A craving for bubble tea brought me to the closest place for it in my neighbourhood. One of those bbt (bubble tea) places small enough that there is never a wait. You can be sure that there is always ample seating at a less trafficked place like this. I suspect this destination is well supported by families in the surrounding area and kids from the neighbouring elementary school. With a few parking stalls out front and some by the homes near by, it is convenient enough to get.
The space was brightly lit with fixtures above and bulbs on top of booths. I have never been to a restaurant this well lit. There are no paintings, and there are no decorations. Just a back lit display of dots and lines, with tinsel to celebrate the holidays. Yellow chairs, beige booths, dark wooden tables, and walls centred with metal and bleach wood. On each table, a sign holder for specials, and another for new menu items attached to the wall. I was impressed by the restaurant’s branded napkins in boxes. They must be doing well enough to have such a luxury.
Most notable in decor was the towered showcases by the entrance. In them a collection of knick knacks and toys. Key chains, fake glasses, watches, and even contact lenses. Items their patrons would consider purchasing before or after their Taiwanese meal. They brought the night market shopping to their night market cuisine. I wonder how often such items were purchased?
The menu was a coloured and laminated page, back and front. On it a listing of all your Taiwanese classics. Appetizers of meat made into balls, rolls, or wontons. American influences of sandwiches and fries. And a do it yourself noodle option where you choose everything from your broth, to your noodles, to the sauces, and the meat and vegetables that sat on top. Prices varied by whether you wanted to choose one ingredients or two. Or if you wanted to add any additional elements at an additional cost. Noodle soups, fried rice, fried noodles, stone pot, toast, congee, and dishes influences by western society. I especially enjoyed their offer for a free beverage between certain times, for certain dishes. The free drink would be your run of the mill tea or soft drink, though it came with the possibility of having it bubbled and upgraded at an additional cost.
We were presented with complimentary Taiwanese style hot tea and a plate of appetizers to start. Both unfortunately went barely touched, with all the food we were ordering. Plus the sample portion of stewed cabbage, roasted salted peanuts, and bean sprouts did not look appetizing, nor did it taste it.
Despite eating in, my bubble tea came in a to go cup. Sealed with plastic on top and a wrapped up straw on the side. The “Green milk tea bubble tea”, cost me 50 cents more to have my pearls half coconut jelly and half tapioca. Bubble tea is not for those we don’t enjoy some occasional chewing in their drinking.
“Taiwanese beef noodle soup”. One of my favourite dishes that I haven’t had in a while. Yet despite my hunger and longing for nostalgia, this giant bowl of soup was disappointing. It lacked a richness to its flavour, and I wasn’t expecting this type of noodle. I wished for the wide ribbon-like egg noodles or the thick tube-like flour noodles. The only thing that I appreciated about this dish was its portion. A bowl as large as my head, for under $9. And not liking the idea if wasting food I ended up finishing 3/4 in house and taking the rest to go for lunch the next day.
“Popcorn chicken”, the snack size. A very popular snack item, often coupled with bubble tea. Each place does it differently. Here the breading was crunchier and the taste saltier. It was alright, though no where near the best chicken bites at a bbt place I have ever had. Each nugget was piping hot, a distinct peppery, salty, and crispy taste. The black plate the pile of meat sat on, showed all greasy finger prints; and how much oil went into preparing this.
“Beef roll”. This is Chinese wrap filled with crispy skinned beef, green onions, and hoisin sauce; all wrapped up in a deep fried onion pancake. The beef was dry and overcooked, though well hidden with the excessive use of hoisin. The onion pancake was crisp and well seasoned. I preferred to enjoy them as is. Overall, this was a very salty dish, in deep need of water.
“Teriyaki chicken steak on rice” served in a stone pot. The use of the stone pot meant your dish continued to cook as it sits, and is served at your table. The rice resting against the stone bowl got crispier. The bowl kept the dish hot and made the rice hard. And when all stirred together it made for an all encompassing texture profile. The rice was toasted, the meat was tender, the sauce was thick, and the onions was bountiful. Soft, saucy, sweet, and sticky. My guest was unable to identify which part of the chicken each piece of came from. And complained that each dark piece of meat was primarily fat and skin. I guess for those unfamiliar with the cuisine, these cuts of meat can be off putting. However being Asian I am fully comfortable eating meat with their nerves and tendons. So therefore found this dish tasty, and even better as leftovers the next day.
Tonight there were two waitresses serving, both overlapping in tables and helping as needed. The place was certainly not busy on a Wednesday night. Thought only one of them came patient and kind. She would add casual batter as she delivered plates and recovered used dishes. The other made mistakes on orders without an apology; and dropped plates off without a word or look. She gave off the impression that she was above this place and we were beneath her. She definitely did not make us feel welcome, instead we were made to feel more like a burden.
The following is a listing of food and drinks I have had during previous visits. Today (above) was the first time that I actually had a full meal here. As per most bubble tea places, the possibility of take out is decorated with cute characters on their sealed lids; and bright coloured individually wrapped straws. Papaya milk tea bubble tea half and half. And milk tea with regular pearls.
“Mango Volcano”. A dessert made with vanilla ice cream, mango purée, and toast, drizzled with generous condense milk and chocolate syrup. Simple and sweet this was delicious. The bread acted as a sponge soaking up the melty ice cream, juicy mango, and drippy milk and chocolate. I was delighted that it didn’t disappoint in presentation, I got plenty of mango and could see the volcano reference in its name.
Would I come back? – Yes. Mainly for bubble tea to go, as it is close enough in my neighbourhood. I would also consider making this a possible after dinner hang out spot. With ample room, longer opening hours, brighter lights, and cheaper prices, “E. Tea” makes for a decent place to sit and chat for an extended time.
Would I recommend it? – No. The food was utterly disappointing, over salted and overcooked. It didn’t come close to any of the other Taiwanese dishes I have had in the past. And most upsetting was the abrasive nature of their staff. I left with none of my bubble tea restaurant cravings fulfilled today. Don’t deny your cravings.