There is a remarkable experience available every Sunday in a residential neighborhood in Berkeley where the local Thai temple serves an amazing brunch. Members of the congregation cook and serve and people throughout the bay come for the steam table Thai food, the colors, sights and smells of alfresco dining, perhaps a peek at Buddha and the temple, and a feeling of connection with each other and with a country half a world away.
I first went to the Wat Mongkolratanaram temple brunch a few years ago, had a wonderful time and took some nice photos and filed it under "I need to blog about this," but got busy with other things and kinda forgot about it.
Now the Sunday morning tradition is endangered since it seems that the temple's residential neighbors are a little tired of some 1,352 visitors for brunch every Sunday and the temple's operating permit from the city only allowed three such brunches a year. The temple has filed to revamp its permit and has tried to ameliorate some of its neighbors' concerns as to parking, hours, trash, etc., so I hope some compromise can be reached at the February 12 Berkeley Zoning Adjustment Board Meeting since not only is the brunch a remarkable event to participate in, it raises a lot of money for the temple and its cultural center.
When I went, the food was good, not great. There were vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. I remember the mango sticky rice dessert with a lot of fondness. We had waited for a nice day, since all seating is outside. We went into the temple and enjoyed talking to the monk who was there from Thailand.
The site I found for the temple was all in Thai.
Info on the Thai cultural center (in English)
Save the Thai Temple has updates on the permit and links to the planning board and other sites.
This article in Harboiled, the UC Berkeley Asian American news magazine, has a lot of background
There is a Facebook page dedicated to saving the Sunday brunch and helping the Thai temple.
For more info on the food and the brunch experience, check out the temple's Yelp listing here. There are something like 271 reviews of the experience listed.
Note: Brunch hours are now 10 to 1. The temple is located at 1911 Russell St., Berkeley, CA 94703. Phone is (510) 849-3419
While I cook Thai food quite often (and eat it out even more often), I really haven't blogged much about it. You can read some of my Thai curry recipes here and here. But do what I do when I am looking for a Thai recipe, check out Chez Pim's Thai recipe category.
Update: The Thai Temple received preliminary approval from the zoning board. The temple still awaits final approval and could face appeals from the neighbors. As of this writing, Sunday brunch is still being served (4/1/09).