The Asian Tea House is a pan Asian restaurant in the heart of Galway, serving dishes from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, China and Japan. It’s quite a lively spot with plenty of 20 somethings in groups, mostly on an evening out, as well as pairs of more dedicated eaters there for the food.

There are certainly some nice touches that set the place apart – like the tea menu. Upon arrival, tiny cups of tasty jasmine tea were served to us. We also opted for Da Hong Pao (Royal Red Robe) (€9), a high grade Oolong very popular in China with a long, imperial history. This came in an attractive authentic Chinese teapot and pair of small bowl cups. It turned out to be a warming, full, smooth tea that still managed to avoid developing a tannic bite.

Wine matching can be challenging with Asian food: we went for the Prosecco – Il Cortigiano Prosecco Spumante (€27) which was off dry, peachy and worked well with the heat and sweetness of the food.

First dishes were miso soup (€5) for one and Indonesian fried fish slices marinated in coconut and turmeric, served with lime chilli sauce (€6.50) for the other. Miso soup was substantial for such a thin liquid, again beautifully presented, and brimming with a compulsive umami flavour (they claim not to use MSG here, which is a nice touch). The Indonesian fish dish (hake, I was informed) hit the spot, though varied somewhat from the menu: instead of lime chilli sauce, what arrived was sweet chilli with coriander, while an accompanying salad had a creamy, coconut lime sauce.

The first main was something of an event dish – Thai steamed sea bream on the bone with homemade tom yam paste served with tomato, oyster mushroom, birds eye chilli, lemongrass, lime leaf, galangal and ginger (€19.50). The sea bream was an impressive sight, its moist, fleshy meat quite delicately sweet. Tom yam is a fragrant, fiery favourite of mine, and this sauce was excellent, with superb range and balance. It also melded with the other dish elements in a positively restrained way. This dish was not so much a riot of flavours as an exquisitely executed tapestry of tastes, aromas and textures.

My companion opted for Szechuan duck served on a bed of leaves with Chinese plum dressing (€13). While the salad was unreconstructed 1980s in style, with big iceberg leaves, thinly sliced peppers and so on, it worked surprisingly well in terms of juiciness and mouthfeel. Quite an enormous, hearty salad, the chunky meat was well cooked and the plum sauce a blend of sweet and savoury, with ginger and coriander adding to the range.

We shared a flower blossom tea and a caramel parfait to finish: neither we felt were to the standard of the previous dishes or drinks. The Oriental Beauty (€4.50) was, unfortunately, more style than substance and the caramel parfait was somewhat basic.

Notwithstanding this ending, the overall experience was very enjoyable, and we’ll certainly give some other teas and dishes a go next time.

OLIVER MOORE

We loved two of the tea experiences, ingredient quality, flavour range

We spent €94

Asian Tea House Restaurant
Mary St,
Galway.
Tel: +353 (0)91 563749;
www.asianteahouse.ie