Tea Fragrance House, Berkeley
The 4th incarnation of the corner of Gilman and San Pablo since early 2006. I took one for the team. The verdict (in advance) ... I'll try it again. And here is why:
Clean. They really cleaned the place up.
Selection. It seems like someone related might be thai because there are a few thai items on the menu.
Food. Not bad. Portions were really generous, full of meat. 5 items tried:
(1) Salt and Pepper Chicken wings - could have been a bit more seasoned, but very juicy and large segments.
(2) Thai Spicy Basil Pork Chop - it was really a chinese-style dish - tasty, but needed heat.
(3) Mongolian Beef (eaten the next day) - not bad, not too greasy, but no heat.
(4) Chinese chicken salad - just wanted a fresh salad, and this rendition was not worth ordering, even for a green salad.
(5) White rice - it was white, and it was rice.
It was a take out order. They were really nice. I'd really suggest that if you see the little chile on the menu that you ask them to actually add some to the dish.
I may not write home about the meal, but I'll write Chowhound.
Oh, thanks! I noticed that the space had changed names yet again as I was coming out of Walgreens on Saturday, and I thought that at least the name is more appealing than the previous couple of incarnations -- I don't even remember what it was called as a Hawaiian joint, but the sense was Generic Cheap Plate Lunch. It is one of those locations that seems good but is actually hard to make a go of -- a heavily trafficked intersection, but not one where parking is abundant.
Thanks for the report. I drove by the other day and noticed the change, and I was thinking that the choice of name might signify something different was happening than the last couple of iterations. Tea Fragrance House just doesn't sound like another Chinese-American buffet or cheap lunch plate house. I agree with Nina the location doesn't seem too good, but I seem to remember that before the churn of the last few years it was the same restaurant for quite a long time.
If signage were sustenance, I'd eat there every day. Way too much awning and promotional copy for specials on the small facade. The place always reminds me of a billboard with a door.
I would almost say that this is an "impossible" location because of the corner spot, the traffic, and the passersby who don't look too Chowhoundish. That said, it's the same kind of corner location that Bakesale Betty's has, and her business is booming. If they opened the place up with more glass and made it more inviting (like BB's) maybe more people would stop by. After all, all that "traffic" is made up of potential customers.
If they specialized in good quality spicy Chinese take out they would get my business. I pass by there a lot.
That's the ever changing corner of Chinese restaurants (except there was a Hawaiian BBQ there for about 7 months). The new place, Tea Fragrance House, was surprisingly good. We are often in need of a quick meal at the last minute for a bunch of hungry kids and busy parents so we tried out this place. It was actually quite good – tasty, fresh vegetables, and not greasy. I'd definitively recommend it. Hey, they deliver too!
We ordered Chicken Chow Mien, Mushu Vegetable, mixed vegetables with tofu and fried rices. Excellent tofu, everything was great and they delivered in about 15 minutes.
This place is good. Let's keep it in business!
I popped in mid-afternoon mostly to pick up a menu. The very nice woman at the counter said they were still working on their website; she thought it would be up in one or two weeks, both with the menu and online ordering. For now, call them -- 510-558-8367. The menu is pretty standard -- nothing they've identified as house specials yet. I got the lunch special rice plate of Thai spicy basil chicken, which is reasonably spicy -- maybe they've been reading reviews online! -- and the S&P chicken wings. Not bad. Not great, not bad. I'll try a few more things before I pass final judgment.
They're open 10:30 AM to 9:30 PM, they deliver between 11 AM and 3 PM and 4:30-9:30 PM, within a three-mile radius.
Stopped in tonight for some takeout. They were doing a brisk enough takeout business that I had to wait about fifteen minutes, which seemed normal to me but which occasioned personal apologies from three of the four staff members, plus a free pot of tea. Three tables were also occupied.
I got sauteed bok choy with garlic -- which was exactly as described, and fairly dull. Mu shu pork -- a bit too much cabbage in the mix, and the pancakes didn't travel well, but not bad. But here's what was great: shrimp egg foo young. It was as good as the egg foo young of my childhood, cooked perfectly, the bean sprouts and onions with a bit of wok char from the sauteing they got before the dish was assembled, delicious gravy that wasn't overly salty or goopy. It is the old-school EFY with the meat cooked in the pancake where it belongs, not stuck on top as an afterthought. I will definitely be back for the chicken, beef, pork, and veggie EFY, if nothing else.