I am a big fan of Teaism. I first heard of it from Rachael Ray's $40 a Day--I don't have cable but I read a review online. Now, generally, I don't take Rachael Ray's $40 a Day advice to heart, because there are many places in DC that are cheaper than what she has listed. In any case, Teaism is one of the main reasons why I grew to love tea, especially green tea, which I used to hate because it always tasted bitter. But now I know how a proper green tea tastes like, and how to prepare it so it doesn't taste bitter!
Over the past year, I frequented Teaism on a weekly basis--sometimes bi-weekly; it was that good. I ate at all of the locations. I'll review each of them, as each shop has its own perks and quirks when it comes to food and ambience. Now I don't eat at Teaism much. It's a bit easier on the wallet but it's still considered to be "our place" for my boyfriend and I, and I always recommend it to anyone visiting DC.
Teaism Dupont Circle is the first Teaism. There are three in the DC area at the moment. This place is in walking distance from the Dupont Circle Metro. The upside is that it's in a quaint townhouse. The downside is that it's in a quaint townhouse. It is small, cramped, and gets crowded during lunch hour. Of all the Teaism places, I recommend it for breakfast and lunch. Only go here for lunch super-early, like at 11 am, or late, like at 2 pm, when the rush has died down.
The thing I like most about the Dupont Circle location is the "old-world" feel. It's not quite Asian decor but has an aged look to it. I also like that the food here is made to order (Penn Quarter, a bigger location, cooks up large batches of food for the lunch rush), and that the tea is served in teapots. When you order your food, you get a number recorded on your receipt, and when your order is ready, they call your number. This is the same system they use at Penn Quarter.
This place is best for breakfast because it's quiet in the mornings, which is great to relax and read your paper. Upstairs, it's a little bit warm but you can open the window and look out onto R Street (the view isn't exciting, though). I order the Irish oatmeal with apricots and raisins for cold blustery days. The tea cured salmon, naan & raita is also a light breakfast dish and comes with a side of fruit. The sourdough waffle is filling enough for one and has sliced banana on top. Smoked chicken & apple sausage is alright. It's kind of pricey for a side dish, in my opinion. With the exception of baked goods, I don't order the side dishes. This place is moderately priced so ordering a bunch of side dishes adds up.
One of the best combinations is their famous ginger scones, spread with jam and butter, with a hot mug of chai. Words cannot express my love for Teaism chai. It's spicy, warming, but also tastes like black tea. A lot of places serve the chai mix that's too sweet and foamy, but not this place. If I ever move away from the DC area, I'll miss the chai from Teaism something fierce.
For the upcoming winter months, ochazuke is great. This is a rice bowl with salmon, wasabi, and those addicting nori flakes sprinkled onto the rice. You pour sencha (green) tea on top. The sencha blends with the ingredients in the rice bowl, creating a rich broth. It sounds weird but is actually tasty if you enjoy the taste of green tea. Plus the tea is served in a teapot, so you have enough for your bowl and to drink, making it a nice cost-effective meal at $7.75.
There are four types of bento boxes at $8.75/each. Here I like to get the salmon bento: teriyaki salmon, cucumber-ginger salad, edamame, and rice. I have tried all the bentos and this location does this type of bento well.
For big dishes, a good one is the Thai chicken curry or the Palaak Paneer. These dishes have a hint of heat/spice, so I recommend something like a mango lassi as a drink, since tea will only exacerbate the spiciness. They also used to have cold buckwheat noodles that was pretty good in the summer with gen mai cha, but I don't think they carry it anymore.
For dessert, the scones are tasty. Jasmine Crème Brulee is... interesting. Definitely not sweet like regular crème brulee. I'm not sure if I like it or not.
Zhenzhou Pearls (bubble tea) is one of the better bubble teas I've had. Plus it's dairy-free, always a thumbs-up in my book. Avoid the chai shake because there is always too much ice and it gets watery too quickly. My favorite teas here, asides from the chai, is gen mai cha, hojicha, and darjeeling. I always mean to try others but I usually am loyal to the chai and green tea.
Writing this review made me miss eating here. I think I might head over to Dupont for breakfast tomorrow...