Students, moviegoers and moms pushing strollers all line up for the bubble tea at Tea Leaf Cafe, next to the AMC theater at Maple and Sweet Home roads. But the place offers more to chew than tapioca pearls, offering snacks and light meals.
Join the line and chances are you'll be done reading the brief list of food options before the cashier asks for your order. There's chicken, pork or vegetarian dumplings ($5.50), spring rolls in the same denominations ($4.95), rice boxes in chicken, beef and pork ($6.95-$7.95), edamame ($2.95) and Taiwanese popcorn chicken ($4.50). A banh mi sandwich ($5.95) that was unavailable when I visited.
(The menu is below; the version on its website is out of date.)
Bubble tea comes in milk versions, on ice or frozen, in about 50 configurations, from "almond" to "yogurt." There's another 35 kinds of tea, from Apricot Ceylon to something called White Tropics.
I'm not a bubble tea connoisseur, but a mango black bubble tea ($4.05, pictured above) was refreshing, and I enjoyed the chewy black "pearls." A ginger black bubble tea had a spicy ginger note that reminded me of ginger Altoids, not unpleasant if you enjoy that flavor.
A cook brought the dishes to our table. Taiwanese popcorn chicken was greaseless and crunchy, much better than the versions I've had from fast-food drive-thrus.
Pork dumplings were fresh and simple. We also ordered the chicken version, and got an apology from the cook, who said he ruined ours and was cooking more. I didn't have a movie to catch, so I didn't mind the wait. I'd sure rather get an apology and wait than get second-class dumplings.
The Chicken Katsu Curry box ($6.95) was a tasty little number, with crispy chicken filet, or katsu, chopped and napped with a mild Thai curry coconut sauce akin to masaman curry, with chunks of potato and shredded carrot. The "spicy crab" potato salad was interesting, dressed with sesame mayonnaise.
The focus here seemed to be on the tea part of the business, and several food items were unavailable. But what we did have was freshly cooked and reasonably priced.
Info: Tea Leaf Cafe, 4224 Maple Road, Amherst, 831-8202
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