Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Taiwan Tea House

First off - the Taiwan Tea House is currently in the process of moving further West along the North side of 82nd Street. It will soon be open next to the Barnes & Noble.

Chinese food has, for me, taken an interesting evolution. It is similar to the current trend with Mexican food, which has been away from the big national chains and instead seems to be primarily focused on small, local places or regional chains. Chinese food has travelled this path well before the Mexican food trend, and Chinese food now seems to often be found to be heavily focused in buffet style restaurants. Now, hey, I'm not too snobby for a buffet, and I love me some General Tso's...

I'm not really personally up on whether there were very many large, national chains for Chinese food along the line of Chi Chi's for Mexican food. Nowadays, when I think of Chinese food chains, I only think of Panda Express (orange chicken madness!) in the quick serve segment, and PF Changs in the restaurant style.

Anyhow, while the buffets kind of all blur together (I miss Forbidden City which used to be up on 82nd in the Castleton area), there are some decent local Chinese places. Taiwan Tea House is one of them.

All of the dishes are at a good price point, with most entrees coming in at $6.99. On our recent visit, we started with both the pot-stickers (as expected, but not greasy and tasty), and the super-spicy won-tons (nice heat, but they pepper oil was a bit too heavy). Mom had the best fried tofu I'd ever had (okay, not a large sample size). I'd get this as an appetizer, but still don't see myself ordering tofu for a meal. It was light, crispy, with lots of vegetables and in a tangy sauce. The Better Half had the asparagus in special sauce, and while not spicy, the vegetables still had some crunchy and it was a nice, yet not overpowering sauce.

I had the minced pork noodles. It was kind of a ramen dish, with a heavier sauce, not a broth. The pork was ground and browned with a sauce. It was okay, but as you got deeper into the bowl, the sauce was thicker and the sodium was more exponential, and it wore me down very quickly. Overall, though, the food is tasty and well prepared. It is satisfying and filling at a good price, and that says a lot.

Pre-move, at least, the restaurant is clean with nice, efficient service. What is a bit unique here is that you can get bubble teas at Taiwan Tea House (you can also get them at Saigon). Bubble tea was really common in Toronto before and during the time I was dating the Better Half. It has waned in popularity some, but it is still pretty common there. Bubble tea takes these large tapioca beads which are cooked in a sugar sauce and added to tea or fruit juice based drinks. I'm not crazy about the tapioca, but it is a fun drink. If you had one to go, you could always use the thick straw to launch these giant balls in an epic spit ball fight.

The verdict: 3.75 belly rubs (out of 5). Good value, good preparation, satisfying flavors.

Post Script: for an interesting story on Vietnamese sandwiches, bubble teas, and a little wondering about restaurants stealing from each other, check out the prologue of this This American Life story.


Andi said...

Oh, Forbidden City! I miss them so much. Does anyone know of a buffet in the city that even comes close?

Indy Grub Review said...

My current favorite is The Journey, up on 96th Street, just West of I-69, in the plaza with the Menards. They are a really nice option for what seems like a fairly decent sushi at a very good price point, especially at lunch time. The asian items are pretty decent, and there is just a ton of food and a somewhat higher quality, in my opinion, than many others I've tried. But, it is a bit more, especially on weekends when they have quite a few seafood items.

Anonymous said...

You should try Tiger Lilly at 86th and Ditch (where Hunan used to be). They have great Chinese food!