A little piece of Paris, mixed with a healthy dose of old Vietnam, has come to my Sellwood neighborhood here in Portland with the opening this week of Jade Teahouse and Patisserie. I've been watching, and anticipating its opening for months. And especially since owner April Eklund stopped by the wine shack a couple of weeks ago to introduce herself and clue me in to what is already one of my favorite places in town.
It seems that for years April (at right with her mom Lucy) has wanted to open her own place, to satisfy her love of the world's great teas and her desire to share her knowledge. But what is tea without something to nibble, so she talked her mom Lucy out of retirement. Lucy owned Beau Thai restaurant here in Portland a few years ago. After she sold that, Lucy decided she wanted to go to Paris and learn to make great patisserie and bake bread, so off she went, found several jobs apprenticing in different bakeries, and thankfully brought that experience and what is apparently a crazy set of skills to Portland. Now, to accompany April's very impressive tea selection, you can indulge in some incredible sweet treats, equal to if not better than anything I've had in town. Jade is a calm, warm, light-filled space that will have you dreaming of sitting in a Parisian café, nibbling happily while sipping a delicious, perfectly brewed cup of hot tea. Lucy also has come up with a selection Vietnamese style sandwiches on her house baked baguette. I've had them two days in a row. I'm hooked.
Both women are incredibly nice, and Lucy showed me around her kitchen and bakery area. How someone who is maybe five feet tall and weighs basically nothing does so much I have no idea. I only wish I could work as hard. Everything is made from scratch here. When we were downstairs, Lucy had me grab a container off the shelf that was FULL of her own candied ginger. Out of this world....puts anything you buy at the store to shame! She was telling me that she has been putting in 18 hour days, getting there early to start the bread, then moving on to the days pastry selection. April has already put together approximately 40 different teas (some samples of which are displayed lower right) with more to come. Today she made me a cup of the Iron Goddess oolong tea to take back to work along with my Vietnamese Meatball Sandwich (above right). I am absolutely no tea expert, but this was a wonderfully sublime tea, with intoxicating aromas of flowers and spice. The meatball sandwich was also delicious, with a generous helping of Lucy's meatballs (make sure you have plenty of napkins) and lightly pickled daikon and carrots with a few sprigs of cilantro. I also tried their Drunken Chicken Sandwich (above left) and was equally impressed both with the quality and seasoning of the chicken and its generous size. Lucy's baguette is also the perfect vehicle...not too crusty, with a just right chew. All sandwiches are a more than reasonable $6, and they also offer a soup and a couple of starters.
Now, about those pastries. I have bought a couple, and Lucy and April in their generous way have also plied me with several. Everything I have had, as I said above, has been superior. Lucy's Pandanis Green Cake (at left- $3) was one of those desserts that totally plays into my food-addictive tendencies. In between the layers of moist green pandanis leaf cake were crispy layers of pastry with a topping of not-too-sweet frosting. I've also tried her perfectly satisfying Red Velvet Cake cupcakes (right- $1.25), a tasty little Fudge Brownie with Matcha Green Tea Frosting (3/$1!), and a lovely little frosted lemon cookie. Oh, and a gluten-free macaroon that was, well, just about perfect. I'm really not that easy to please I promise, and I haven't tried everything, but based on my initial visits I'd highly suggest you check it out.
So, in two days I've gained about five pounds thanks to the talents of April and Lucy. Unfortunately, with it being right around the corner from VINO, and so damn good, the future doesn't bode well for my waistline. Do me a favor, next time you see me don't mention the stretch waistband pants!
Jade Teahouse and Patisserie/7912 SE 13th Avenue/Portland, Or/503.477.8985
hours: Monday-Saturday 11:30-6:30/ closed Sunday