The original Jasmine Chinese Cuisine in Middletown (13823 English Villa Drive) is a longtime choice for authentic Szechuan cooking, with sushi also available at the adjoining Tsubaak Sushi and Bar. More recently, Jasmine Asian Bistro (2420 Lime Kiln Lane) opened in November, 2019, offering Szechuan favorites as well as a few Cantonese twists.
The Jasmine locations are keeping calm and offering carryout during the COVID-19 crisis, which perhaps bears noting apart from their excellent food, in that fewer than ten of the 70-plus Chinese/Asian restaurants listed as operating in metro Louisville (as enumerated in Food & Dining Magazine’s most recent edition) have remained open during the pandemic.
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According to a recent report by Eater, “As awareness of the novel coronavirus and its likely origin grew throughout January, in a xenophobic reaction to the outbreak, some Americans stopped dining at Chinese restaurants, leading many across the country to report steep declines in business.”
Based on selected Yelp-derived metrics, Eater’s research finds nationwide interest in Chinese cuisine reaching a low point during the first two weeks of March, then rebounding strongly toward the end of the month.
Ironically, what seems to have re-stoked the appetite for Chinese food was the wave of social distancing that began moving across the country as people started avoided large gatherings and became dependent on takeout and delivery: Interest in Chinese cuisine skyrocketed, while interest in other, less-takeout-friendly cuisines like traditional American, Japanese, and Italian sank.
Returning to the local scene, F&D explored the diverse seductiveness of Szechuan cuisine in depth with a profile in the Summer 2017 issue of the magazine.
I’m a devotee of the midday lunch bustle. When I walked into Jasmine for the first time, dozens of carry-out bags were headed out the door for delivery by van, as a table of six crisply dressed professionals dug into identical Sweet & Sour Chicken lunch specials.
Soon I was seated in a nearby corner booth, savoring a plate of Beef Maw and Tendon paired with a steaming bowl of Sour Pickled Fish Soup. They were ordered from the separate “Chinese Menu,” as labeled at Jasmine. It features specialties from Szechuan Province, which lies in south-central China, northwest of Macao, Hong Kong and the huge coastal metropolis.
Home of the giant panda, Szechuan borders Tibet and is a watershed of the Yangtze River. The province is a prime agricultural area long renowned throughout China for honest, spicy, elemental cuisine. Appropriately, in 2011 the capital city of Chengdu was named a World City of Gastronomy by UNESCO.
Lan Zhang and her husband (and chef) Lin Lin own Jasmine Chinese Cuisine. When I met with Lan in early April, Lin was abroad on a trip home to Chengdu. She eagerly unspooled a series of delicious mobile phone photos showing the food he was diligently researching while on the road.