We had a lovely, if eclectic, dinner at Cha Fahn on Centre St. in JP last night, after reading about it in Yankee magazine and walking by a few times. It's a tea room with an extensive menu of tea sandwiches, hot and cold, asian influenced salads and dumplings, and asian style appetizers. The teas are hot, iced, and boba, and range across the herbal, black, and green spectrum. It's a lovely interior, with dark (cherry?) wood chairs and tables, minimalist placemats, white walls, and photos of china and japan. The music was a strange japanese piano and wailing singing combination on the CD player.
My mother in law had a cheese plate, which came with a sharp cheddar, a brie, a manchego, and an aged gouda, as well as Carr's water crackers, sliced bosc pear, and blueberries. The brie was ordinary, but everything else was quite good. She had a green tea with wild cherries, that smelled heavenly. She's not a tea drinker, usually, but she really liked it. My husband had a mixed greens salad with a sesame/lemon dressing and freshly toasted sesame seeds. The greens were ultrafresh. He also had tea-braised chicken, which was served with lemony sauteed spinach and perfectly cooked rice. The chicken was smoky, tender, and sweet, and the greens well-cooked and dressed. He had an iced green & jasmine tea which was very jasmine-y, but also had a smoky note, like lapsang souchong. For dessert, he had a slice of the ginger tea cake, which had whole slices of moist candied ginger on top, and was served just warm. He had a cup of hot "afternoon tea" with it. I had hot ginger black tea with my dumpling platter, which was a selection of 7 pork/vegetable and pork/shrimp/vegetable gyoza (lovely, not too garlicy, lots of nice greens), 4 pork and shrimp shumai, and something called "thai curry samosas," (4) which were smaller than indian samosas and had a crunchy, chunky-fresh filling of spinach, carrot, peas and curry, deep fried and served with a sweet/hot dipping sauce. The dipping sauce for the gyoza was just soy sauce as far as I can tell. I had a slice of pear/almond tart on a shortbread crust (enough pears, nicely poached, on top of a rich marzipany-creamy filling, sprinkled with candied slivered almonds on top.)
Everything was quite tasty, and the bill came to $69 and change for everything. Service is slow-- there are about 12 tables, and only one full-time waiter, who was a little distracted, but pleasant. There seemed to be an owner/manager type also running back and forth between the kitchen and the front of the house, and he was helpful when we needed a few things. But the food was lovely, the atmosphere pleasant, and the tea quite good.
Tea is served in a veriety of single-serving mugs which come with covers and tea strainer inserts. The tea is loose, put into mesh bags inside the strainer. It is steeped properly, and the cup covers invert to hold the strainers once delivered to the table. Some of the serving pieces are quite beautiful, some more ordinary, but all completely functional. Teas also seem to be available brewed to go, and we saw serveral folks stop in to buy bulk amounts, which were poured into vacu-fresh bags. Mesh tea strainers are also for sale. For in-store service, teas seem to range from $4-$9 a cup, depending on rarity. I don't know if this is outrageous or not, and didn't see anyone asking for more hot water while we were there. I'm just beginning to engage in tea connieseurship, but the teas were fresher and better than anything I've ordered from Harney's or Upton.
It seems to be open from lunch through early dinner. I think it closes by 9 or 10 at night. While most of the people around us were having something to eat with their tea, there were several folks just there for the tea, and they got the same slow but calm service everyone else did.
One note-- the chairs are all super-tall backed, maybe six feet in height, and the ones on the left side of the room are very large, so that it's impossible to pull your chair up to the table or rest against the chair back while you eat. They're lovely to look at, but not easy to use. The chairs on the right side of the room are shallower, and it seemed like they were more comfortable. The tables for more than two are all on the left side, though.
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