Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Takashimaya: Tea Box Restaurant

It is almost a ritual when I visit New York City. On one of my days, I begin with breakfast at the Bouchon Bakery, located in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle. Then, I spend some time in Central Park followed by a stroll down Fifth Avenue. After a stop at Tiffany & Co., it is usually lunch time so I go to Takashimaya.

Takashimaya is a Japanese-owned department store. The original Fifth Avenue store opened back in 1958 and the present store was inaugurated in 1993. Spread out over six floors, the store sells men and women's clothes, jewelry, accessories, perfumes/colognes, home decorations and accessories, and also flowers and plants. I head though to the basement level, to the Tea Box Restaurant.

In front of the restaurant, they have a small tea shop where you can buy many different types of loose tea, as well as tea pots, cups and such. They also sell candies and cookies, including some delicious (albeit expensive) Leaf Pie cookies.

The restaurant is only open for lunch, Monday through Saturday from 11:45am-2:45pm, and afternoon tea service, from 3:00pm-5:30pm. It can seat about sixty people and is a popular place, sometimes meaning you have to wait for a table. A few years ago, the actress Susan Sarandon, sat at a table nearby us.

The lunch menu has soups, salads, sides, bento boxes, and sandwiches. Prices generally range from $10-20 so it is not necessarily a cheap lunch. Start off with the Shrimp Dumplings ($6.75) or Bread Basket ($2.75). The dumplings are like steamed Shumai and are pretty good. The bread basket contains a few different types of grain and seeded breads, fresh and tasty.

If you are hungry, maybe you would enjoy the Tea Box Bento ($19), a sampling of dishes which gives you a nice variety of foods. The exact make-up of the bento seems to vary day to day and they do have a Vegetarian Bento ($17). I have had the Bento in the past and it does give you plenty of food, including items that are not on the regular menu.

They really excel with their sandwiches, from the Thinly-Sliced Chicken with Wasabi Mayonnaise ($12) served with Mixed Green Salad to the Grilled Gruyere Cheese on Japanese Sesame Toast ($9.75) served with Mixed Green Salad and Vegetable Chips and to the Grilled Rare Steak with Miso Mayonnaise ($13.75) served with Mixed Green Salad. These are good sized sandwiches with fresh ingredients and lots of taste. My favorite is the Grilled Gruyere though the other two are very good as well. It is just enough to satisfy me for lunch and give me the energy to continue my walking around the city.

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