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Tea Box Café
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Tea Box Café

tea box cafe nycThe Tea Box Café is closing on June 19th. I was a tad hesitant about coming here – when you write a review for a restaurant with a shutter date, the lifespan of your review is pretty short. On the flipside, the review has the chance to live on as the final review of the restaurant, for good or for bad, and for whatever that’s worth.

I went with Kaitlin of The Piggy Post, and we talked about careers, DC, Boston, and life. She just reviewed the FL!P burger at Bloomingdales, which I just had yesterday (review coming soon). She calls herself the little piggy, but If you’d seen her, you’d never guess she was so into food and restaurants. She must work out ;-)

In classic food blogger form, we ordered three items; I got the Open-Faced Chicken Sandwich, Kaitlin got the Bento Box (obviously we had to order this), and we shared one of the Foursquare favorite, the Salmon Rice Cake.

The chicken was my favorite – I am 100% certain that it was the Wasabi Mayo that made this decision for me. The racially sensitive sesame seeds on top must have had something to do with it as well. Sesame seeds are vastly underrated. There was a chip we liked but couldn’t figure out what it was – it was white with thin purple streaks inside it (maybe a gigantic radish?). The salad’s vinaigrette was just the right amount of salty, tart and sweet.

salmon rice cake

The Salmon Rice Cake was Kaitlin’s favorite. She’d indicated a place up in Jersey across the George Washington Bridge that I had to try – a seaweed wrapped salmon rice cake. I don’t remember if I got the name of the place, but I was intrigued. She said they were cheap, too, which is right up my alley. She told me the cucumber cake had a plum sauce inside, which I could detect only after she did. I need to go to a tasting class or something. The seaweed salad was fantastic, but I’ve never met a seaweed salad I didn’t like, so you can’t trust my judgment on this one.

bento box

For me, the Bento Box was a bit disappointing. Here’s the list of ingredients: shrimp shumai, broiled tofu arugula miso, watermelon gazpacho, Japanese crab omelet, miso broiled tail fish, Kobe-style rare roast beef mixed greens, and mixed mushrooms with rice. I was trying to figure out what everything was because I didn’t notice any beef in the mixed green salad (same dressing as the salad accompanying the chicken), and asked our waiter if the menu that he gave us was the correct one. He pointed some stuff out and we learned about the Gazpacho (which Kaitlin liked, I thought was a tad vinegar-y) which we had been dipping stuff in for the entire meal. That orange lump of stuff in the forefront he called chicken, which wasn’t on the menu, so I am pretty sure the chefs were just mailing it in today. I mean, why not? Their résumés better be out there right now; they can’t have that much loyalty to the dying restaurant.

For dessert, there was a clever orange wedge with the orange replaced by a thick orange jelly. I tried to take a close up, but the sheen of the jelly was such that it didn’t let me focus on it as if my camera was trying to see one of those magic-eye pictures (it’s a schooner).

All in all, it was a satisfying meal, but not something memorable enough to be worth saving. It’s a cool space and I’m interested to see what goes in there next.

The Tea Box Café
693 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10022
(212) 350-0179

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