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Teaism Penn Quarter Washington, D.C. You probably won’t find the lunch hour peace and serenity at Teaism that the name of the restaurant implies, but you will find an unusual and dependably delicious assortment of foods, complemented by a wealth of tea and fruit-based drinks. Those who already know about these interesting little establishments, with their Japanese-centered cuisine, tend to be regulars. The reason is clear: Teaism offers a menu with enough variety to provide ample choice, yet enough limits to ensure consistently high quality and fast service. (The fast service is dispensed from a counter. At Teaism, no one waits tables.) The menu begins with the “small dishes” that include curried lentil soup, coconut rice balls with peanut sauce, and vegetable tempura. The green salad offers a nice assortment of mixings and a light sesame-ginger dressing. The miso soup is a generous portion and quite appetizing. The biggest disappointment was the vegetable eggrolls, which were quite greasy and tasteless. As far as main courses go, a favorite is the bento boxes — Japanese meals that are fresh, but largely prepared ahead of time and served in small plastic TV-dinnerlike trays. The bentos include a choice of a main entree, either beef, salmon (quite good), veggie, chicken (deep fried and delicious), tuna, or tea-cured hand-rolled salmon (as close as Teaism comes to sushi), which is served with several side dishes. The sides include cucumber ginger salad, edamame, rice, and shitake-onion salad. Most of the side dishes, as well as a number of others, are available � la carte. The only disappointment was the naan with mango chutney, which was little more than a meager slice of pita bread. Among the other main courses are large bowls of ochazuke (Japanese rice and tea soup), which come in several varieties, and the “big dishes,” which include Japanese vegetable and tofu curry, udon noodles, a shrimp salad plate, and Thai chicken curry, which, although nothing fancy, was tasty and quite adequate. For those not in the mood for Asian fare, Teaism does offer a number of more traditional sandwiches, from smoked turkey with radish sprouts and cucumber, to BBQ beef and coleslaw, to a portobello mushroom and goat cheese combo, topped with red peppers and pecans. In addition, the menu boasts two burgers: homemade veggie and ostrich. The latter tastes like — no, not chicken — but a quite flavorful and slightly less heavy hamburger. Both burgers are served on fresh brioche rolls with a side of Asian coleslaw, which adds greatly to these already very enjoyable entrees. One of the highlights of the Teaism menu is the wide selection of unusual drinks, which include a delicious ginger limeade, a tasty mango juice, chai and ginger ice cream shakes, and ginger beer. One favorite — and a good reason to stop by the restaurant on a hot afternoon even if you’re not hungry — is the lassi, a refreshing and healthy yogurt-based drink that comes in a variety of flavors, including banana, mango, orange, and green tea. Of course, there’s no shortage of tea on the menu. And you’ll find a good complement to your tea among the relatively broad selection of desserts that range from pumpkin chiffon cake with ginger ice cream to maple cr�me br�l�e. Afternoon tea is served daily from 2:30 to 5:30, with patrons able to select from either a traditional menu, which includes a selection of tea sandwiches, ginger scones, lime tartlets, and chocolate truffles, or an Asian menu, which includes rice balls with pickle and sesame, tea-cured salmon and nori, green tea ice cream, and more. Each of the menus costs $15 and includes a pot of tea. Oh yes, Teaism also serves breakfast, with entrees in traditional Western style (French toast), Eastern (tea-cured salmon, naan, and raita), and in-between (cilantro-scrambled eggs and birchermuesli with homemade yogurt and fruit). In short, no matter what the time of day, there’s reason to get out of your office and spend a little time in the world of Teaism. Washington, D.C.-based lawyer and writer Alexander Wohl is a frequent contributor to Legal Times. Restaurant: Teaism Penn Quarter Location: 400 8th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. Reservations: (202) 638-6010 Price range: Small and side dishes, $1.50 to $6.75; sandwiches and main courses, $6 to $9.75; breakfast entrees (served 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. on weekdays, 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on weekends) $3.50 to $8.25. Complete lunch for two, $20 to $30.

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