San Leandro Reviews
Update 3/05:The OTH serves dim sum on Sundays, and Easter (2005) seemed like an ideal opportunity to try it. We liked it much better than East Village, though we didn't get to taste the baked pork buns as they were out of it by the time we got there around 1 PM. The steamed pork buns were excellent, however, the bread was moist, the pork succulent and not too sweet. I got an additional order to go. The fried chicken was also very good, crispy and moist and wonderfully spiced. We also found a winner in the paper wrapped chicken - moist and delicious - and on the shrimp dumplings. We were less fond of the sesame balls and the deep fried meat balls, I'd never had those before and the thick pastry wrapping had a strange consistency that I didn't find appealing. Egg custards were OK, but not sweet enough for my taste. The 8 plates and 3 soft drinks came up to $24 after tax. I look forward to going back to the OTH for dim sum again.
Update 12/04: We went to Oriental Tea House for dinner on Christmas Day. The place was packed with Chinese families, which I found a bit strange as so much of Oriental Tea House's menu is so Chinese American. They may have a different menu for Chinese people, though.
The food as usual was good, though not outstanding, and dirt cheap (most non-seafood dishes are about $6). I liked the chow mein, though my sister prefers thinner noodles and I have to admit it had very few veggies. I also liked the lemon chicken, the flattened breast wasn't too heavily coated and the sauce was lemony without being too sweet, but Kathy was again unimpressed. She liked the sweet and sour pork better, though I found it a bit too fatty. Mike had the beef with snap peas and he liked it a lot. The snap peas were tasty, fresh, and crunchy, the sauce was savory and the meat was better than you get in most Chinese places - though it did have that flattened, processed quality meat at Chinese places usually has. David had the Mongolian beef which he also enjoyed. The portions are large, specially considering the price.
Despite having lived in San Leandro for almost two years, we had not yet visited any of the many Chinese restaurants in the area. We like Chinese food, or rather, we like the Americanized form of Chinese food available in most Chinese restaurants, but we are seldom in the mood for it. When we are, we tend to drive to Oakland Chinatown which is not that far away after all.
Friday night (late November, 2001), however, I was in the mood for Chinese and willing to try a local restaurant. Our friends recommended the Oriental Tea House, mostly because they had heard good things about it, and they have not liked most of the other local Chinese restaurants they'd tried. That seemed like a good enough reason to go, so we headed there.
Before I continue, I must warn you that you must take any review I make of a Chinese restaurant with a huge grain of salt. While I like several dishes found in Chinese restaurant menus (mostly sweet & sour stuff such as sweet & sour pork, orange, mandarin or lemon meats as well as some version of sesame meat, Schezuan beef, and I love chow main), I am not very adventurous and have neither tried or plan to try any of the more "exotic" dishes that seem to give Chinese food the reputation of one of the best of the world. Mike is equally pedestrian in his choices, tending to go for his two or three favorite items every time. However, given the composition of most Chinese restaurant menus, I daresay that many people share our limited tastes.
The Oriental Tea House is located quite out of the way for us, on the other side of 580 close to the freeway. Still, it was not hard to find it and there is ample parking in their lot. The restaurant looks like your quintessential 70's Chinese restaurant, or at least, what I think a 70's Chinese restaurant would look like. It has one large main dining room, with tall flat ceilings and bright recessed lighting. They have both large round tables and smaller ones for four people. The waitresses wear uniforms with black pants, white shirts and red vests. Not our kind of ambiance, but not an unfamiliar one for that kind of restaurant either.
Service was OK, not as good as it should have been given that the place was rather empty when we got there (maybe 5 other tables were taken). We had to wait several minutes to get seated (or even greeted), and again it took a long time before we could get our bill: the waitresses were busy cleaning up one large table and we couldn't get their attention. Still, the food came promptly and our waitress was patient while we decided whether we wanted regular noodles or pan friend ones.
The food, however, is what really shines at the Oriental Tea House. Their menu is more limited than that of other Chinese restaurants, though still extensive enough, particularly seafood wise. Most of the dishes in the menu are those at your typical Chinese restaurant in the US, I could not tell if they had a separate Chinese menu but I should note that most of the clientele appeared Chinese. As with Chinese restaurants in general, the portions were enormous and the prices ridiculously low. Most pork, beef and chicken dishes were $6 and seafood dishes did not go higher than $9. Most amazingly, the food did not seem to suffer (much) from this.
We decided on some of our old favorites: beef chow mein, lemon chicken and cashew nut chicken. The were all delicious. The cashew nut chicken, which came with diced water chestnuts, carrots and mushrooms and very few cashew nuts, had a wonderful, savory sauce that we both liked a lot. The lemon chicken appeared to be one large breast, flattered and lightly battered. The result were thick slices, where the tender meat outshone the crispy batter cover. This was a good thing, as often all you can taste in lemon chicken is the batter. The sauce was also very good, complementing rather than overwhelming the chicken. Even Mike, who is not partial to this dish, really liked it. The chow main was also good, though the meat was a bit fatty. Some people might not have liked the ratio of noodles to bean sprouts and other veggies (which was overwhelming on the side of the noodles), but that was a plus for me (as I don't eat vegetables). In all, this was very competent Chinese food, specially for a place like San Leandro. One thing that made the food specially appealing was that it was brought hot to the table. It wasn't tongue-burning hot, but a couple of notches hotter than most of the food you tend to get at restaurants. In a cold night like Friday night that was greatly welcomed.
While we may still try other San Leandro Chinese restaurants, we are certain to return to the Oriental Tea House when we are in the mood for good Chinese food.
Oriental Tea House
604 MacArthur Blvd.