Berkeley: Imperial Tea - Pumpkin shao mai
Imperial Tea has a few daily specials and currently both the SF and Berkeley locations are offering the pumpkin shao mai.
There are four shao mai stuffed with pork and pumpkin ($5). They were tasty but the pumpkin flavor didn't really pop out. There was a little visual appeal with bits of orange pumpkin. The texture was a little softer than most shao mai. I probably should have ordered the regular for comparison.
The Berkeley shop is located in the Epicurious food court, has a large menu of tea and an open kitchen where a dozen or so dishes are made to order such as dumplings, green onion pancakes, salads, soups, entrees and hand-pulled noodles.
The dishes use organic ingredients. The menu on the website states "! We use Niman Ranch & organic Prather Ranch meats, Giusto organic flour, organic brown rice, and local produce. We cook exclusively in organic tea seed oil that we import"
I haven't been here since Epicurious opened a few years back and then I just walked in to see what it looked like. There have been a few positive reports on Chowhound. Yelp currently has almost 70 reviews giving Imperial Tea. a four star rating. I agree.
It is really a pleasant peaceful stop. Nothing more is required than to order a pot of tea which are mostly $5. They have a number of tea snacks as well.
Sit either at one of the rosewood tables inside or in the pretty patio area outside. Today the Caucasian servers wearing black Chinese jackets and hats were very knowledgeable about the tea. I was hesitant about some of the tea and my server brought out three for me to smell to make a selection.
This must be a great place to work. In the lull of the afternoon, the two Chinese ladies who do the cooking made lunch for themselves and the two servers. There were onion pancakes a bowl of braised greens and noodles that were added to a soup. When I got the bill I asked if a dish I saw on the menu was what they had. It turned out the ladies just whipped up something they liked themselves.
On the rainy day it was homey and almost ceremonial the way they set the table.
Anyway, I definitely will be back to try more of the menu and when I need a place to relax and have some tea.
1511 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709