50 Favorites 1996, 1997, and 1998
By Phyllis C. Richman
Washington Post Restaurant Critic
From The Washington Post Dining Guide, November 1996
A few steps away from Connecticut Avenue's bustle yet serenely Japanese in spirit, this converted town house is a shrine to tea. It serves two dozen varieties, plus carefully chosen self-service foods to accompany them, from breakfast through dinner. You can carry them out or eat them at backless stools - upholstered in subtly beautiful Japanese fabric - and silky wood tables.
The cooking, much of it done in a tandoor oven, is simple: three kebabs, two flatbreads, three sandwiches, four stir-fries, two bento boxes, three salads and a few side dishes and desserts. Then there's breakfast - the time to discover chai, a bracing, spiced tea concoction with a pleasantly bitter finish ameliorated by milk and sugar. The tea-smoked salmon - on a sandwich or in scrambled eggs at breakfast - is velvety and gently saline, hinting of tea bitterness and sugar for balance. It's a luscious change from smoked salmon or gravlax. I also like the hamburger, spiked with fresh ginger, lean and cooked through evenly rather than seared. It's fun to create your own combination platter with a kebab and your choice of flatbreads (the onion kulcha is wonderful), rices, salads and chutneys, raitas or pickles. For a nibble or a meal (it comes in two sizes) there's a chicken-noodle salad with cold linguine, raw vegetables and sesame seeds in a vinegary Japanese-style dressing.
The meal that's most Japanese, though, is a bento box. A still life on a tray, it comes with cold salmon or with a refreshing, all-vegetable construction of yam slices, lemony asparagus spears, tofu with ginger and soy, plus a turban of red-peppered, peanut-sauced soba noodles. Cookies, too. For dessert, there are short-crusted individual pies of seasonal fruit, chiffon cake or a rice pudding with coconut cream, lots of raisins and shavings of white chocolate and almonds. They beg to be washed down with the proper brew from a mud-colored little pot.
Copyright © 1998 The Washington Post Company