Sunday, August 5, 2007

Jade Mountain


Photo from warsze

Jade Mountain Chinese restaurant closed earlier this year, soon after the owner was killed while making a delivery. It had been on Second Avenue since 1931. Its CHOW MEIN sign was like a beacon on late nights when I walked home from above 14th Street. When I saw that pink neon, I knew I was almost there.

The Villager this week reported on Jade Mountain's "everything must go" sale. I stumbled across it today. There wasn't much left, a few boxes full of chipped teacups, an empty fishtank, a plaque awarding "Best Egg Foo Young in New York City" (not for sale). I asked if I could take pictures inside, but was told, "We want people to remember it like it was, not like it is, all in shambles." Fair enough. I did get to take home this souvenir book of matches:

For Bright Beacons, A Murky Future
The New York Times, May 13, 2007

For decades, they floated over Second Avenue near East 12th Street like twin stars guiding tipsy East Villagers home: ''Jade Mountain'' in glowing pink bamboo-style letters, and above it, in rosy neon, a smaller, two-sided sign bearing the words ''Chow Mein.''

But these days, the name of the old-school chop suey house is obscured by a giant ''For Lease'' poster. Jade Mountain closed in February, five months after Reginald Chan, its 60-year-old owner, was hit by a truck and killed while making a delivery on a bicycle. As Mr. Chan's family, which owns the building, looks for a new tenant, neighbors fear that the vintage neon signs, like the restaurant, will soon disappear.

Emily Rems, a 32-year-old magazine editor who lives on East 14th Street, is particularly fond of the Jade Mountain sign, and the buzzing sound it made when some of its letters started to dim. ''It just seems like it's been there forever and ever,'' she said the other day, ''and there's something comforting about that.''

The chow mein sign captivates Ed Cahill, a 46-year-old actor and filmmaker. ''It's like something off a Hollywood lot,'' Mr. Cahill said.

The restaurant, which opened in 1931, spoke to a bygone era, serving steaming plates of egg foo yong and moo goo gai pan until the day it closed. Last week, passers-by were still pressing their face to the glass as if willing it to reopen.

Mr. Chan's 25-year-old son, Nick, who lives above Jade Mountain, does not know the history of the signs or what will become of them once the space is leased. ''I don't know who would have room for something like that,'' he said.

But for Ms. Rems, who once kissed her boyfriend underneath the Jade Mountain sign, the image will always have a certain glow. ''I thought it would be lucky,'' she said. ''Now I'll have to do it one last time.''

Text Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company


Anonymous said...

It really kills me that I missed eating here. I remember walking by it so many times, thinking, I probably won't enjoy the food, but I truly want to have the full Jade Mountain experience. One can only hope that the Jade Mountain sign will be moved to an appreciative - and I'd also like to add - appropriate audience. Like a nice Chinese restaurant in the midwest, where it could serve as a beacon on a snowy night.

What I wouldn't want to see is some trendy bar use it, and have the type of people who drove this restaurant out of business patronizing it. I'm thinking like the revoltingly named Tenament bar.

- from an Upper West Sider before it became the UWS

Anonymous said...

I met Suzanne Chan during the closing, and she told me about her husband's accident. And how she couldn't go on running the restaurant without her husband/partner/best friend. She also told me there was already a new owner for this historic old New York spot. Another bar. If its another one of these sports bar with beer bongs- i'm moving. Exactly what the east village doesn't need.

Jeremiah Moss said...

i think the east village--and much of new york--is being held together by a few people, like mr. chan, who've lived here and run small businesses for generations. as they pass away, so will the new york we love.

Anonymous said...

Jade Mountain made the best fried shrimp wrapped in bacon--yum

S.S. said...

Today is Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday. Guthrie was a member of the Almanacs Singers.

Ed Cray, author of "Ramblin' Man: A Life of Woody Guthrie" says that the Almanac Singers' Lee Hays and Pete Seeger's first paying gig was in January 1941 at a fund-raising benefit for Spanish Civil War loyalists at the Jade Mountain restaurant in New York City.

Anonymous said...

I ate lunch here for 20 years.They had the best wonton soup and chow mein on the planet. Suzie and Reggie Chan were the friendliest people I've ever met. I will always miss Jade Mountain.