Tea House opening near campus

The Chinese restaurant will boast imported décor, authentic recipes and a full drink menu.

by Katherine Lymn

Walls with transforming colors, kissing booths and private rooms fill the fourth and most intricate location of the Tea House restaurant. Located one block southeast of TCF Bank Stadium, the new Chinese restaurant will host its grand opening Monday. Surrounding neighborhoods have been abuzz with news of the authentic imported Chinese décor the restaurant will have. Two semitrailersâÄô worth of Chinese imported goods became the restaurantâÄôs interior decorations and furniture, general manager David Harvey said. âÄúThe ceilings were sent to us from China,âÄù he said of the Chinese character art pieces that fill one dining room. Co-owner Daniel Wang, whose business partners are his wife, Yolanda, and his brother and sister-in-law, said the group hired a famed Beijing designer to design virtually every part of the establishment. The modernity of the space, compared to those of older Tea House locations, represents the modernization of Beijing due to the 2008 Olympics, Daniel Wang said. The genuineness of the décor mirrors the authenticity of the dining experience. A chef from the Sichuan province of China is currently working with the Tea House to train incoming employees, Yolanda Wang said. The chef will return to China next year, where he will acquire new skills to bring back to the restaurant, she said. The restaurant has a liquor license, which came with specific demands from the Prospect Park East River Road Improvement Association. The agreement is mainly âÄúsemanticsâÄù that regulate the restaurantâÄôs hard liquor advertising, PPERRIAâÄôs Florence Littman said. Mainly because of drunk driving fears, the neighborhood wanted to be sure the Tea House was not too centered on alcohol. âÄúThereâÄôs a difference between restaurants that serve liquor and bars that serve food,âÄù Littman said. This is understandable given the growing population of single-family homes in the area, Nancy Rose Pribyl, president of the Stadium Village Commercial Association, said. âÄúOf course we want the college students to come in and sit down and have a drink,âÄù Harvey said. But the artful catering of liquor options to food selections proves the restaurant is not all about the alcohol, he said. The restaurant will fill the building that Bakers Square restaurant occupied before closing in April 2008. âÄúIâÄôm really happy that we donâÄôt have a large vacant restaurant in the area anymore,âÄù Pribyl said. The restaurant is currently running through its âÄúsoft opening,âÄù which allows owners and employees to work out any kinks before the grand opening Monday, Harvey said. The restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily beginning that day. Late-night hours will likely start in fall 2010, when closing time is extended to 1 a.m. ItâÄôs a move aimed exclusively at University of Minnesota students, as other Tea House locations do not offer late-night hours, Harvey said. âÄúThere definitely is a position for a little more upscale facility within walking distance for students in the area,âÄù Pribyl said. Students can also benefit from the restaurantâÄôs employment opportunities; approximately 80 percent of front-line workers are students from Augsburg College, Hamline University or the University of Minnesota, Harvey said.