Jazmine9333 Double R Blvd.
Reno, NV 89521
It has been said that the Chinese conquered the world through their food, and I have found what might well be the last remaining dynasty here in Reno. Jazmine, in the South Meadows, is an eating experience unto itself.
Partners David Tran, the front-of-the-house, and Chef Kwok Chen have a history. They operated the original Golden Fortune in the Eldorado Hotel Casino. Kwok trained in Hong Kong under one of the world’s top Chinese chefs before coming to Reno nearly 20 years ago. Tran, a Renoite, has been part of the food scene here for more than three decades.
It’s a comfortable, upscale room with linen napkins, a full bar, 36 beers, a proper wine list, and servers with ties and great manners. There’s also a sushi bar in the back—another story, another dining experience. My palate’s Far East adventure began with three Shrimp and Pork Sui Mai Dumplings ($18). Chef Kwok makes these to order, lightly steamed and gently spiced to marry land and sea in a savory yet delicate starter. Soy sauce and chili oil, not too hot but noticeable, were presented alongside, and this added a gentle sweet-salt taste and mild lift to these morsels. All the sauces are homemade.
Next arrived the Lamb with Black Pepper Sauce ($14). It was stir-fried with onion, bell pepper and carrots. “Hong Kong” is the preparation style for all Jazmine’s dishes. That means stir-fried, baked, steamed … always preserving natural flavors rather than controlling the taste primarily with spices. The lamb was extremely tender and had a touch of honey added to offer a sweet, smoky, savory taste, and every bite literally melts in your mouth.
Sea bass ($23) is one of my favorite fish, and this preparation was over the top. The fish was marinated in Mei Kuei Lu wine—a very potent, high-alcohol wine, distilled from sorghum, wheat, rose petals and cane sugar. When I tasted it separately, I decided it’s China’s version of white lightning. As a marinade, it infused the Asian herbs and spices into this delicate fish in a culinary, magical way.
The sea bass was then baked and served with a side of house-made sauce, a honey aioli with a hint of lemon and orange. The fish was firm yet extremely moist inside, and the sauce created a cascade of flavors as it passed over my tongue from the sweet to the citrus to a naughty floral essence, a treatment created by Chef Kwok.
And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better—listen for the sound of the gong—a crab fried rice ($17) was presented. With the consistency of feathers, this was an amazing dish. Made with only the whites-of-eggs, white crab meat, and stir-fried with the whites-of-scallions, this rice was an experience for the palate, not the expected side dish served with a Chinese meal. Elegantly rich in flavor, yet light in the mouth—remarkable.
The restaurant has a good selection of by-the-glass wines starting at $6. I needed a red and a white to ingratiate these dishes. The ’09 4 Vines “Naked” Chardonnay ($8) from Santa Barbara County is 100 percent fermented in stainless steel tanks, no oak. That captures crisp, concentrated Chardonnay with all its natural acid. “Naked” exhibits apple, white peach, and pear, finishing long with hints of citrus and mineral.
For the red, I chose an ’08 Definitive Pinot Noir ($10) from the Sonoma Coast: racy cherry, cola, raspberry and strawberry fruit flavors layered with brooding tastes of spice, smoke, blackberry, chocolate, and a slightly earthy tone, added to rich fruit. Both drank exceptionally well with the food. It was a Marco Polo moment for me, bringing something from China to Reno, the food of Jazmine.