I first stumbled across Wat Mongkolratanaram online, probably on a blog, and decided I had to go to there. One day a week, the Berkeley Thai Temple transforms into a brunch spot, where you trade money for tokens, and then go around to a few different stations picking up food to eat at a picnic bench or out on the lawn.
Our visit wasn’t on the prettiest of days. That Sunday, Berkeley was overcast and cold, but people still showed up the temple in droves. Despite suggestions to arrive early, Dom let me sleep in that day, so we rolled up around 11.
I just loved the whole spectacle of it. Was it the best Thai food I’d ever had? No. But I gathered our tokens in a little plastic cup while Dom waited in line, and then tried to figure out what to order before we reached the front. I settled on pad thai, because I’m always mad when I don’t order it, and a yellow curry. I think Dom got cashew chicken and pad thai. Thai iced coffee and iced tea were also available for about one token (one token = $1). Most of the tables were full, so we ended up scoping out a place on the lawn, right by a circle of UC Berkeley students celebrating someone’s birthday party. Another group came by and pretty much sat on top of me, but I guess personal boundaries aren’t a thing you argue in a temple.
One of the best things I had was the mango sticky rice, which I anxiously searched for on our first pass and couldn’t find, until I overheard someone ask about it and get pointed farther down the booths. It may have been all the yelp reviews raving about it, but that mango rice was bomb dot com. Dom got something with bananas in it, which I tried and then tried to forget since I hate bananas. I’m sure it was good.
All in all, I’m happy we went and checked it out. The whole thing was an entirely novel approach to brunch, and while i love overpriced pastry baskets and so-so eggs benedict as much as the next person, it was nice to shake it up. I’d recommend going early, going on an overcast day (it could have been way worse if it had been sunny), bringing a blanket to throw down on the lawn, and experimenting with the vegetarian entrees—that line was infinitely shorter and oftentimes overlooked. 1911 Russell St., Berkeley, (510) 849-3419.