Cathy is penning today's issue of mmm-yoso!!! The guys (Kirk and ed(from Yuma)) are merely writing things in their brains.
Hi. The other day, FOY(friend of Yoso), Food Detective, asked me in a comment if I had been to Tea Garden. I haven't, even though I have driven by, parked in front of it, walked past it and knew it was there. It is on Convoy, at Engineer Road, across from China Max and sometimes has parking when no place else on that street of countless amazing restaurants has parking available.
Deceptively small looking from the front, there is seating capacity for 57 inside. Of course, as is the rule for Convoy Street and its environs, parking availability does not correspond.You walk in and can grab a menu and sit on the couch next to the cash register, or just read the wall behind the register (that is just the beverage menu), or order a special straight from the whiteboard. Pay. Get a number. Find a seat. Free wifi, a shelf filled with board games, two televisions and nice surroundings. For our first visit,
We decided to try a green tea float ($4.25). Green tea, strong brewed, over ice with vanilla ice cream floating at the top. Very rich flavored. There must be matcha powder in it.
My standard Beverage of Indecision (coffee-tea-milk, no sweetener added) ($3.75)-no sweet at all. I could taste each of the three ingredients distinctively. Very nice. An appetizer of popcorn chicken ($3.99). Crispy and moist, mild thin breading flavored with fresh basil leaves (on the plate) from the fryer.
An appetizer of salt and pepper squid ($6.99) Soft squid, light breading topped with a relish of garlic, scallions and red pepper. Just enough heat.
House Special fried rice noodle ($7.99). A wonderful smoky flavor infused in the thin noodles and perfectly sauteed shrimp, beef and chicken along with green onion tops, onions, carrots, sprouts and (I think) bamboo. Maybe it was a fungus. Those brown things...they had a woody texture and not much flavor. Lots of flavor in everything else.
The other day (before this crazy heat wave happened), The Mister wanted soup. So we went back and He ordered the BBQ pork ramen ($6.99). This had a not salty, surprisingly rich broth, along with peas, carrots and cabbage as well as a few pieces of sliced BBQ pork (standard, not outstanding) and noodles which had a nice 'tooth',although not as good as the noodles at Yakyudori, my new favorite.
At lunchtime, most main courses come with a free iced black or green tea. You can ask for no sweetener (I think it is a simple syrup) and taste the tea...
I wanted to try the fried tofu ($5.59). When this came, I thought it looked like a thick, hard crust and was almost disappointed.Instead, I was pleasantly surprised at the delicate thinness of the coating and soft, soft fresh tofu inside. The dipping sauce was a very dark soy and sesame oil base and filled with chopped garlic, green onion tops and some red pepper flakes. Extremely complimentary for the tofu, and just the right amount of heat. I think if I had ordered the salt and pepper fried tofu (50¢ more), this dipping sauce would have been overpowering.
All in all, the food here has been great. A pot of hot tea is $5.95. Other items on the menu I am wanting to try include a Hot Clay Pot, fried udon, fried rice, congee, sizzling steak, other soups, brick toast, shaved ice and something called "vinaigrette soup" ($5.95), either shrimp, pork or squid. Oh and juices, smoothies and...yes, more appetizer snacks. You can easily get a meal, the plates and bowls are a very good size.
Thank you Food Detective!!! This is a great place.
Tea Garden 4685 Convoy Street, Suite 110 San Diego 92111 (858)277-8988 Website
Hours: Sun-Th 11:00 a.m.-midnight, until 1 a.m. Fri-Sat