Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Cha An Teahouse

Cha An Teahouse - 230 East 9th Street (Japanese)

Despite its location in the centre of Little Toyko/East Village, Cha-An is a somewhat hard to find. The sign announcing its presence is modest - a simple brown placard with the name printed plainly. No splashy signs or advertisements for Cha-An...just a narrow flight of stairs leading upward to an intimate little teahouse - and a needed oasis from the streets outside.

There are times in every New Yorker's life that you just need a break from the surroundings, finding yourself driven to someplace peaceful, quiet...even serene. In mid-town that place is
Sakagura, or even the upstairs area of Old Bridge Deli. In the East Village, it could well be Cha-An. Decorated in bamboo, the small space exudes class - whether one chooses a table, a booth, or the small bar near the kitchen. (I've been told the restrooms are equally stylish - complete with seat warmers and other Japanese amenities. But then, I failed to visit those, and resist the urge to digress...)

At Cha-An the speciality of the house is--of course--tea. Not surprisingly, there's a full menu available - offering everything from green tea, pu-erh tea, and more intoxicating items such as sake and lychee cocktails. Lunch and dessert are also served, both in "sets" ranging around $20, or ala carte items running $7-8 each. Savory dishes (which have apparently received mixed reviews) include soy milk quiche, porridge and salmon. But the sweets are what I came for - ordering a black sesame brulee, green tea truffles and the winter bean soup known as Zenzai. Sweet and warm, both the Zenzai and the brulee proved tasty - though not worth a special trip across town. But nothing could have prepared me for the truffles - an absolute dessert delight of rich deep chocolate, wrapped in the softest of mochi dough. Wow, was this good...equal to
Sakagura's green tea truffles, and the white mochi treats at Koryodang. And that's saying quite alot.

Finally, the time came for me to leave. Full of dessert -- and glowing with truffles - I paid the bill (cash only at Cha-An), and wandered into the noise of the streets below. Was it expensive? Somewhat - and the portions are admittedly small. But it made for the perfect special treat. And sometimes, a moment of peace is worth the expense.

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