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By Steven Li on 2006-04-22

April 22, 2006

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I’m not too big on boba or frequenting tea houses like Ten Ren or Saint Alps. But I do have a weakness for condensed milk doused over thick slices of toast, which accounts for my midnight visit to Saint Alps in the East Village with some friends.

To start, a cup (jumbo sized, nonetheless) of black sesame milk tea and another of ruby grapefruit green tea. I must say, they were actually very good! I think it’s the boba part of the types of drinks that I dislike. I’m fine with chewing things while drinking (like lychee and various jellies) but massive tapioca balls are such a hassle and leave my jaw exhausted :) The black sesame was on the thick milkshakey side and grainy with bits of ground up sesame. It was like a cold version of the traditional Chinese black sesame dessert, only sweeter and not as intense. I just had a sip of the ruby grapefruit, very light and fragrant with tiny pink segments of fruit.

The “Taiwanese Hors d’oevures Sampler” came with a duo of deep fried fish balls, two barbeque chicken wings and shoyu boiled egg cuts into threes. Nothing exceptional nor particularly bad about the sampler, save for the fried fish balls cause deep fried savory food just tastes a million times better in the middle of the night. Blistering hot with a crunch and then a juicy “gush” with the initial bite, I think I would have been happy replacing the egg and chicken with some more fish balls.

A plate of fried octopus was wonderful when they first brought it to the table. Hot, crispy, crunchy and chewing at the same time, I ate one piece, then another and a few more. 5 minutes passed before I helped myself another serving. But seriously, what a difference 5 minutes makes. Settling in a room temp, the octopus became just hard. Like hard as in, can’t bite it into small enough pieces to swallow. So I just sucked on it for a bit and them spit it out. Sad.

Not bad for an Asian take on samosas! Very straightfoward: soft curried potatoes enclosed in sheets of phyllo and like all like night snacks, fried in hot vat of oil. Nothing you couldn’t make at home, but then again, you don’t come to a tea house expecting any sort of fine gourmet indulgence…unless it’s…

CONDENSED MILK TOAST!!! Ok, so it’s not really a gourmet indulgence by any standard, but god, this is so stupidly simple yet befuddlingly addictive. It’s in the bread. This breakfast/snack/dessert wouldn’t work on any fine rustic European bread or Wonderbread. It’s gotta be that Chinese kine bread. Where the crusts are never crispy and the innards are of sweet and dense. It doesn’t make good sandwiches, but cut a thick 1-2 inch slice, toast, and liberally pour on condensed milk straight from a can, and who the hell needs sandwiches? The hot bread soaks in the milk and there you have it: a innately satisfying sweet, yeasty way to call it an evening.

PS. I had the Green Tea Toast where a thick matcha cream was used in place of the milk. Er, not something you’d want to try. The cream was more like the texture of melted gummy bears and left an unpleasantly bitter aftertaste.

PPS. Eating so much food less than 30 minutes before sleep is a bad bad idea!

Saint Alps
39 3rd Avenue
New York NY 10003
(212)598-1890



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