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When one happens to find oneself on what the local Asians call Food Street, it behooves one to have a little advice before choosing a Chinese-style restaurant there.
That's because this street - also known as Alexandra Road - has about 30 restaurants between No. 3 and Garden City.
J.I. Jazz Restaurant caught my eye because I recognized it as belonging to Jack Lew. Any old-time stockbroker types out there will better remember Jackson as the general manager of Trader Vic's down at the Bayshore on Georgia in Vancouver.
Jack finds his restaurant in a wee bit of a dilemma: he does Chinese food awfully well (more about that later) and he does Caucasian food (Hong Kong style) with equal fervor. So, what does he serve? Well, the menu is miles long. My suggestion is to ignore the menu altogether and order off the white sheet (encased in plastic) numbered 1 to 34. Order one of the chicken dishes, with a rice or noodle dish and a beef dish, leaving room for one of the hot pots - quickly becoming the talk-of-the-town.
I think we Caucasians have a misconception when it comes to the word "cafe": we assume both Chinese and Canadian are cooked here, and both cooked badly. Au contraire! I am here to go on record that the Chinese side of Jack Lee's menu is definitely up to expectations.
The various dishes we tried were not only fresh tasting, they had an authenticity reminiscent of my Hong Kong trip. In short, each dish did not seem plastered with the same sauce. I give J. I. Jazz full marks for the food, as well as the prices which were less than many mainstream Chinese dining establishments.
The more adventurous might want to try a Hong Kong style coffee or tea. Diners will not believe the rigors J.I. Jazz goes through to serve up the Hong Kong version of tea with Pacific or Carnation evaporated milk.
The restaurant is located at 100 - 1500 Alexandra Rd., in the heart of "Food Street", on the south side, next door to Cafe Orient and across the street from Carriana.
J.I. Jazz serves lunch, "tea" snacks from 2:30-5:30 p.m. (mostly Chinese things like fried rice with beef), offers a late-night mini menu and a Western style kids' menu.