Unlike its Penn Quarter counterpart, which feels institutional, Dupont Circle’s Teaism is pitch perfect. Crunchy and calm, it’s the perfect hippie oasis, a place to decompress over green tea while the world rushes by.
I went there on a recent Tuesday evening, after the early rush and before the last-minute orders. The two-tiered restaurant has an earthy, rustic feel – wood predominates. A few vegan-types work behind the counter and on the line of the open, tiny kitchen. There are shelves full of neat wares, such as handcrafted tea pots, handleless cups and behemoth mugs. I order a salmon bento box and hojicha tea, and then I wait, taking in the framed black-and-white photographs (the only art present in this spare space).
My order’s up quickly, and I bring my meal to the second floor, settling into a cozy nook and disregarding the sign that warns of purse snatchers. A group of college kids have haphazardly assembled a few tables and are playing a card game. A few Iranians are conversing in that signature singsong way – their conversation sounds both languid and sensually argumentative, and it is punctuated, sometimes, by bursts of knowing laughter.
I open my bento box and take in the sight of the meal: the small piece of chilled salmon, in its shallow pool of teriyaki sauce. The bright green edamame; the brown rice covered with a thin layer of sesame seeds; the beautiful little cucumber-ginger salad. It is prettily plated and perfectly partitioned. I dig in.
The firm flesh of the salmon pairs well with the plump kernels of brown rice, and, although I am typically reluctant to try brown rice, this is really good. The cucumbers (skin on) are sliced as thin as prosciutto, and the ginger adds a fresh kick to the otherwise watery vegetable. They are served in a ginger jus, which is sharp but not overpowering.
On to the tea. When I first tasted hojicha, I was disgusted – I thought it tasted like dirt. As I was raised by two decidedly non-tea-drinkers, the most I’d known of tea was hyper-sweetened Lipton with ice from my North Carolina days. I’m glad I stuck with it, though, because I came to appreciate – nay, to love – hojicha’s soothing, earthy, rich flavor.
The clientele is very down to earth. No one’s dressed to impress, and everyone’s okay with that. With its low ceilings and intimate floor plan, the vibe is intensely relaxed. And with prices (and teas) like these, it’s an unparalleled spot.
|Address:||800 Connecticut Ave., NW (H St.) Washington, DC 20006|
|Serves:||Breakfast (Daily); Lunch (Daily)|
|Go for:||Chilled salmon; tea; outdoor patio|