When I was little, I loved the pork fried rice from Jimmy Woo's Jade Pagoda on Broadway Avenue. One night after my family ate takeout from the Jade Pagoda, my father dropped me, my brother, and my best friend off at Skate King in Bellevue. It didn't take long for me to realize that something was very, very wrong. I skated frantically toward the bathroom, only to vomit on the carpet at the feet of several supercool older girls. Waiting for my dad to return was psychologically and physically excruciating. My brother started vomiting in the car on the way home; my parents, late that night. None of us ate Chinese food for approximately 10 years.
As a grownup, I discovered the virtues of the Jade Pagoda's lounge. If you want a cheap drink, an excellent jukebox, a barely discernable nod toward Oriental décor, and an eye-watering ambient haze, the Jade is your place. The main source of illumination is strings of Christmas lights; currently all are operational and of the blue icicle variety. The place is often packed. It's a great dive.
A couple less-than-discriminating people I know actually eat the fried-egg sandwich ($4.50) served at the Jade (at the bar or to-go only; the elaborate dining room is always closed when I'm there), despite having heard my Skate King story. Glimpses inside the wreck of a kitchen on the way to the semi-secret back patio always struck me as further evidence that eating here could be risky behavior. In late March, the Jade was shut down by the health department. A sign on the door indicated that it was closed for spring break. The King County website indicated that, among many, many other violations, it was closed for "Material found in food (e.g. moldy, dented cans of food, bugs in food)," the presence of pests and improperly labeled toxic chemicals, and "pooling of eggs."
The kitchen, in a process rumored to be harrowing, was cleaned; the inspector returned (some say twice); and the Jade reopened.
The New York Times recently reported that drinking alcohol with a meal (the stronger and the more of it, the better) lowers the risk of food poisoning. As an experiment—in science, in terror—I went to the Jade last weekend, laid down a preventative foundation of two stiff vodka tonics, and ordered the vaunted-by-crazy-people fried-egg sandwich. It looked all right, in a basic, dinery kind of way: The bread was the big, white, rectangular store-bought kind, nicely toasty, and it had, surprisingly, decent lettuce and okay tomato on it. It was greasy with a plethora of industrial grill oil, sort of ﬂopping and dissolving with handling. The egg yolk oozed without running. I ate the entire thing, then went on a 24-hour health watch. An initial wave of nausea, while alarming, was probably psychosomatic. Beyond that, I experienced no ill effects other than epic, bizarre dreams. ■
Jimmy Woo's Jade Pagoda, 606 Broadway Ave E, 322-5900. The kitchen's open until a little after 1:00 a.m.