Tuesday, 1. June 2010 5:25
It’s some of the best tasting Chinese food around, made with organic vegetables, organic soy sauce and sustainable seafood. It’s available in unlimited quantities. And it’s all free.
But you can’t eat it — unless you work at Google’s Mountain View campus or know someone there who will invite you in as their guest.
That’s how the Food Gal got into Jia, the authentic Chinese cafe at Google, run by Executive Chef Olivia Wu.
Olivia and I go way back, to the days when she was a food writer at the San Francisco Chronicle and I was one at the San Jose Mercury News.
It wasn’t so far-fetched. After all, she’d already been a caterer and private chef, as well as mom to a son who is a cook at the well-regarded Publican in Chicago.
If you know anything about Olivia, you know she’s a stickler for authenticity and a perfectionist. I knew not to come to Jia, which means “family” and “home,” expecting chow mein and egg rolls.
Instead, what you’ll get is not Americanized, oily, gloppy Chinese food, but traditional dishes done up with primo ingredients, including an 11-grain rice blend made to her specification by Koda Farms. Sure, there’s a half dozen standard American dishes and sandwiches available at her cafe, but that’s not why employees trek from other campus buildings to take the time to eat here. It’s for Chinese food served the Chinese way.
A three-wok station complete with cascading water was installed in the kitchen. The dining room was recently redone with a motif of colorful brush-stroke carps and decorative paper lanterns. It also was reconfigured with more electrical outlets so that each table can accommodate an induction burner on days when Olivia offers the popular “hot pot” dining, where diners cook their food together in a bubbling pot of broth in the center of the table.
It’s one of her favorite ways to eat because it naturally brings people together to get to know one another better — not always an easy task in a large corporation.