230 East 9th Street New York, NY 10003
Adventures of a Hopeless Foodie Rating: 4/5
8 Stuyvesant Street New York, NY 10003
Adventures of a Hopeless Foodie Rating: 1/5
123 2nd Avenue New York, NY 10003
Adventures of a Hopeless Foodie Rating: 4.5/5
This weekend, I was really craving tea time. I had this awesome experience at the Russian Tea Room (which I’ll talk about some other time), and I really wanted to experience afternoon tea again. So I looked up tea places, and found Cha-An. At $23 dollars for food and tea (plus tax and tip), Cha-An has the cheapest afternoon tea in the city (at least of all the places I looked up), and a very high rating on Yelp (although I don’t put too much stock into Yelp reviews anyway). And it is offered from opening until 7pm, which is nice to have such a large time frame.
The atmosphere here is amazing. I was a little wary at first, because the entrance is a tiny door on the outside, and it immediately leads up a cramped staircase. However, once you finally make it upstairs, you find a beautiful restaurant. I felt like when I walked up the stairs I was transported to a little Japanese town. What is most amazing is one seating area that looks like the outside of a house with a little booth underneath. There is also another room that is an entire little hut
built in the middle of the restaurant, which I think is where they do their tea ceremonies. The noise level is fairly quiet but not dead, and they play the kind of relaxed music you’d expect at a tea house. Overall, the entire atmosphere is very different in an impressive way.
So I got the tea set, as I mentioned, with the Crimson Chai tea. The tea set came with two bagel sandwiches (smoked salmon and raspberry butter), two scones (I believe they were either black sesame or tea flavored, I’m not sure), and a few sweets (an almond and apricot jam loaf, a berry macaroon, and I think some kind of banana loaf). The tea was very good. I’ve heard the mark of a good tea place is one that does not use tea bags but rather loose tea leaves, and Cha-An does just that. The presentation was beautiful, and the quality was very good. I’m actually not a big fan of tea, and so I was a little upset that they didn’t offer sugar and/or cream like I’m accustomed to, but tea was still good enough to be enjoyed on its own. The bagel sandwiches were pretty good. The smoked salmon was satisfying, but not all that memorable. It tasted like every other smoked salmon on a bagel. However, the raspberry butter bagel sandwich was incredible. It really tasted like raspberry-flavored butter. It melted in my mouth. I was surprised I liked it as much as I did, because I really didn’t think the raspberry would go with the bagel taste, but I was proven wrong. The scones were seriously amazing, and they were still warm, definitely a plus. I really don’t like many traditional scones. I always feel like something’s wrong with me, but I tend to think they’re often too dry. These were amazingly perfect, almost like some kind of sugary muffin. The flavor was unique and memorable. With the cream and preserves they were even more delicious and flavorful. The two little bread loaves were decent, but I didn’t really feel like they were all that memorable. The macaroon was surprisingly delicious, and packed with flavor. Usually bigger macaroons are a sign of inexperience in macaroon making and tend to taste cheaper and more gooey when compared to their smaller counterparts, but this one was actually pretty amazing. I was very pleased with all of the food, the tea, and the service was also good; they brought me everything in a reasonable amount of time. However, I did have one problem. Tea is supposed to be a good mix of savory and sweet. Traditionally you get roughly an equal amount of savory little finger sandwiches as you get desserts. But here, the only savory thing was the one smoked salmon bagel sandwich. So when I left, I still felt hungry for real food. I wasn’t intending on eating dessert for lunch. Part of this was because there wasn’t all that much food to begin with, but obviously when paying less that’s more likely to happen. $25 dollar tea is going to provide half as much food as $50 dollar tea, but at least it didn’t provide half the quality. Overall, quite delicious for the super cheap price, even with its flaws. It is a really cute place though, and I definitely recommend it to any college student that wants to go for a spot of afternoon tea but doesn’t have the $35-50 that most tea places charge.
In my search for something savory and cheap, I wandered a little way down the street and came across Pan-Ya. Now, I’ve see this little place before, and I promised myself if I found it again I’d go in, so I did. It’s a little Japanese cafeteria with prepackaged food, premade baked goods, and an ordering station for sandwiches and other things. It had a big “Zagat Rated” sign on the door, so I was impressed from the start. I walked in and noticed the refrigerator full of all kinds of prepackaged meals. I’m usually wary about these kinds of things, and I’m really not a fan of cheap crappy sushi, but with the promise of that sign in the window, I figured the food had to be pretty legitimate. And I found these cute little rice balls with fish in the middle, wrapped in seaweed. And they were all between $1-2, so I thought to myself, Sweet deal! and picked up the Unagi, because Eel is my absolute favorite fish in sushi. I went on my merry way with what I hoped to be a $2 meal.
As soon as I tried it, I regretted the purchase. It was really unappetizing. It tasted a little worse thanthe average cheap crappy sushi you’d find anywhere. It was probably worse than our school cafeteria’s cheap sushi, especially because it was a 3:1 rice:fish ratio. I mean, let’s be honest, I should have expected this for $2, but I was really hoping for some new cheap find. And that Zagat rated sign was really misleading. Apparently their rating is a 21/30, but I’m pretty sure this doesn’t count their prepackaged food. To be fair, I haven’t tried anything this restaurant is particularly known for, apparently their baked goods are their draw, but I really feel like no restaurant should sell anything they aren’t very proud of. Do not go here looking for a delicious prepackaged meal. I threw out the food after a few bites, and it takes a lot to make me throw out an unfinished meal.
So I was trekking through the village in search of this supposedly amazing Polish Deli on 1st ave and 8th street, and when I finally got there, it wasn’t even open. I probably should have expected this kind of thing on a Sunday. So I looked up one of my favorite haunts I knew to be nearby, Pommes Frites. And it was only one avenue over, directly on my way home. Well, one block down, but I definitely needed the extra walking with the ton of fries I was about to consume.
Pommes Frites are Belgian-cut, thick fries, but the place is especially known for its dipping sauces. The list is extensive, but I have one favorite that no other one could possibly replace: Truffle Mayo. I am obsessed with truffle flavoring. Anything with black or white truffles/truffle oil/truffle salt, and I’m in heaven. They say you need to be careful not to overdo it with truffle flavoring or it’s completely overpowering, but I always want more, so a part of me doesn’t believe that rule. Anyway, since truffle is expensive, the price of that one sauce is close to the price of getting three normal sauces, but it’s certainly worth it. Some advice I have is to make sure the fries sit a little bit before stuffing your face, because I’ve burned my mouth on them before. These thick, juicy French fries some of the best you’ll ever have, and once you have one you’ll be stuffing them in your face, too. A lot of fries that are thick-cut have the problem of being too dry, but these are an exception. And their selection of sauces is really unique. I have one complaint, however. The last time I had the truffle mayo, I’m positive there was more truffle flavor in it. This time it tasted like 90% mayo, 10% truffle. I understand that truffle is expensive, but I’d pay $5 for that dip if it tasted right. The last time I went to Pommes Frites, they didn’t even have that sauce. I’ve had decently large selection of their sauces, and I personally haven’t found any other as good as the Truffle Mayo. And the mayo is amazing quality, because it needs to be as the basis of all their sauces. Seriously, if you ever feel the need to splurge on your calories, go to Pommes Frites. It’s amazing, and definitely worth that extra pound you’ll gain from eating them.
So I hope you enjoyed the stories of my rainy Sunday trek through the East Village!
Until next time, eat up!