On April 14, 2015 (my birthday!) we had the pleasure of eating at Tea Master Vegetarian Restaurant.
Tea Master is a vegetarian restaurant. It offers numerous delicious vegan options too. Their menu has a satisfactory variety of Asian main meals and entrées.
Tea master is located near the Central Business District (CBD) of Brisbane in Fortitude Valley. It’s right on the edge of Chinatown.
On foot, Tea Master was effortless to find. It wouldn’t be very visible if you were driving on the road though. There are columns in front of the strip mall where Tea Master is located, which can obscure the view of the sign.
I walked to the restaurant so I didn’t check for parking availability. I am sure there is somewhere to park as there are plenty of restaurants and shops nearby. I noticed a large Asian strip mall located a street over from Wickham Street, which appeared have parking available.
Intro to Tea Master
Tea Master calls itself a café. The food served isn’t what I would call café food, but the size of the restaurant is similar to that of a café. The restaurant is quite modest. I estimate that around 40 people could dine there at one time.
Tea Master doesn’t sport many decorations but the interior isn’t bare either. The walls, floor, chairs and tables are light and neutral colored.
Oh, the food
Rob and I each ordered an entrée, main meal and drink. We split the entrées and allowed one another to taste both main meals. We also tasted each other’s drinks.
The entrées we selected were handmade dumplings and the vegetarian bean curd prawns.
We ordered the dumplings because I had never had Asian-style dumplings before. It was my birthday and I wanted to try something I hadn’t eaten before. The dumplings were filled with a variety of cooked vegetables and served with soy sauce. They weren’t deep fried but seemed to have a light coating of oil.
Rob and I never add salt to our meals at home, but since we weren’t worrying about nutrition or health at this meal, we went ahead and dipped the dumplings in the soy sauce. I was glad the soy sauce didn’t soak into the dumplings like it does with sushi. This allowed to soy sauce to lightly flavor the dumplings without overwhelming our taste buds with salt.
The dumplings are the best I’ve ever eaten… but they’re the only dumplings I have ever eaten. They weren’t “oh-my-goodness-these-are-amazing,” but nevertheless I was pleased with the overall flavor of the dumplings. Neither the filling nor the wrapper took center stage. Instead, the flavors of the two melded together to form a pleasant experience. I didn’t regret ordering them and am glad I had the ability to taste at least semi-authentic Asian dumplings.
We ordered the vegetarian bean curd prawns because Rob wanted to sample the prawns. Like many Australians, Rob used to enjoy prawns before he went plant-based. If we eat out at a restaurant, which is a rarity for us, and he sees vegan prawns on the menu, he orders them. He’s interested in comparing how different restaurants imitate prawn.
The bean curd prawns were breaded, deep-fried and served on a bed of shredded iceberg lettuce. I enjoyed the texture of the prawns, but it seemed more comparable to chicken than prawn. Rob — the prawn expert between the two of us — didn’t think the texture was accurate either. Despite the inaccurate consistency of the mock prawn, it was still tasty. The outside was crispy and the inside was moist.
However, because this was a deep fried meal it was difficult to eat them all. We rarely consume oil.
I ordered the Malaysian vegetarian curry lamb and Rob selected the vegetarian roasted duck. On the menu, lamb is only in the form of a meal set and duck is served with noodles. However, the waitress was flexible. I wasn’t required to order a meal set with my lamb and Rob switched out noodles for rice with his duck. My lamb came with rice as well and both of our mains came with a humble serving of cooked pak choy.
The only rice available is white rice, but white rice is more healthy than white flour-based noodles.
I ordered the lamb because I had never tasted it before either. And I was not disappointed.
WOW. I’ve never eaten real lamb in my life. I was immensely impressed with the appearance, taste and mouth-feel of the lamb I was served. Without being of real flesh, the lamb was fall-off-the-bone tender. The meat melted in my mouth. The lamb tasted as if it had been stewed on a low heat for hours. Rob tried it and, having tasted lamb before, affirmed the texture was spot on.
Not only was the mock meat a hit but the curry was also extremely flavorful. I suspect the curry was made with coconut milk, which contributed a smooth and slightly sweet taste. The curry was perfectly seasoned — an impeccable combination of spices and herbs.
Rob’s duck was impressive as well. One reason Rob found the restaurant and why we went was because he wanted to taste the faux duck. He wasn’t let down.
