We finally really hung out in Berkeley for the first time on Sunday morning. My roommate’s friend R told us about a Thai Buddhist temple in South Berkeley (which is a 5 min drive away because Berkeley is that small – Wikipedia says population of Berkeley according to 2000 census is 102,743 people).
The temple is called Wat Mongkolratanaram. Quite a mouthful so I’ll refer to it as WM. The temple is trying to raise funds for the temple. I believe they are trying to renovate the current temple or possibly even build a new one because it’s currently in an establishment that looks like a house.
Anyway, they can’t actually sell food because of some legal whatever (probably not a legally incorporated non-profit). So they exchange tokens for cash and you can redeem the tokens for food.
The temple itself was beautiful. But the food was even better.
They have gigantic posters where they display the menu with how much each meal costs in terms of tokens. You exchange tokens for cash (only) and then go crazy with whatever you want.
Some of the best things they serve are thai iced tea (of course, an orange beverage also known as iced goodness), any of the curries, pad thai, and the desserts. They had yellow and red curries the day I went. I also hopped into the vegetarian line which was much faster than the meat-eaters’ line. Honestly there wasn’t a huge difference in terms of selection, except tofu substituted meat. And the tofu was amazing. So if you don’t want to wait, it might be worth it. The curry had coconut milk and was amazingly fragrant. Comes with white rice. The pad thai tastes like what pad thai should really taste like, unlike the orange sticky stuff overcooked you get at Thai fast food takeaways. And I also got some vegetable bean dish. It was all very yummy. They have other dishes which are very tasty like the pineapple chicken curry and spring rolls. Mmmm…I also got dessert. And that was possibly even better than the main meal. I’ve had a lot of experience with eating Thai food. My mum used to work at a Thai food shop and so I’ve grown up eating a lot of delicious Thai food. And the desserts were authentic and bursting with flavour, waiting to be eaten. I got the mango black glutinous rice pudding which was goooood. They cook the rice in coconut milk and add some pudding and mango. Some of the best rice pudding I’ve had in years and surprisingly hard to find unless you know where to go for some real Thai food.
My friends got some glutinous rice/mochi balls dipped in coconut. That was not so good; kind of bland actually. So definitely shoot for the rice pudding if you ever go.
Later I found out the monks and volunteer cooks prepare the food and take Friday and Saturday to do it. So you really taste the homemade style of loving cooking. And the ambiance is really zen and relaxed. You don’t mind waiting in line for the food. Everybody is sitting on the grass next to each other enjoying brunch. And it’s a really nice place to hang out and meet new people. I highly recommend it.
For the afternoon, we decided to visit the Exploratorium in San Francisco because we heard there would be some fun science things to do. And being nerds (self-identified, yes), we decided to go to see if we could play with some cool experiments.
The drive there was longer than expected especially on Sunday afternoon with the traffic. So if you’re in SF on the weekends, avoid driving! When we finally arrived, the area was very nice. It’s right next to the waterfront so the view is already amazing. Additionally, there is an artificial point, water fountain and the building itself is very beautiful. We went in bought tickets (it’s kinda of expensive, even with the student ID) and I let my inner child run wild. Incidentally it was also pi day 3/14 (March 14th) so they gave away free pie from a bakery in SF.
Some waited in line while the rest of us ran about playing with all the cool gadgets. There was a car that made funny noises I enjoyed. There was a guy from a local pizzeria who bought dough and taught us how to spin it into a thin disc to make pizza.
I really liked the exhibit with huge metal hoops you dip into bubble water and run around creating huge bubbles. That was amazing. M and I even managed to join 2 bubbles together to great a big crazy looking one.
We left when they kicked us out at closing time and went to Little Italy where M had mentioned she wanted to check out an Italian bakery that sold cannoli. They’re a sweet hard pastry, one end dipped in chocolate in this case, rolled into a tube, filled with sweet cream with chocolate chips. Seriously, rich and heavy stuff. So I tried half of one and I liked it. But it’s not something I recommend eating regularly or even the entire thing. Might make you sick from the sugar and cream, unless you have a stomach of steel. There were some other lovely baked goodies the store sold like pastries and other Italian desserts I feel grossly under-qualified to talk about. So I’ll just leave you with the pictures.
As a side note, not only is traffic horrible in SF, don’t expect to find parking either. We ended up having to pay….$20 or something ridiculous like that for about 45min – 1 hour parking and had a fight with the parking attendant. Since there was 5 of us, we split it. But we were pretty unhappy about the whole thing.
Eventually we made it back and were really tired. M and I visited the Crepevine, a restaurant we had passed by a number of times in Berkeley. It looked cute and we decided to try it. Plus the name of the place was a fun play on words. The food was delicious. And the menu was so daunting you can definitely get whatever you want. The next day we saw another one in SF actually so knowing it was a franchise killed a bit of the magic. But still, good dependable resto open until late late at night for the college students.