Grace Crocker, Staff Writer
Tea Leaf is a locally owned Chinese restaurant within walking distance from campus. I went with friends Ryan Patterson and Dioni Roberson on Friday, Oct. 11 at about 5 p.m. to eat dinner. We were not there early enough to try the lunch specials, but there were still plenty of options for us.
Tea Leaf has an extensive menu at reasonable prices. There are several lunch specials, combos, and dinner specials. There are plenty of options with food like beef, pork, chicken, vegetables, pot stickers, spring and egg rolls, wonton soups, seafood, chow mein, lomein, chop suey, and fried rice. The portion sizes are worth the price; one dish is rather large and can range from around $12 to $15. Whether you are a meat lover or a vegetarian, there are plenty of options to choose from.
When we arrived, we were quickly met at the front, sat down, and received menus. After browsing the menu for a few minutes, I ordered vegetable chow mein, Ryan ordered vegetable chop suey, and Dioni ordered chicken curry. In total, our order was about $36 for the three of us. While we were waiting for our order, we were offered hot tea, which we drank in ceramic cups with traditional Chinese designs like dragons, flowers, and ornate symbols. The food came quickly after we ordered and was served hot with a portion of sticky rice. The waiter was positive and kind, willing to explain menu items we were unsure of and was always smiling. When we were ready to pay, he met us up at the front and completed the transaction quickly while engaging in small talk. Compared to chain restaurants, where cashiers tend to rush you along to get you out of their hair quickly, this was refreshing and gave a great impression.
The interior of the restaurant is decorated with Chinese-style pictures, sculptures, and plants. The entrance of the restaurant is welcoming with its minimalistic, yet stylishly cozy array of flowers and decorations. The front doors resemble traditional Chinese doors, which are large, appearing to be heavy but very easy to open, and brass-colored with images of zodiac signs. There is a lot of seating able to hold quite a few parties of any size. At the dinner hour, there were several other people eating, yet the restaurant was not crowded.
The food itself left a positive impression. The three of us had no complaints when we started eating and were all able to finish what was in front of us, even if it did take a while due to the portion sizing. Included for free were three fortune cookies, one for each of us, as well as chopsticks and soy sauce. I would come again to try other menu items. I definitely want to return to try some of their meat options. I love meat, and I could only imagine what their beef chow mein would taste like.
Because of its proximity to campus and the value of the quality and size of the meal, I would recommend this to anyone who wanted to try a local Chinese establishment. Some menu items can be a bit on the pricey side, but for both the quality and quantity I would say it’s worth it. Tea Leaf is located at 4646 Pacific Ave. SE, Lacey, WA. They are open Monday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and their phone number is (360) 459-3800.