Arts & Entertainment

Restaurant Spotlight: Teaism

The Flax Organic Tempeh Scramble at Teaism is a great breakfast dish – it's sweet and earthy, and hearty but light. (Photo: Drew Costley/News-Press)
The Flax Organic Tempeh Scramble at Teaism is a great breakfast dish – it’s sweet and earthy, and hearty but light. (Photo: Drew Costley/News-Press)

Teaism mainly markets itself as a “collection of Asian-inspired tea houses,” as it says on one part of the “About” page on its website. But it’s also one of D.C.’s coolest regional restaurants. The tea house-eatery franchise, which has four locations in the region – three in D.C. and one in Old Town Alexandria, has a vibe that resonates across cultures despite borrowing heavily from Asian and English tea houses for its vibe. Most of the locations are dimly lit, relying heavily on natural light coming in from the outside: that’s because you are supposed to chill out and be at peace when you dine there.

Each of the four locations has its own look, but my personal favorites are the locations in Dupont Circle and Old Town. The Dupont location is cozy and quaint, while the Old Town location is expansive and comfortable. Teaism’s location in Penn Quarter, just south of Chinatown, is a little touristy for my taste.

Speaking of taste, Teaism serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The restaurant serves breakfast on weekdays from when it opens at 7:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. and serves lunch and dinner, from the same menu, from 11 a.m. until closing time at 10 p.m. On the weekends, Teaism serves breakfast from when it opens at 9:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.

Among Teaism’s diverse menu selection – for example, the eatery serves Buckwheat & Hempseed Pancakes ($9.50), Seitan Stir Fry ($9.75) and Tea-Cured Salmon Naan Pizza ($12) – are several vegan and vegetarian options. In fact, Teaism’s Dupont Circle location used to participate in Meatless Monday, in which it featured the vegetarian version of the Okonomiyaki ($9.50), a Japanese cabbage pancake dish that’s served with sauteed spinach and portabella mushrooms.

And as far being vegan/vegetarian-friendly goes, Teaism’s website features a dietary information PDF that lists which dishes are suitable for those with nut, shellfish or gluten allergies and which dishes are suitable for those who prefer vegan, vegetarian or non-GMO dishes. Also, it lists how to modify dishes in order to suit specific diets.

But let’s start with Teaism’s breakfast menu. It features only two vegan options – the Steel Cut Organic Oatmeal ($4.75) and the Flax Organic Tempeh Scramble ($9.25) – but the Ginger Scones ($3) can be made vegan if they’re ordered with coconut spread. The Flax Organic Tempeh Scramble, with flax and tempeh bits on a bed of kale and tomato that’s prepared with garlic, ginger, cilantro, sesame and tamari, is earthy and sweet, and hearty but light.

Teaism’s lunch and dinner menu has several more vegan options. On their Big Dishes menu, there’s the Lemon Maple Grilled Organic Tempeh Burger ($10) and the Seitan Stir Fry. The Lemon Maple Grilled Organic Tempeh Burger is tasty, but, like a lot of vegan/vegetarian burgers, can get messy or fall apart. The Seitan Stir Fry, with kale, broccoli, pu’er tea-glazed walnuts on a bed of brown rice and topped with balsamic drizzle, is Teaism’s lunch/dinner answer to its breakfast tempeh scramble. Like the tempeh scramble, the stir fry is earthy, sweet and hearty without being too large of a meal.

In addition to serving food and tea in house, Teaism also sells tea online and for people to take home. Teaism’s Loose Leaf Tea menu features 50 teas, including the intriguing Pu’er Round Cake ($22), the earthy Dragon Well ($6.25 for 2 oz.) and my personal favorite, Berry Beauty ($6.75). The Berry Beauty, with dried elderberries, currants & hibiscus with a creamy note, is sweet, with a slightly bitter taste depending on how much sugar you take in your tea.

Opened in 1996 by Michelle Brown and Linda Neumann, Teaism isn’t only a great tea house and shop, but a delicious restaurant with great ambiance.

Teaism | 682 N. St. Asaph St. | Alexandria | teaism.com