Té Company

This Tiny Taiwanese Tearoom Is One of New York’s Most Thrilling Places to Eat

The Per Se-trained chef at Té Company offers a new menu as flawless as the oolong.

I’m already regretting telling you about Té Company, a two-year-old Taiwanese tearoom in the West Village—and if you’re already familiar with it you’re probably cursing my name. From the sidewalk, you might not notice it: a narrow storefront (which used to house Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks) on the first floor of an apartment building, marked by little more than a small teapot painted on the single-paned window. Inside, it’s cozy but austere, with just a few wooden tables and a counter behind which several neatly aproned employees move in quiet concert. There’s nothing to suggest that you’ve come to one of the most exciting restaurants in New York City. 

It’s the service, as polished as a river stone, that starts to give away the secret. Most days, a man named Alejandro Menjivar does the greeting; you might think of him as a tea sommelier. Ask him for a recommendation and he’ll flip gently through the leather-bound menu, guiding you to the Oriental Beauty (“super grassy, a little citrusy”), perhaps, or to the No. 2028 (“sweeter and rounder, shares a grandfather with milk oolong”), explaining patiently and engagingly the difference between black, oolong, green, and white tea (same leaves, different levels of oxidation). The tea is steeped, using water whose temperature has been carefully calibrated for each variety, in ceramic pots, then decanted at just the right moment into little pitchers, to be poured into handleless cups. When your pitcher is empty, tilt the lid of your teapot and Menjivar will come and refill it with water. His sense of when each pot is ready is uncanny: when the room is busy, he may pause midway through describing Green Sanctuary White (“really savory, almost like an aperitif”), as if hearing an alarm, and ask you politely to hold, please, as he pivots gracefully to decant another customer’s tea. 

There are not many places in New York to get tea this carefully prepared, a fact that should mean the food takes second billing. And yet there are few places in New York to eat as well as you can here. The tea is the domain of Elena Liao, who worked in fashion merchandising before she began importing the tea of her native Taiwan and wholesaling it to restaurants, including Per Se, where her husband and partner, Frederico Ribeiro, who is originally from Portugal, was once a sous-chef. At Té Company, he is usually behind the counter, preparing a very small selection of dishes that are modestly referred to as “snacks.” The mostly seasonal menu used to skew toward Spanish and Portuguese cuisine, with flawlessly executed staples like an obscenely custardy tortilla Española and ambitious surprises like poached veal brain dressed in parsley. A few weeks ago, Ribeiro decided to take things in a more Taiwanese direction, to better pair with the tea.

Now you can order a bowl of glossy white rice topped with luscious cubes of braised pork, caramelized and fragrant with star anise, plus wedges of pickled daikon, wispy curls of shaved scallion, sprigs of cilantro, fried shallots, and an optional gooey-yolked boiled egg marinated in soy sauce. There’s a small bowl of peanuts, too, toasted till they’re the ruddy color of varnished teak and strewn with sesame seeds, sweet Sichuan peppercorns, and dried chilies, and a plate of poached octopus with edges that melt in your mouth and a chewy center, bathed in a fruity wild-tea vinaigrette. Little half-pipes of crunchy endive, with its peach-fuzz exterior, are pooled with olive oil, lime zest, and salty shaved bottarga, as crisp as ocean air, and drizzled in impossibly light garlic aioli. “Your salads make me feel a way that salads don’t usually make me feel,” a regular said to Ribeiro one recent afternoon, in between bites. Two women finishing up lunch considered dessert but decided instead to order a bowl of the braised pork. A smart move, though they missed out on the pineapple linzer, a sandwich cookie featuring pineapple-rosemary jam (made with yuzu kosho, a spicy fermented Japanese condiment) between disks of flaky hazelnut shortbread, finished with lime zest and crunchy sea salt. It’s Ribeiro’s brilliant twist on traditional Taiwanese pineapple cake, and it makes me feel a way that cookies don’t usually make me feel. (Dishes $5-$14.) ♦

This article appears in the print edition of the April 16, 2018, issue, with the headline “Té Company.”

Source from https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/04/16/this-tiny-taiwanese-tearoom-is-one-of-new-yorks-most-thrilling-places-to-eat?mbid=nl_Daily%20040618&CNDID=50184986&spMailingID=13267570&spUserID=MjAyOTI1MzI3NTc5S0&spJobID=1380539615&spReportId=MTM4MDUzOTYxNQS2

Posted in 04/2018