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Wat Mongkolratanaram (Berkeley Thai Temple)

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  • Melanie Wong May 21, 2005 03:11 PM
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Last Sunday I was in the vicinity of the Berkeley BART station and stopped by Wat Mongkolratanaram for a quick bite. It was about 12:30pm, later than my usual time here. The place was mobbed and trays emptied of food were being put away.

I’d not been here for two years, since finding that I prefer the food at the other two temples. I was happy to see that the baked coconut milk desserts, kanom krok, were available again, after reading a report here that they’d been discontinued. Unfortunately though, they sold out before I made it through the line.

The set up for steam table curries is now split into one line for vegetarian and another for curries with meat. Omnivores can stand in one or the other and still request some of each on your plate. None of the curries looked that appetizing or fresh. I lined up here for the whole fried fish with steamed rice, $7. Pulled from a big pile of fish that presumably had been sitting for a few hours, my portion had lost its head as well as any crispiness. Fried long enough to desiccate the flesh but not done enough to soften the bones or crisp the fins, the end result yielded leathery mouthfuls with bone fragments to spit out. The chili sauce laced with sautéed sweet peppers was sweeter and less spicy than I remembered. The parts where it had soaked into the skin were tasty, but the rest of the fish needed more seasoning and sauce. This and the kanom krok are the unique offerings at this temple that I was looking forward to eating again, so I was disappointed twice over.

The Thai ice tea, $1, was overly dilute and made with whole milk rather than sweetened condensed milk or cream. While I don't recall if this was the case before, I won’t pick ice tea again.

The one bright light was the mango with sticky rice for $5 with two kinds of rice. Ignoring the pile of prepacked boxes, I asked for a freshly assembled one with warm rice and topped with egg custard this time. I didn’t care for the custard that much. I added some toasted yellow beans from the bowl, a sisyphean task with the fork provided. The picture below shows three forkfuls before I gave up. The mangos were soft but not quite at peak ripeness. However the chewy rice is still among the best I’ve had with the barest bit of salt to balance the rich coconut flavor and even more luxurious when eaten freshly al dente and warm before the coconut milk has completely soaked in.

Managing alone, this turned out to not be as quick as I had hoped. After standing in six different lines for tokens, fish, kanom krok, mango rice, ice tea, and return tokens, plus the time it took to find a seat and eat my lunch, I was on site for more than an hour. Better to go with a group that can split up ordering and standing in line responsibilities. Otherwise, if I come back here again, I’ll just pick up desserts to go.

Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

Image: http://home.earthlink.net/~melaniewon...

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  1. We went here a few weeks ago. The lines were super long but we split duties so it wasn't too bad. The veg curries were plentiful but not outstanding, the thai ice tea didn't insult me, I liked the spring rolls so everything was ok and it was festive for the holiday. Which other two temples?

    5 Replies
    1. re: chenna

      There are Thai temples in San Bruno and Fremont that also offer lunch on Sundays. They're smaller operations than Berkeley. But the volunteers still make the food themselves for that homemade taste. Today, May 22, is Buddha Day and there will be more variety of food served than usual.

      1. re: Melanie Wong

        I never been to Berkeley location but I been to the other two. I thought Fremont location is the biggest by far among the three. It's about 3 times as large as the tiny San Bruno location at least at the time I visitted the Fremont location which is sometime last year.

        1. re: Han Lukito

          If you've only been to the Fremont temple the one time, according to your post linked below, it was the Queen's birthday when the selection of foods offered is much greater. On a feast day, Fremont will seem that much larger than San Bruno's regular offering. On a regular, non-festival Sunday, Berkeley has more selection than the other two temples by virtue of the 8 to 10 curries on the steam table, not that I'm recommending them. I've only been to the Fremont temple once on a non-feast day, and it does not offer the kanom krok that is my favorite thing at both San Bruno and Berkeley nor the selection of desserts that both have on a typical Sunday.

          This url has my response the last time you asked me to compare the three temples. (g)

          http://www.chowhound.com/california/b...

          Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            I been to the Fremont several times but I think they were probably special occassions. Wonder if it's worth to travel to Berkeley location.

            1. re: Han Lukito

              Per my post at the top of this thread, I'm not bowled over by the Berkeley temple's food, certainly not enough to deal with the crowds. It's been dumbed down, prepackaged, and much comes from restaurants for sale to the large number of non-Thai clientele. If my latest experience is typical, you'll find several hundred people there on a non-festival Sunday and long lines unless you get there early.

              I haven't been there on a festival day, maybe the special foods would make it worthwhile. Otherwise, it's not a draw for me any more.