Under the Tea Tree (花楸树下)
You may have noticed Under the Tea Tree while walking down Wenchang Bei Lu toward Hunter Mall. Its second-story terrace has wooden tables with wide umbrellas for shade. It’s a great place where the food comes out fast, hot and full of flavor. As an added bonus, one of the staff members speaks great English, so calling to reserve a table or ask a question is a breeze. If you’ve been to Schooldays Restaurant, you’ll be familiar with the style of this restaurant, as it’s one of three owned by the same people. Aside from the gorgeous patio in the front, the 3rd floor has an open rooftop with swing tables. Sit there to enjoy the air away from the noise of the street below.
Under the Tea Tree serves local dishes, and they do a great job. Dishes are largely fried, but there are also some cold offerings and soups. I haven’t had anything that wasn’t good here, but some dishes really shine.
mápó nǎohuā dòufu — 麻婆脑花豆腐 — Mapo Tofu and Pig Brain
Pictured here (sans brains), the Mapo Tofu at this restaurant is very good. We asked them to hold the brains, as we’re not huge fans, and they were happy to comply. If you’re not familiar with the dish, it’s very soft tofu cubes with chili oil, black pepper, and ground pork.
yǒujī huācài — 有机花菜 — Organic Cauliflower with Pork
This is a simple dish, but one you’ll want to try. It’s cauliflower stir-fried with slices of lean pork, and it’s a good dish to order if you are avoiding spicy food.
báicài huì xiǎodòu — 白菜烩小豆 — Small Beans stewed with Greens
This very Guizhou dish has small pinto-like beans stewed with greens, with a little bit of diced tomato in a gingery, bean-thickened broth. Spoon it over your rice to enjoy.
nǎinai tǔdòuní — 奶奶土豆泥 — Grandma’s Mashed Potatoes
These things are so good that we order them in advance when we call to reserve a table. Feast on Guizhou-style mashed potatoes with green onion and crispy pork (cuìshāo/脆烧), but without the chili powder you’d find on most local potato dishes. The only complaint here is that sometimes the potatoes are not particularly hot. If that’s a deal-breaker for you, you may wish to skip it.
qīngjiāo qiézi léi pídàn — 青椒茄子擂皮蛋 — Green Pepper and Eggplant with Century Eggs
This is a cold dish I would have avoided when I first came to China, but now it’s a favorite. Strips of eggplant and green pepper are cooked and then cooled, and topped with wedges of century eggs. The salty tang of the century eggs really sets off the veggies. You need to use your chopsticks to smash it all together to combine the flavors. Pictured above, at the bottom of the photo.
cuìpí dòumǐ — 脆皮豆米 — Crispy Fried Pinto Beans
Pictured above at the top left, this is a salty, slightly spicy and numbing dish. The crunch of the celery nicely complements the crispy beans. This is something I order anytime I see it on a menu, and the one here is especially good.
Frustratingly, Under the Tea Tree recently changed menus from a beautifully photographed menu to a paper checklist. Pictured below is the menu, with added red stars for the dishes listed above.
Under the Tea Tree is on Wenchang Bei Lu, just up the street from Hunter Mall. If you’re walking from Hunter, just walk up the hill, pass two traffic lights and keep an eye to your right. The restaurant is elevated above the street. It’s pretty hard to miss!
TAXI (to Hunter Mall): 亨特购物中心