's seasoned with a five-spice blend that is a little heavier on the cinnamon than usual. It's one of those dishes that make you go "Ooooo!" when you bite into it.

Similarly the Sacha Beef is spiced with a blend of tasty spices. It's a variation of Sa Tsa or Chinese Satay -- usually beef or shrimp stewed in a spice mixture with or without vegetables. Often served with or over rice noodles. We had the version that isn't on the menu, but is listed up on the specials board: "Water Spinach with Sacha Beef" and that's the way to have it. Aromatic beef with tender greens.

Their hot and sour soup is great, much more full of "stuff" than most places. Spicy Wontons is a favorite dish of mine. It's served elsewhere in a spicy sesame sauce (really made with peanut butter), but here they just drench the boiled Won Tons in a fragrant sauce of oily browned garlic and hot pepper flakes. It is VERY hot, but good enough. I think I like the sesame sauce version slightly better, or the sichuan version at Hong Kong Sichuan.

Apple Jade Restaurant, 300 N Clippert St., Lansing (right next to Aladdins and Sparty's Coney Island in Frandor) 517-332-1111.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Drive-bys, August 2, 2007

Coming soon to the East Lansing Strip: Johnny's Hots -- a retro-diner type place -- is moving into the "kiss of death" location at the corner of Abbott and Grand River where nothing has succeeded in decades. Good luck! The gyro place moving into East Lansing's old Taco Bell is now called Spartan Gyros (is this a sign they're finally opening soon?). And Fiesta Charra Mexican Restaurant is moving into Ria's old location next to Oriental Mart.

The Banyan Tree - the Thai restaurant that moved into 1001 Mt. Hope (right next to Korner Kitchen) - is now open. I haven't had the chance to try more than some take out Pad Woon Sen, but it was good. A little Americanized and mild, but I think that's probably because they are afraid Americans can't take the heat of Thai food. (So be sure to say "hot", not "medium" if you like it at all spicey.) (ADDENDUM: we stopped by again last night, and they have the heat levels straightened out. With the green curry, anyway, "mild" was nicely zippy. Some noodle dishes aren't automatically hot at all unless you ask. Their scale is mild, medium, hot and "Thai hot.")