Class 302 Tea Cafe - Irvine
I think it speaks to Irvine's changing demographics that it can support not one but two Class 302's. I've said it before and I think I'll say it again: if they ever decide to name any city in Orange County its official Taiwan Town, it would have to be Irvine.
Boiling Point, Four Seas, 85 Degrees, Yu's Garden, the venerable A&J--these are all Taiwanese joints among many others in a town whose population might not have known the difference between kung pao chicken and teriyaki if you set your time machine back to 1980. But now, look at it: Class 302, the school-classroom themed restaurant that made it big in Rowland Heights, and then made it big in Irvine next to Wholesome Choice (which is a Persian supermarket, by the way), has opened its second outlet at the Irvine Marketplace. And there are lines out the door!
Most of the people you encounter come to do the self-serve boba drinks, which is not just new for Class 302, but Orange County in general.
With mechanized spigots you expect to dispense frozen yogurt, you construct your own milk tea, ice slush, you name it. Then, from troughs kept behind a sneeze guard, you scoop in your choice of jelly, fruit, or boba. Whatever you get, however much boba you add to your cup, it's a flat fee of about $4.
And no, there are no refills.
Still, getting a boba drink here requires you to have a certain level of trust for the person ahead of you and the people ahead of them. So if the thought of the hundreds of unwashed hands handling the wares is too much to process, then you are a germophobe, and you're probably better off getting your boba drink at Lollicup. Instead come to Class 302 for the food, especially the pork chop, which comes with the deep-fried batter already shedding, the pork sliced and sweet of its rice-wine marinade.
And if you order the chops as a bento, you'll be given a cute little lunch tin, which disassembles into two containers--one with ground-pork-and-pickled-vegetable-strewn rice, and the other with sautéed vegetables, pickles, and a tomato-and-egg scramble.
Also great: the thousand-year-old-egg and cold tofu appetizer that's doused with a savory brown sauce, pork rousong, scallions, and bonito flakes. It is refreshing, the perfect cooling bite of food when the weather is as hot as it has been. But then is there bad version of this dish?
The service might be a bit frenzied and forgetful right now--it's only been open a few weeks. And just like the original, they only accept cash. And once in a while, someone at the next table orders a stinky tofu dish that brings with it its usual smell of rot and decay. But this is Irvine in 2014, O.C.'s unofficial Taiwan Town, and if you live and eat here, you will need to learn to love the stench of stinky tofu.
13256 Jamboree Rd.
Irvine, CA 92602
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