Even before we've settled in our seats after dinner to see David Sedaris, Yas and I are already planning supper for after the show.
We tumble onto the street and find ourselves trekking toward Chinatown. Bellies full of duck fat chips and wagyu and lamb cutlets and crema Catalan could do with a little counterbalance, which is how we end up at Ten Ren on George Street.
Ten Ren takes its tea seriously. Downstairs, the shelves of this Taiwanese tea house are laden with a seemingly endless array of dried tea leaves in packages, containers and decorative tins. The counter area is busy with teas being prepared, mostly bubble teas for takeaway by patrons off the street.
At the back of the store, a steep staircase leads to the cafe upstairs, usually filled with uni student or resting shoppers. The warning on the menu -- "no card games allowed"-- is presumably a deterrent for loitering non-drinking customers.
Ten-Wu tea (high mountain oolong) $6.50 large
Black milk tea with pearls $6.50 large
I order the Ten-Wu tea, a high mountain oolong which arrives ready sweetened. If you're looking for black tea, make sure you order from the "Tea-pot" section, as "Traditional Favourites" apparently means traditionally sweet as well. The tea has a pleasant cooling effect, and the froth on top--from the blended ice--does make it look more like a schooner of beer than a brewed tea beverage. Yas has the black milk tea with pearls.
Tea flavour red bean crushed ice $7.50
We end up forgoing savouries and heading straight for dessert. Yas has his usual of sweetened red bean on crushed ice. It's drizzed with rivulets of condensed milk, and he struggles though the brain freeze barrier.
Today's random fact: brain freeze is caused by cold items touching the roof of your mouth, triggering the trigeminal nerve that runs from the palate to the brain. The nerve dilates the blood vessels, creating a sense of pain in the forehead and the dreaded brain freeze. The solution - allow the cold foods to warm up slowly in the mouth before swallowing, and try to avoid direct contact between the cold substance and the roof of your mouth.
Crushed ice with
I'd had high hopes for my dessert, one that eluded me on my last visit. The last time I'd been here, I was told that they'd run out of QQ or pearls, the chewy tapioca balls that were to adorn my crushed ice with peanuts, pearls and green tea ice cream. Instead I'd had to contend with peanuts and red beans. Today I was certain I'd finally get my order. It seems a comedy of errors that this time I was told they're run out of peanuts. Would I be happy with cashews? Certainly.
The cashews are generously littered on the plate - I'm guessing the profit margin on this dish was significantly reduced. The pearls have a pleasing chewy, but not sodden, consistency. The cashews add richness and crunch but end up being too overwhelming and we leave about half of them behind.
I relish the fun of the ice though, chipping off chunks that slowly melt in the mouth, both a drink and a dessert, sweetened by the melting scoop of green tea ice cream and made texturally interesting by the chewy tapioca balls and crunch of cashews.
Coffee jelly milk tea $7.50
Tea and coffee blend $7.50
On a previous visit with Billy, Simon and Yas, we'd had more luck in covering the savoury elements of the menu.
Crispy chicken fried $5.80
Crispy fried chicken was nubbly with batter, the crunchy coating flavoured with five spice.
Pu-Erh flavourd beef with noodle $10.80
Pu-Erh flavoured beef with noodle offers a healthier supper option, the dark broth herbal and sweet. The beef is tender, its richness countered by the serving of pickled vegetables and shallots on a bed of thick and languid udon noodles.
Taiwanese meat ball $8.80 two pieces
Tawainese meat balls are a surprise package. Literally. Two flat dumplings have a sticky semi-opaque skin that is starchy and heavily stretchy. A filling of pork mince, garlic and mushrooms is fragrant but its general stodginess doesn't really appeal to our palates, especially with the ominous pool of flurousecent orange chilli sauce.
Japanese Macha ice cream $4.80
Macha green tea ice cream has sufficient notes of bitterness and Yas's red bean ice was interestingly serve with condensed milk the first time around.
Tea flavour red bean crushed ice $7.50
Crushed ice with peanut and milk $7.50
My crushed ice was served without the tapioca pearls and replaced with red bean as mentioned above. Who knews, perhaps on my third attempt, I'll finally hit the jackpot.
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Ten Ren Cha for Tea
696 George Street, Haymarket Chinatown, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9281 1887
Open 7 days, 9am - 11pm (till 2.30am on Fri and Sat)
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Ten Ren Cha for Tea, Chatswood
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1/20/2010 02:02:00 a.m.