Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Taiwan Tea House


I finally got over to the Taiwan Tea House after a near miss once before (FYI, they are closed on Mondays). It has been on my list for awhile, and has been recommended by a few readers. It is one of those places in the middle of a strip mall that you may drive by 100 times and not even notice. But it is worth a stop.

The Taiwan Tea House has an extensive tea list (go figure) as well as the various fruit smoothie type drinks. You can also add Boba (or tapioca pearls) to your tea for an additional charge. I went with a friend and we settled on one of the green tea choices and perused the menu. I noticed several different fried chicken entrees (fried chicken which was whole pieces of chicken and popcorn chicken which was described as well, nuggets.) I was just curious about this because I had never seen so much fried chicken on a Chinese menu. There are lots of different other options though with shrimp, chicken or beef and plenty of veggie options as well.

For our lunch, we ordered 2 different chicken dishes just to try out different seasonings, etc. We ordered the chicken with asparagus (you can order it with whichever meat you want) as well as the Mapo sauce chicken (again you can get whatever meat you want). I also ordered a shrimp and chive cake appetizer just to see what it was like.

We were first brought a bowl of soup and our tea. The soup wasn’t overly exciting—just a thickened chicken broth with some veggies. But it was included with the meal which was nice. My shrimp and chive cakes were only ok—the shrimp were teeny tiny and sparse--they were really more like green onion cakes than anything else. They were lightly fried and very hot. They definitely had a strong flavor of greens. If they had had a bit more shrimp, I would probably order it again, but as it stands, I probably won’t. There are also several other appetizer options including several dumplings, which are always a favorite of mine, so next time we’ll try some of those. Interestingly, they also came out after the first main dish had been served, even though listed as an appetizer.

The real stars here are the main dishes, the chicken and rice. They give you a very nice sized portion of chicken and vegetables served with a bowl sized serving of steamed rice. All the ingredients they are using are very fresh tasting, the chicken is all white meat and the quality is top notch. This is especially true when you consider that the dishes average $6.99 for the meat & veggies, soup and rice. Oh, and they put two little crispy crab rangoons on each plate which I really enjoyed. Usually crab rangoon is not my favorite thing, but these were light and didn’t have too much cream cheese.

The chicken and asparagus (shown here) was good and delicate tasting, again, the ingredients fresh and tasty, with quite a bit of asparagus as well as broccoli mixed in, but this dish wasn’t as good as the second dish we ordered, the Mapo chicken. When I asked what it was, it was described as a spicy sauce and I think he mentioned something about beans. Anyway, this sauce was certainly more flavorful and not really spicy, although you could see some red pepper flakes in it. I really liked it and of all the dishes, it was my favorite. It was served with lots of onions and broccoli and some red peppers and celery.

While I am not one to generally order the most spicy things in say, a Mexican place, I find Chinese “spicy” is usually not really that spicy and actually just more flavorful. I am sure it is different if you actually eat in China, but in the places I have eaten, I have found this a pretty universal truth.

Now, I have read very unkind things about service at this restaurant but I found the service to be very prompt and pretty friendly (a bit of awkwardness over asking for some explanations of dishes due to a slight language barrier—and the menu has pretty much no descriptions of the dishes, but otherwise, quite courteous). Our pot of tea was refilled with fresh hot water at least 3 times (you get a nice pot of tea with lots of loose tea and they just pour some more hot water over it occasionally) and we were pleasantly thanked as we left. I actually commented to my friend that the service here was better than half the restaurants in this City.

I also really liked the actual dishware—they were quite lovely and sturdy, not the typical ware you might find in your run of the mill restaurant supply company (and I used to work at one so I am familiar!) I will certainly be returning for lunch or carry out. They also serve dinner but do not have a liquor license—so no way will I get hubby there for dinner (plus it is a little sparse décor-wise in my opinion for dinner, but that’s just me). I think it would also be a great place for kids as there are many items that kids would probably like. If you can’t get them to eat regular stir fry, I am sure they would probably like the popcorn chicken or noodles. All in all, this place is a great value for high quality and tasty Chinese food. Give it a go. And hey, what is your favorite Chinese place? Let me know. I'll add it to my list to try!

Taiwan Tea House
4040 East 82nd Street
Indy 46250
317-598-9733

6 comments:

  1. Yay for Taiwan Tea House! I wish I got there more often--I'm a big fan of bubble (boba) tea and they do a nice job (and the only place I know in city to get it--there may be others and I'm just ignorant). I've only ever been for dinner, but I would agree that at dinner the prices are still reasonable and you get a sizable amount of food (plus the same soup you probably had at lunch is included). I forget exactly what it's called--maybe Family Tofu or some name like that--it comes with asparagus--it is definitely tasty. Anyway, glad to see a write-up of Taiwan Tea House! When I'm on the north side, I try to find an excuse to go there.

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  2. Great post! Thanks for writing the review! I was with a few friends during a trip to Indy (I live an hour away) this summer and we passed the Taiwan Tea House. We thought about turning back, but unfortunately we didn't. After reading your review, I really want to check this place out!

    I have a blog about tea (www.mysteepedidentitea.blogspot.com) so I am very interested to see their tea selection. :)

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  3. We have been there many times and referred several friends there. They have made it by word of mouth for a couple years. Their food is consistently fresh. Whenever I have asked for something a little different from a menu item the owner makes it. After returning from Taiwan last year he added/changed some sauces in dishes to keep it interesting. We feel the price of their meals are quite low for the amount of food received. The smoothies are amazing!

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  4. I was in Indy this weekend, and tried to stop there, since it's my favorite restaurant, and it is CLOSED now.

    Sadest day ever.

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  5. Anon: Fear not, they are just moving one strip mall to the west (where Barnes and Noble is). You can see their sign for the future location, but they are not open yet.
    -Erin

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  6. I would try the Mapo sauce chicken.

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