Tapioca Express in Richmond serves up a veritable library of uniquely Taiwanese refreshments including the now ubiquitous Pearl Milk Tea, and its lesser known cousin: the shaved ice plate.
This Pearl Milk Tea franchise (you knew it was only a matter of time) originally hails from California. Our friends used to frequent it when they were in LA. They were thrilled a franchise made its way up north and decided to hook us up.
The bright, fluorescent signage beckoned to us from the parking lot of the Richmond strip mall. Once inside, we hit a lineup of a dozen patiently awaiting patrons. Service here is slow; if not inefficient. But nobody seemed to mind. Off in the corner, a group of young Asian students are playing a rowdy game of cards.
Case and I shared a shaved ice plate. I found it difficult to navigate the mangled menu for shave ice toppings written mostly in Chinese and hand-scrawled corrections, so I picked the toppings I readily recognized: red bean, coconut jelly, grass jelly, and a generous squeeze of condensed milk.
Our friends ordered us two plates of Taiwanese fried chicken: one medium hot, the other hot hot. The fried chicken was nicely deep-fried: crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. The hotness factor appeared to be determined by the amount of coverage obtained by the fiery red powder of what I assumed was some sort of chili mixture.
Tapioca Express is rather spacious, with some inefficient distribution of seating, which consequently provided us with generous elbow room to sit and chat. But by no means is this place Express in any way.
A late night snacking session for FOBs and non-FOBs alike.