ferry / cha an tea room

If you prefer a scenic entry into the NYC, I recommend a ferry ride in the springtime. Who enjoys the traffic and the newly jacked up toll fees anyway? Port Imperial in Weehawken is our customary jumpoff point because of its proximity to the Japanese strip mall anchored by Mitsuwa supermarket. This location is a great cultural gathering spot for Japanese people in the tri-state area, expecially ex-pat businessmen and their families occupying the opulent condos nearby. The market, food courts and shops offer hard-to-find products, delicacies and great people-watching.

On to the ferry. At the port, I saw the cheesiest promotional poster with the headline "Waterway to spend a Ferry evening" Get it?! Today, the weather cooled down to that in-between type of temperature that requires some thoughtful wardrobe decisions. One of those days where you're constantly taking off and putting on a jacket. At the ferry, the crowd was an assorted mix of people bundled up in layers and people dressed for the beach. Of course we see some white people in shorts, sweatshirts and flip-flops. In college, we used to joke about the stereotypical white college kid uniform of shorts and an inside-out sweatshirt (with the tag sticking out). Back then, I knew a volleyball loving kid that wore shorts 365 days a year. Never saw him in a pair of pants. Even in a snowstorm, you'd see him skipping down the street in shorts and a volleyball stuck between his arm and hip.

Anyway some people enjoyed the open air on the top deck of the boat. Not quite warm enough for us - so we enjoyed the view from inside. The key is to keep your eyes distant. As you walk the plank to board the ferry, you may not find the Hudson River water so enchanting. Unless you enjoy looking at cloudy brown water. I hear its cleaner than in the past - but not enough to pull a Kramer and swim across. The key is to keep your eyes distant. I blocked out the noise from nearby tourists and NFL Draft spectators to view the rippling water sparkling before the Manhattan skyline.

A not-so-quick cab ride took us to our first stop in the East Village - Cha An Tea Room, a fitting way to preface a day of Japanese art with some traditional refreshments. This place was recommended by my sister during her last visit. Our anticipation heightened upon entering as we found ourselves ascending a narrow dark staircase up to the tea room. Seemed quiet and slightly magical if not mysterious. Opening the door at the top uncorked a rush of noise - clinking tea china, and a swaying chorus of voices in various conversations. The interior space of the main room was tiny but ambitiously mixed an inviting contrast of dark wood and warm bamboo. I enjoy an ambience which transports you to a different place - and here it was easy to forget that you were in NYC. Up front, the tea bar featured jars of various teas and a crew of women fixing up drinks, meals and desserts. We sat next to a wall fixed up to be a side exterior of a tea house - complete with tall bamboo sticks, screened panels and a tiny entrance.

I intended to order a couple of sweets with my tea, but felt compelled to order a full meal with dessert. The menu is fairly cheap. I chose the $10 special of the day featuring Unajyu - eel served on a bowl of rice with sides of seaweed and assorted pickled veggies. I'm not a tea drinker but I thoroughly enjoyed my Hojicha tea, which is a perfect compliment for any meal with its nutty flavor. My wife chose a traditional green tea to go along with a bowl of rice porridge - a customary comfort food - with sides of salmon, tofu and seaweed. She seemed very comforted after finishing off her tray of food.

My dessert was an interesting green tea pudding that congealed into a slightly solid state and wiggled in a Jello-like fashion. I actually spent a few moments moving it around with my spoon and watched it delicately changing its physical form. Anyway, the consistency was incredibly light and subtly sweet with a wonderful green tea aftertaste. It perfectly complimented the tiny red beans surrounding. My wife's meal came with zen zai - mochi with azuki beans. Overall, it was a great experience (my wife raved about the contemporary Japanese toilet which opens automatically upon approach) and someday we'll have to try Cha An's traditional tea ceremony which takes place in their private rooms.


kiita said...

The toilet at Cha-An is indeed amazing. A fantastic review.

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