Tea at Sanctuary T
I always say that one should not wander Soho looking for food or drink without a plan, or at least an iPhone. Last night I met my friend half-way between Brooklyn and Hell's Kitchen for dinner at Extra Virgin on West 4th street in the village. We took our time enjoying pecan crusted goat cheese salad, steak, mushroom chicken and hot berry crisp with white chocolate ice cream, but still had some time to kill before meeting up with some other friends. We decided to walk in their direction, from the village towards Tribeca. Like I said, wandering with no plan in this area is not usually a good idea. That theory rang true as we passed block after block of nothing, broken up by the occasional packed restaurant with no free bar-seats. We paused to check his iPhone for ideas and decided on the Soho Grand. Unfortunately iPhone can't tell you when Soho Grand has a 45 minute wait for seating and a packed bar.
So we found ourselves wandering around Grand street and West Broadway looking for a spot to kill time. A chalk board advertising "spiced wine" outside a restaurant caught my eye, and we noticed there were plenty of tables available. We were seated at a rustic table between two other parties - a group of four who appeared to have eaten dinner and were lingering convivially over a bottle of wine and a couple on a date having tea and dessert. But this wasn't your normal choose-from-the-tea-box tea. He had a clear teacup with a teabag suspended from a bamboo stick, steeping a deep amber color. Hers was a wine glass containing a flower bud slowly blooming in steaming water.
With several menus in front of us, we suddenly realized we had stumbled into a very special place. A place where, if I wanted, I could continue an evening of wine drinking, while my friend on his Z-pak, and banned from drinking, could enjoy the benefits of a therapeutic tea. Since I drink wine all the time... anywhere... whenever I want... I decided to go for one of the 80 some-odd teas. The choice was difficult, but I've been craving Rooibos ever since what we brought back from Africa ran out (American packaged versions are just not quite the same, and hard to find). So, I focused in on the Rooibos section and decided on the chocolate-orange flavored Yaffa Rooibos. My friend went for an Ayervedic blend of 8 herbs.
The tea was presented with the suspended teabag in a clear glass which rested on an egg-shaped wooden plate (I actually have these plates at home, from Crate & Barrel). On the side of each tea was a stick of rock-candy sugar for a stirring rod, and a tiny modern vase containing milk for my Rooibos. Both teas were delicious. The Rooibos was smooth with just a hint of the chocolate and orange. I had no idea there were so many varieties of Rooibos tea. Since we were so absorbed in the menu and tea experience, we hadn't even noticed the name of the restaurant. As we left to meet people at Lucky Strike, we found the name Sanctuary T on the windows, and vowed to come back and explore more of the menu very soon with our tea-loving friends. I'm so glad my Soho wandering theory has finally been disproved - it was the kind of night that reminds me how much I love New York.