One of the things I love most about New York City is there always room for a new discovery. This time it was Cha-An, a Japanese tea house, tucked away on the second floor on a quiet strip of East Ninth Street.
The space almost has the feel of a bamboo forest as you enter with small booths carved out for an intimate dining experience. You can enjoy a complete meal or just dessert. And of course, there is a lengthy list of teas to choose from with names like Lavendar Mint, Crimson Chai, and the flavor I settled on, Jasmine Pearl; a blend of green tea and jasmine blossoms.
The menu at Cha-An resembles a family photo album, offering brief descriptions of various dishes. I opted for the Oka-yu which is actually several different dishes presented on a wicker tray. The centerpiece is a large bowl of grain porridge served alongside six smaller bowls, each with something different to enjoy. One bowl featured large chunks of sauteed salmon in a tangle of carrots, mushrooms and green onions in a delicate sauce. Another bowl contained seaweed with dried tofu against the backdrop of bright green soybeans and a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds. There were two types of pickles; one tart, another not, and a small bowl of flaked salmon all puffed up. The final dish contained a single sour plum. The mix of flavors and textures adds to this sensory adventure.
Desserts include the house special black sesame creme brulee, a chocolate souffle with raspberry sauce, scones and green tea truffles.
Cha-An is the perfect place if you are looking for an escape. The ambiance and doting staff will ensure the perfect meal, but remember to bring cash. Credit cards are not accepted.