Starts with tea

The T-Bar’s healthful, Asian-inspired fare complements its large selection of teas

Taj McGrew and daughter Alleia enjoy an afternoon tea in the cozy T-Bar on a rainy Saturday.

Taj McGrew and daughter Alleia enjoy an afternoon tea in the cozy T-Bar on a rainy Saturday.

Photo By jason cassidy

T. Tea Bar & Fusion Café
250 Vallombrosa Ave. 895-8100 Hours: Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-8 p.m.

T Bar

250 Vallombrosa Ave.
Chico, CA 95928

(530) 895-8100

Gee, it’s nice to have some of my favorite lunch fare in town just across the street from my office. The restaurant with the unwieldy (and largely unused) name of T. Tea Bar & Fusion Café—better known as simply T-Bar—serves up an Asian-Californian fusion of deliciousness consisting of a rather uncomplicated menu of bowls and wraps, as well as a pleasantly dizzying array of hot, iced, sparkling and frozen tea drinks.

I’ve eaten at T-Bar numerous times. It’s a place I like to take out-of-town visitors to show them the fresh, healthful goodness that the Chico dining scene has to offer. When the weather isn’t too blustery, T-Bar’s patio is a great place to sit. It’s also kid-friendly. My 9-year-old daughter, Lydia, and I stopped by there on her way home from school the other day to cozy up to a hoisin-barbecued salmon wrap ($6.95) and a Kid’s Bowl ($5.95)—normally teriyaki chicken and rice, but Lydia substituted salmon for no extra charge.

Here’s how T-Bar’s food works: Fusion Bowls ($8.95) are assembled in three steps. Step 1: Choose the protein you’d like as a topping. Choices are black-pepper tri-tip, roasted ginger-lamb, sweet chili-chicken, hoisin-barbecued salmon or grilled ginger tofu. Step 2: Pick a grain or salad: Seasoned white rice, organic brown rice, Israeli couscous, organic baby greens, romaine lettuce or half salad/half rice. And finally, pick a dressing from four delicious options: wasabi ginger (my favorite), house miso, creamy teriyaki or honey mustard. Then the kitchen puts it together for you, adding sliced avocado, julienned cucumber and carrot, sesame seeds and daikon-radish sprouts.

Basically the same goes for the wraps, all flavors of which go for $6.95. The filling choices are the same as for the bowl toppings, and you get your choice of rice, dressing and a tortilla-like wrapper (garlic herb, whole wheat or spinach). Avocado, cucumber, carrot and greens also get wrapped inside.

T-Bar also offers teriyaki chicken and pineapple skewers ($4.95), a bowl of warm edamame with your choice of seasoned salt ($3.95), miso soup ($4.95) and several dessert items.

As I write, my mouth still lingers on the taste of the tofu bowl I had this afternoon—thick, juicy, grilled strips of flavorful, ginger-infused tofu atop a bed of half baby greens and half brown rice, sliced avocado, cucumber, carrots and so on. I opted for the honey-mustard dressing this time, because I always get the wasabi-ginger, but I ended up putting both on my bowl (owner Shelly Blanshei, knowing my wasabi-ginger habit, accommodatingly put containers of both dressings into my to-go bowl).

And those teas. I am hooked on the creamy, sweet Black Tea & Vanilla frost ($3.85). Normally, it is made as a steamed drink, but any drink on the T-Bar menu—with such enticing names as Green Tea & Coconut, Honeytea Latte, and Oolong & Caramel Cream—can be made iced or blended into a frost. My teenaged neighbor Carly is addicted to the chocolate-chai frost. Both are divinely scrumptious, almost unbelievably so.

T-Bar’s tea drinks are served in stocky, “Hecho en Mexico” glasses, with fat straws to suck up all that yummy goodness. A particularly fun thing to do with an iced or sparkling drink is to add giant, black tapioca “pearls” for an additional 50 cents—they look cool going up the straw and are oddly appealing to chew on.