It was on a fateful day in 1980 when Chinese cuisine in Manila changed forever – a day when the dreams of entrepreneur and visionary Joseph Henry Ng reached its peak with the opening of Jade Garden.
For the first time, eating Chinese cuisine in the city was like dining in the presence of an emperor – suckling pigs with electronic glowing eyes, chicken wrapped in hardened “mud”, and the Peking duck that was served three ways were the main courses, of course, it was accompanied by the indulgent shark’s fin soup and succulent abalones. The interiors were state-of-the-art, bar none, with crystal chandeliers reflecting light in soft hues around the hall, the silverware gleaming, and chinaware pristinely white.
It was as if diners were transported to Hong Kong, the country of origin of Jade Garden.
Opening Jade Garden in the Philippines was the result of years of preparation, planning, and practice until everything was perfect. “We pulled out all the stops when we opened Jade Garden in 1980. The service, the linens, the interiors, and the dishes – all were impeccable. There was no room for mistake,” said Peter Ng, the second-generation owner of Jade Garden who also runs the family-owned Makati Supermart group of malls and supermarkets.
The best chef on Cantonese cuisine was flown to Manila, tapestries, china, and silver were imported from Hong Kong, chandeliers were raised, and carpets were rolled out for the opening of the most pompous Chinese restaurant in the country. And on that fateful day in 1980, Chinese cuisine was never the same again in Manila.
It has been 25 years since Jade Garden first opened its doors in Makati City’s then premier commercial district, the Makati Commercial Center. The first restaurant was particularly located at the former Automat, one of the most popular dining places during that time, also a masterpiece of Joseph Henry Ng.
But the opulence that Jade Garden serves has stood the test of time. The restaurant, which was opened by the inimitable First Lady Imelda Marcos, was the brainchild of some of the best minds in business and restaurant operations on this side of the planet.
Joseph Henry Ng was introduced to Mr. S.T. Wu, Chairman, of the Maxim’s Caterers, Ltd. Hong Kong, one of the largest restaurant chains in Hong Kong. The introduction was made by industrialist and esteemed Washington Sycip. Manila’s need for a fine dining Chinese restaurant that could rival those in Hong Kong was realized during that same meeting.
“From the conceptualization, we have always wanted to raise the bar in Chinese dining in the country. When Jade Garden opened, there was no other restaurant who served the way we did. A number of our staff were sent and trained in Hong Kong – they had to master how to change plates; how the suckling pig was sliced and served; the way to cut the Peking duck; and even how to change the table cloth in a swift but neat manner,” Ng added.
Today, dining at Jade Garden is like traveling back in time, when everything was glorious and opulence was the menu.