After reading raving reviews and looking at pictures of the food, I knew I had to pay Cha-An a visit. This cute little Japanese teahouse, located in the East Village, is only open for lunch and dinner. They open at 12pm from Friday to Sunday and at 2pm from Monday to Thursday. They’re on the second floor so if you’re not looking, you might miss their door. They do have a lunch special sign by the door, so be sure to take a look at all the pictures before you step inside!
The boyfriend and I arrived around 12:30pm on a Friday and were greeted warmly by a waitress. We were seated immediately and given lunch special menus and their regular menu. The boyfriend had already decided on their lunch special of the day (it changes daily) – the Salmon Tar Tar Don ($13). I also decided before we even arrived that I would be ordering their Cha-An Set B ($22). I wanted the full experience and while it was quite pricey, the taste and quality definitely made up for it.
The boyfriend’s lunch special came with a Genmai-Cha tea, which is a form of green tea mixed with grains. The tea came in a little pot that held about one cup of tea. The teapot was refilled with water continuously during the meal. The waiters and waitresses seemed to know just the right time to stop by and get us a refill. I really liked this tea! It was very light and fresh. There wasn’t a heavy green tea flavor – just a hint of it with a light grainy taste.
I decided to order their Matcha Float, since it pictures looked so good. With my set lunch, the float would cost $5, but by itself, it costs $7. It was a bit pricey for a drink of this size but it was very very good. The matcha flavor was very distinct but very smooth. The red bean that was mixed into the drink sunk to the bottom so with every sip, I had green tea+ red bean. It was almost like drinking matcha bubble tea but with red bean instead.
The boyfriend’s Salmon Tar Tar Don is Friday’s daily lunch special and only 15 servings are made each day. His lunch special also came with one side dish, as per the chef’s choice. The chef’s choice for the salmon tar tar don was vegetables sautéed with a peanut sauce. The vegetables were pretty good but the highlight was the salmon tar tar don. It came in a large bowl and was very filling. I had a couple of bites and it was very flavorful. Inside the bowl was chunks of smoked salmon + lettuce + their 15 grain rice + their special sauce. So yummy! The dish was light and refreshing.
Now onto my Set B, which came with today’s soup, two side dishes, soymilk quiche, tea smoked salmon, their 15-grain rice and a dessert. It came in a neat little basket, which I absolutely adored! I also loved how the soup, side dishes, and dessert was up to the chef’s choice because it left me guessing as to what I would get. Not knowing what my side dishes or dessert was meant an pleasant surprise when my meal came.
First, let’s start with the quiche since it came first. This was very pillowy and fluffy. There was a very distinct mushroom and cucumber flavor in this quiche, which I loved since those two are one of my favorite foods. The use of soy milk made the quiche very light and sweet.
The soup of the day was an egg drop soup. Their egg drop soup was very different than the usual Chinese takeout version. Their version was very light and smooth. It wasn’t gooey and thick like the Chinese takeout version. It wasn’t too salty or too seasoned. I thoroughly enjoyed my soup.
Next is the tea-smoked salmon, which was almost like a smaller version of the boyfriend’s salmon tar tar don. There was three pieces of smoked salmon nestled on top of a bed of lettuce. I grabbed a piece of salmon and a chunk of lettuce and ate it together. It was very fresh and very delicious. The salmon was very smooth and soft.
My first side dish was sautéed vegetables in olive oil. This was very different from the boyfriend’s side dish. While his was served cold, mine was served hot. The vegetables were cooked until they were soft, which made it nice and easy to chew. I would put pieces of the vegetables on top of my rice and eat it!
My second side dish was mushrooms, baby string beans and shrimp cooked in a cream sauce. This was easily my favorite dish in the basket. The mushrooms were chewy and flavorful. The shrimp was juicy and the string beans were very soft. The cream sauce tasted amazing! After I finished all the goodies, I even poured the cream sauce over the rice!
And finally, here is the rice! Their 15-grain rice is very flavorful and tastes a lot different than your standard bowl of rice. There were visibly many different types of grains in the bowl. The result was a very different feel and texture with every bite. The white parts were soft and chewy while the brown, black and purple grains were kind of harder and crunchy.
The dessert the chef chose for me was their green tea soufflé. It was more like flan than soufflé but nonetheless it was delicious! The green tea flavor was strong, but not overwhelmingly so. The stop layer was caramel-y and mixed very well with the green tea. The texture was so soft that it almost melted in my mouth! By the time we finished it, we wanted more!
I really must comment on the service at Cha-An. It was superb! The waitresses were very nice and made sure to ask if we had any food allergies before putting in our orders. They would come by whenever we needed a refill without us even having to ask them! The waitresses and waiters were very attentive and I don’t have a single complaint.
The whole atmosphere at Cha-An is very relaxing. It’s such a nice environment that everyone feels the need to speak in a lower tone – almost as if to respect the other patrons. I really liked this because at some restaurants, I have to yell over the other people in order for the boyfriend to be able to hear me. Their bathroom is also very pretty. Their toilet is controlled by a remote that’s attached to the cabinet next to the to the toilet. No more having to reach over to flush!
I know I will definitely be back at Cha-An. It might be my new favorite place. The service is amazing and the atmosphere is relaxing. Cha-An you really do deserve 5/5 stars.