Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rose Tea Cafe

This past weekend, SP's family celebrated his mother's birthday. Her actual birthday is today. For her birthday dinner, she chose Rose Tea Cafe in Squirrel Hill. My first thought was that it's Chinese food, but some sites I looked at say it's Taiwanese food. Some say it's authentic Taiwanese, some say it's not at all close to real Taiwanese food. Let's say it's Taiwanese-Chinese food! Of course my recent Chinese dining experiences have left my stomach feeling blah, so I wasn't especially excited about Rose Tea Cafe.

Inside I felt a bit like I was in a coffee shop. There's a counter for people to walk in and order one of their many drinks to go. The tables are wooden, the chairs metal. I like the tea cup design on the backs of the chairs:It's a small place, maybe able to seat 35-40 people. I don't think they were too thrilled with our group of 12, especially since we didn't make a reservation. We didn't think we needed one. We learned that they do take reservations for groups of 6 or more and my impression is that they would like large groups to make a reservation. Six of us arrived around 4:45 pm, 15 minutes earlier than the agreed upon meeting time. There was a bit of difficulty in securing seating for our group since MIL wanted everyone at the same table, not at 2 tables of 6 right next to each other. In the end, we were seated at 2 tables for 6 each. It was quite easy for the people in the middle two rows to turn around and converse with people at the other table, so I thought it worked out nicely. Of course, the last 6 people arrived about 5-15 minutes late, which seemed to annoy the staff a bit since they were expecting a large group at 6 pm and that group had made reservations. The staff kept asking us when the rest of our group would be arriving.The menu has 2 pages just for drinks - green & black teas, milk teas, bubble teas, exotic drinks, specialty drinks, smoothies, milk shakes. It was kind of overwhelming! I'm not a big fan of bubble tea, but SP said he has been going to Rose Tea Cafe for years, before they served food, when they were most well known for the bubble tea. My mom decided to try the 'Grasshopper' exotic drink which is a mix of orange juice, passion fruit juice, honey, and blue curacao. To me, grasshopper indicates something minty, but not here. I didn't take a photo of her tall, skinny glass filled with a green colored beverage, but I did taste it, and it was quite tasty although I am not sure I would really want a whole drink like this for myself with this type of food. Then again, I'm not a big fan of sweet, syrupy, juice like drinks with food. Even my beloved orange martinis that SP makes me must be consumed in the afternoon before dinner time.

SP started off with soup, just like I expected. Also expected was his choice of Hot & Sour Soup:He said it was the usual hot & sour soup. MIL ordered Egg Drop Soup:I suppose it was tasty - she ate it all. MIL doesn't like me, so I tend to speak only when spoken to, and I tried to quickly and stealthily take my food photos. Be seen and not heard. Preferably invisible and silent. I also busied myself gobbling up some fried dumplings, which I love:One order had 8 dumplings. Thank goodness for SP, who reminded me to take photos. I had eaten one before realizing I hadn't taken a photo!These are the usual pork filled dumplings. For his entree, SP ordered Stir Fried Napa Cabbage with Dried Shrimp:I can't see how this could possibly fill him up. It was like food for a rabbit, all that cabbage. And those tiny, dried, shriveled up shrimp looked so unappealing to me. But he loved it and ate every last drop, assuring me that the tiny shrimp were quite flavorful. SP"s dad ordered Deep Fried Squid with Salt & Pepper:He really enjoyed them. Basically, they were calamari, without the marinara sauce. Googer opted for Eggplant with Basil:I had a tiny taste and it was quite good. I'm not sure exactly what kind of sauce was on the eggplant, but it was kind of sweet. MIL and my mom both ordered the Salt & Pepper Shrimp:Apparently, this dish is eaten with the shells on the shrimp. Hmmm. Kind of grosses me out. I just can't imagine chewing up the shells and swallowing them. My mom did, and she said they were OK, but when we reheated the leftovers on Sunday, she peeled the shrimp!! SP's dad ordered Pork Fried Rice for the table:Everyone tells me it was tasty. I didn't try any because I ordered Lo Mein with Chicken:I was surprised to see fat noodles, not skinny noodles. They were tasty, and thankfully not too greasy, so I didn't get my usual post-Chinese dining queasiness. I'm not sure what the other table of 6 people ordered.

Service is quick, cordial, some servers are friendlier than others. We were done with dinner by 6-6:15 pm, so that's pretty quick for a party of 12 that met up around 5-5:15 pm. We were a little rushed, but not like at Hokkaido!! I wish the menu had descriptions of the dishes. There's no description at all, leaving you to wonder if it's a white sauce or brown sauce or whatever. It'd be nice to see more than 'String Bean with Beef' and I'd like to know what exactly is 'Stir Fried Loofah.' I kept thinking of the scrubby sponge in my shower! (I just googled it and loofah is a gourd, also known as Chinese okra.)

In our future debates about where to dine, I probably wouldn't suggest Rose Tea Cafe to SP based solely on my personal flavor preferences, but I'd be happy to dine there again if we were meeting up with a group. Only I'd make sure someone made a reservation!

Rose Tea Cafe on Urbanspoon

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