Thursday, August 13, 2009


Shhhhh, don't tell B. I have a crush on Teaism. After two years of weekly visits, I'm still smitten. Teaism is a tea house/restaurant with 3 locations in DC. Though I love the Dupont Circle location's ambiance, the Penn Quarter Teaism is in my office building, so I go there all the time. In the winter, it's my only lunch spot since I don't have to go outside to get there! But even if I did, it would be worth the journey...

This location is always packed at lunch time but the friendly staff moves the line quickly and there is plenty of seating downstairs. A koi pond helps create a serene oasis in the bustling Penn Quarter neighborhood. Around dinner time, local groups descend on Teaism for their meeting place. Think book clubs, travel clubs, etc. According to one cashier, some of these large groups don't bother ordering anything yet take up tons of space. Teaism has finally responded by posting signs asking group members to support the restaurant by ordering food when they come for meetings. I think it's kind of sad that they even have to ask.

Several people I work with tease me for my Teaism devotion calling it "chick food" or "California food." Personally, I'm glad they don't know what they're missing because the line is long enough. I think they just don't "get" what Teaism is all about. I know it might be shocking to find a place that serves wholesome and (mostly) healthy food with fresh ingredients. While I don't think you can go wrong ordering at Teaism, I'll share with you a few of my favorite things.

If we're talking breakfast, I'm getting the oatmeal (with fruit and brown sugar) and a chai tea. Their chai smells so amazing (and tastes great too). One time my boss spilled one all over his desk and we were actually happy about it because the whole office smelled fantastic.

For lunch I rotate between several different items. If I'm not too hungry I get the fluffy brown rice and miso soup. Tip: throw the rice into the soup for a unique textural treat. Sometimes I go for the side of tofu and brown rice (no California jokes, please). I'm also a big fan of the naan with mango chutney (pictured below). They switched to a whole wheat naan which isn't as fluffy as the white naan was, but I suppose it's better for you. The chutney is tangy and sweet and just plain old yummy.

Their shrimp udon noodle soup is the best I've had in DC. It's the gingery broth that sets it apart from the salty boring udon soups of other restaurants. They also have chicken udon, but they put cilantro in it so I avoid it. Cilantro and I hate each other.

Another favorite is the hand roll bento box. It features (clockwise from top left) pickled cabbage, tangy mayo, rice, tea cured salmon, soy sauce, and nori seaweed wrappers. It's a make-your-own sushi kit that is as tasty as it is fun to eat. The individual pieces may sound weird on their own, but when rolled together in the nori it's awesome.

Still hungry? You've got to try the salty oat cookies. I know you're probably thinking, "salt and cookies? Yuck." You're wrong, they're delicious. Order one of Teaism's many teas (we like the green hojicha) to wash down the cookie and you'll be one happy camper.

Because I've found my favorites, I haven't tried the whole menu but plan to do so. Well, at least the stuff that doesn't have cilantro in it. For the happy hour crowd, this Teaism has a liquor license and serves beer and a few cocktails. They also feature an Afternoon Tea from 2:30pm to 5:30pm every day with a traditional English tea menu and an Asian menu. If you haven't had enough tea, you can head next door to the tea shop to buy tea in bulk to make at home.

For me, Teaism is like an old friend that I can always count on. If work gets to be a bit too hectic, I take a deep breath, grab my wallet, and head downstairs for a cup of tea and a chat with the koi fish. No really.

Second Thoughts from B

When I was in grad school in LA, a fellow grad student from Hong Kong and I were sent to DC to do some research at the NIH. J had joined us to do a little sightseeing and one night we were joined by a non-red meat eating friend who had been studying in DC for a while. So to recap, we had 4 people with very different palates looking for dinner on a student's budget. We ended up at the Teaism in Dupont and ordered half of the menu. From that day, I've been hooked and have made Teaism a regular stop for high quality, moderately priced food that seems to fit anyone's tastes.

Where else can you get French Toast that is light and sweet and a Buffalo Burger that is truly gourmet, along with several Indian inspired curry-based dishes, vegetarian friendly dishes, and Japanese bento boxes? Speaking of which, make your own sushi roll... just do it. Trust me on this one.

The long and short of it is that the menu is all sorts of eclectic. It is mostly Asian inspired and all very good. There is something for everyone, especially the healthy eating lawyer that works upstairs.
Teaism on Urbanspoon


Non-red-meat-eater-but-still-fun-guy said...

Teaism is awesome. Consider people calling it "California food" a compliment.

Anonymous said...

Teaism was DEFINITELY a highlight of my trip to visit B&J. It would be "the" higlight, but for the numerous other adventures the two-dc duo had in store for me.

Victoria said...

"They also have chicken udon, but they put cilantro in it so I avoid it. Cilantro and I hate each other."--J's hate/hate relationship with cilantro.