Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thai Buddhist Temple in the East Bay

Alert, alert! Mystery Eater Post up ahead!

Wat Mongkolratanaram is a Thai Buddhist Temple located in the East Bay- South Berkeley to be exact. It's close proximity to public transit (Ashby Bart, bus), wide variety of food choices, and unique location made it on my "must-try" list. And finally, one fateful Sunday morning, I was able to cross it off my list!

Wildly popular, the temple has been there for 33 years, and is in current talks regarding its zoning.
The Temple has been accused of being a "commercial restaurant," while the Temple contends that it is part of a Thai tradition, to serve its weekly brunch in exchange for tokens. You can read more here:

Whatever the local political ramifications, the food is what is at issue here! You can exchange cash for tokens, and tokens for food.

There are several different stations, which can be hard to maneuver amidst the crowds.

They have a "beef noodle" station where you pick your desired noodles, they throw it in some quick hot broth, and some choice meats.

The fare? Lurking behind the mosquito net, it's 6 tokens.

To the left of the "beef noodle" station was one, I'll lovingly call the "fried" section!

There were little coconut cakes and green onion cakes being served up, hot and fresh! (NOTE: The lady on the left seems to be agitated at my photo-taking!)

Another "station" was one for mixed plates-- various items served with rice-- yellow curry, red curry, green beans, eggplant with tofu, pad thai, etc. There were both vegetarian and meat options (vegetarian yellow curry, chicken yellow curry, etc).

Wanting to try a variety of these dishes, we opted for the plates. These "items" seem to be exclusive of rice, so we ended up with one plate of rice, green beans, yellow chicken curry and pad thai. The yellow curry was wonderful-- sweet, and the generous pieces of chicken were tender.

Unfortunately, the pad thai wasn't very good-- the noodles were broken and short, as if they were the remnants of a crushed package of noodles. Also, they were overly-drenched in sauce, as if to cover up the

Another "miss" was the green beans. Being an avid fan of all things spicy (flaming hot cheetos, sriracha, chili pepper flakes, etc.), these were spicy to the point of being untasty. Exclusive of the sauce, the green beans were still crispy, but not raw-- too bad about the sauce, which made it hard to enjoy.

Another plate was filled with rice, whole egg/beef mixture, beef in a red or massaman curry, and two whole chicken legs. The chicken leg was tender, and even though it appeared dry, it wasn't! The egg/beef mixture was also very good and you can see some in the left corner of the photo.

Beverage of choice? Thai Iced Tea, of course, for one token.

The star of the show (er, Temple)? The rice had a nice sticky, gooey texture, and the accompanying tapioca was dense and concentrated in flavor. While mango isn't in season right now, they still managed to find some very ripe and sweet pieces to accompany the sticky rice.

At the price of five tokens, it was well worth it. And here's a macro of the mango, for the mango lover in you!

There is a lot of seating, with some tables reserved. You clean up after yourself.

The lines can be long, so do get there early. It's a great atmosphere, buzzing with lively conversations, and most importantly, a lot of variety in the choices of food. Nothing fancy, but good portions and a nice change of scenery from your local stand-by thai restaurant.

Wat Mongkolratanaram

1911 Russell St

(between Martin Luther King Jr Way & Otis St)

Berkeley, CA 94703

(510) 849-3419

Sundays: 9 A.M. to 2 P.M.


Anonymous said...

Wow! I wish I was in the Bay Area so I could check that out... looks interesting.

Charlie Fu said...

The sticky rice on the mango is OH SO GOOD. Especially mixed in with the tapioca pudding. *noms*

Also the fried chicken looks dry, but is surprisingly moist and flavorful. You can order it with the rice by itself for "5 tokens"

Little Miss Contrary said...

Have you ever gone to the Thai Wat in Escondido? They don't have the food vendors every weekend, but they usually have the vendors during Thai New Years in April.

Charlie Fu said...

I haven't been to Thai Wat before, but I'll definitely have to check it out!

Stella said...

Very worthwhile data, thank you for your article.