Though I’ve been happy to see a few small ethnic restaurants pop up along McMillan Avenue in Clifton Heights during the past few years, I’ve found it hard to stray from my old favorites like Thai Express and Red Pepper. So I was happy to be assigned to review the quaint and colorful Tea N’ Bowl (211 W. McMillan, 513-421-9111).
They offer their own take on various stir-fry noodle dishes and rice bowls, teriyaki wraps and assorted Asian appetizers. The “tea” part of the name refers to their selection of bubble tea and blended drinks. I found a friend who eats there frequently to tag along.
Though small, Tea ’N Bowl isn’t cramped for space. Like the other restaurants on the strip, the large front window opens up the space and makes for good peoplewatching. The yellow walls and colorful art on them lends a fun, casual and inviting air.
The appetizers offered are mostly typical of an Asian restaurant: Eggrolls, Tempura, Crab Rangoon, Cold Sesame Noodles and the one I’m so glad we ordered, Scallion Pancake ($4.25). The pancake was thin and crispy-soft, cut into pieces served around a cup of “dumpling sauce,” which was savory and delicious with just a hint of spice to tickle the tongue and make you really happy. At least, that’s the effect it had on us.
Next, I had to try the Beef Bulgogi Bowl ($7.95) because I really enjoy authentic Korean bulgogi and wanted to see how theirs would compare. Served with rice and vegetables, this Beef Bulgogi Bowl was more on the sweet side than other bulgogi I’ve had. But it was very good, and I’d definitely order it again.
My friend Lauren ordered the Fried Tofu Vegetable Bowl ($6.95), also served with rice and vegetables but with a different, mildly sweet brown sauce. If you don’t like the texture of tofu, you should try it fried. What’s not to like about tofu with a crispy golden outside? They also have a Fried Tofu appetizer for $1.50, so you won’t be out much if you just want to try it.
The bubble tea drinks are a fun addition to the menu. You can get them chilled with or without milk, frozen with or without milk (Snow or Slush, respectively) or hot. They come with large tapioca pearls in the bottom of the cup that you suck through the straw and chew (the “bubble” part). The flavor options range from the typical Black Tea and Green Apple to the more exotic Honeydew, Taro and Red Bean. I’m not big on sugary drinks, but Lauren can’t stay away from the Lychee Slush. I admit it was pretty tasty and refreshing when I tried it.
I hadn’t been to Tea N’ Bowl before, but it was about time I went. While it might be known as a “bubble tea” spot to many, it’s definitely worth the trip for the lunch items alone.
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