I was slightly shocked at how satisfactorily the restaurant imitated the taste and texture of layered fat on an animal. Rob was impressed with the composition of the duck, too. The duck was tastefully seasoned and flawless.
Rob ordered a mango milkshake and I got a taro milk tea with pearls. Both were made with soy milk instead of dairy milk, which cost extra.
I had a sip of Rob’s milkshake. From my encounter it was pleasant. Rob thought the mango milkshake was okay, but nothing special for what we paid for it. It was too sweet and basically just soy milk and syrup.
My taro milk tea was enjoyable and slightly too sweet, too. I wasn’t sure what I had ordered at first — I was interested in new experiences — but what came out was a drink I had already tasted in my hometown of Fargo, ND. It was still pleasurable, but nothing original.
Rob claims the taste of taro is similar to the taste of coffee. I agree to an extent, but taro is less bitter and creamier than coffee. From my experience with taro, taro has a slight caramel flavor but that could be attributed to the fact that all taro I have tasted has been in the form of sweetened drinks.
The pearls in the milk tea are difficult to describe. They have an indescribable flavor that is pleasant but not distinct. They have a texture similar to gummy bears but they have a wholly different taste. To somebody who hasn’t had them before, pearls are surprising. They pop into your mouth unexpectedly when you’re sipping your drink, so every time they do, you need to stop drinking to chew and swallow. I fancy to them, but they aren’t for everybody.
Meal total: $42.50
Pros and Cons
- Impressive mock meats
- Properly-seasoned food
- Not too salty
- Decent prices
- Quick service
- Offers take-out
- High fat
- White rice
- Some vegan replacements (i.e. soy milk) cost extra
- Small restaurant
- Cash only
In the end
Will I be dining at Tea Master again? No, for multiple reasons:
- This one meal cost us $42.50. We routinely spend around $50 per week on groceries. It simply isn’t economical for us to eat here. While the prices aren’t outrageous by any means, Rob and I are reluctant to spend that much money on a single meal when we can feed ourselves for an entire week for the same price.
- Tea Master’s food isn’t healthy. The food had a considerable amount of added oil and a moderate amount of added sugar and salt. Mock meats in general aren’t healthy. On top of that, they don’t serve whole grains (rice or noodles). You cannot eat the food that Tea Master serves on regular basis and call your diet healthy. Health, vitality and longevity are a priority to Rob and I.
- Even though the food is tasty, it didn’t make me feel my best. After we finished I felt heavy, overfull and lethargic. I usually avoid eating that much fat at one time. It’s difficult for a person who follows a low fat diet to suddenly eat a high fat meal. Later that day, my throat was sore. I felt fine the next day, but I blame the unhealthy meal for my throat and low energy levels.
- I like to cook. Because my job, which I am passionate about, involves an abundance of cooking, I don’t desire to eat at restaurants often. I adore experimenting and learning in the kitchen; creating recipes to put in a recipe book or on the blog is something that I look forward to every day. Eating at a restaurant takes that away from me.
- I desire new experiences. Sure, I haven’t tried the majority of the items on Tea Master’s menu, but I don’t feel the need to eat through their menu. I have tasted what they offer and am satisfied. Next time we want to eat at a restaurant, I’ll search for new restaurants that offer unique experiences.
- I’m leaving Brisbane (and Australia) soon. Even if I did wish to eat there again in the future, the next time we decide to eat at a restaurant, we won’t be anywhere near Brisbane.
On the other hand, I would definitely recommend Tea Master for several reasons.
- Dealing with added salt is nightmare when eating out. I’m glad to have found a restaurant that doesn’t over-salt their food. That’s coming from an individual who adds absolutely no salt to their food on a regular basis.
- Fantastic mock meats. Truly, of all the mock meats I’ve tasted, Tea Master is by far the best. If you’re attempting to convert friends or family to vegetarianism, veganism or a plant-based diet, Tea Master would be a marvelous introduction to quality cruelty-free meats. You could even bring them take-out if you wanted to keep the faux meat a secret until you told them. I bet they wouldn’t notice a difference.
- Tea Master isn’t too unhealthy. Yes, the oil is a problem, but I’ve felt a considerably worse after meals containing greater amounts of fat. If you don’t eat a low fat diet like Rob and I, I doubt you’d have an adverse reaction to the meal.
- Tea Master is not a chain restaurant. I prefer to eat at local restaurants instead of chains. Small-scale restaurants tend to offer higher quality and better overall experiences than larger restaurants and chains.