September 23, 2005

Spotlight: Franchia Tea House, NYC

Last night, I was I had the fortunate opportunity to go to Franchia on Park Ave & 35th st in Manhattan. A opportunity that bears repeating, there was nothing I didn't love about it.

Unlike many Asian restaurants that come across as indifferent to your patronage (due to either cultural barriers or because,'s New York City, need I say more), the staff at Franchia was genuine in their hospitality. And that's not a word I use often in describing the experience in most places, but at Franchia was refreshingly different.

As we ascended to the 3rd tier seating, the carved wood and soft light welcomed us in. They gave us time to look at our vegetarian menus and to choose our desired cup of tea. It was a very appealing menu of noodle dishes, rice dishes and sushi. I chose the pumpkin noodles. The best explanation (or the shortest) was that it was thick soba noodles with a pumpkin sauce. At first glance it looked like a Korean spaghetti. And I chose a white Peony tea.

The tea came in a white bulbous cup on a wooden coaster, with the tea leaves in a ceramic strainer sitting in the cup. The waiter explained that one lets the tea steep only 20-30 seconds, removing the strainer to the small tea saucer, and adding more hot water (provided on the table) as needed for the duration of the meal (yes you could get 4 cups out of it easily). He explained this with a gentleness that did not make one feel inept if you did know how the process worked. The tea held its original pleasant taste throughout the subsequent brewings.

An hour and a half slipped by like 5 minutes ,as my partner and I sipped through conversations.

I look forward to returning to this little jewel of a place.

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