Fast Times

Asia Society Texas Center Jade Stone Café Definitely a Gem

As far as food is concerned, things really are looking up in the Museum District. Since I moved here in 2009, we've seen the Fine Art + Food Trucks exhibit open at MFAH, giving Museum District workers and employees a daily food truck option; Green Seed Vegan opened its doors just down the road at Almeda and Wheeler; the Pinewood Café opened in Hermann Park, delivering fresh wraps and decadent grilled cheese sandwiches. I'm pleased to add another delicious, if offbeat, suggestion to the list of dining spots in the Museum District: the Jade Stone Café at the Asia Society Texas Center.

I knew the TSA had a small cafe and, needing a quiet place to read, thought I would finally check it out. The building is absolutely gorgeous from the outside, and I couldn't wait to get a peek of the interior.

When I walked inside, I was greeted by almost complete silence, but it was peaceful and relaxing rather than unwelcoming and cold. After a brief visit to the front desk to pick up information on the museum and its exhibits, I went right over to the cafe -- which is just inside the entrance -- to grab lunch and work on finishing At Home by Bill Bryson. (I'm a fast reader, but I always seem to have 30 pages to go, no matter how much more I read.)

The menu is simple: soups, sandwiches, salads, and some cookies and cakes to satisfy your sweet tooth. The dining area is similarly streamlined, with just ten four-tops (but with white tablecloths, a nice touch) and a single person manning the counter. I chose a soup-and-sandwich combo: half a veggie sandwich on wheat with lemon artichoke soup. I sat down at a table, and my meal arrived in less than five minutes.

The veggie sandwich was served on a really gorgeous wheat bread, fluffy but still chewy with whole grains. Piled in between the bread were sprouts, mushrooms, sundried tomato pesto, avocado slices and lettuce. As you can see in the photo, a side of chips and Asian slaw come along for the ride. The slaw was a nice treat, well-seasoned with that great sesame oil flavor, and the carrots and cabbage still had a nice crunch through the marinade.

But the soup. OHMYGOD the soup. The soup was, in a word, outstanding. I wanted more. I wanted a gallon to take home and eat all day. I didn't expect the lemon artichoke soup to come out creamy -- I had envisioned a light, lemony broth with artichokes and maybe orzo -- but my disappointment dissipated in an instant as soon as I tasted it. Rich, but somehow still so light, and the lemon added an incredible brightness without being tart. The texture was silky, and I seriously considered licking the small paper cup the soup came in when my spoon finally hit the bottom.

This was a true treat. I can't wait to go back and try a salad. But I assure you, I'll never return without ordering soup.

The Jade Stone Café is open Tuesday-Sunday 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; closed on Mondays and major holidays.

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Christina Uticone