Hanlin Tea Room, a Taiwanese chain which originated in Tainan, opened its San Francisco branch today in the commodious space at the corner of Jackson and Kearny Streets once intended for Ten Ren's Tii Restaurant and Tii Cafe. Hanlin claims to be "The first store to sell milk tea with tapioca pearls in Taiwan" but it is much more than a boba joint. It's a casually elegant eatery with a range of fine teas (available by the pot or iced), Taiwanese style "small eats" and more elaborate lunch and dinner fare.
According to Hanlin Tea Room's promotional materials, development of their tea noodles required studying the procedure in Japan, and testing of various teas for suitability; they finally settled on an aromatic Tie Guanyin ("Iron Goddess") tea for this purpose. There are three tea noodle variants on Hanlin's menu: Pork Chop Noodles, Fried Chicken Noodles and Chicken Leg Noodles. In actuality, the meat "toppings" are side dishes, and the sole visible protein in bowl as served is a herd-boiled "tea" egg which tastes of pu'er tea.
My "pork chop" was in fact a breaded and fried pork cutlet, tonkatsu-style, sliced for convenince. It was tender, juicy and tasty, but had little connection to the noodle soup, other than a pork-flavor "theme:" I wondered later if it weren't meant to be tossed into the soup.
Where slurped: Hanlin Tea Room, 809 Kearny St., San Francisco
|Source: Hanlin Tea Room Website|