By Claire Fountain
158 West 55th NY 10019
Tucked away on a hectic street in midtown, one would never guess a precious and delicate tea house was waiting. Embracing the traditional Asian tea service, Radiance Tea House & Book Store will soothe your soul from the inside. A clean and calming setting of light brown wood chairs, all perfect squares, settle one side of the space while the other half is neat book shelves with books about tea in English and Chinese. Other items are for sale including many tea pots or tea settings, complete with the proper cups. Not to be missed is what Radiance is known for; their selection of over 100 teas, ranging from green to oolong to black, all labeled by origin country; to the more rare Pu’er tea, which is aged with tones of smoky flavor and comes in cooked or raw varieties. Radiance also has a line of “reserve teas” which are specialty, along side many other hard to find and exquisite teas. Blends are created in house, which showcase the beauty of tea with fruits, berries, dates and other wellness or energy toning ingredients. The broad yet concise menu includes describes of what each tea can do for your body, mind and spirit. A welcomed touch for those who might be used to the common grab and go tea that leaves much to be desired. Radiance will bless you with what tea was really meant to be.
As Radiance says, “Tea has been called the ‘Treasure of the world,’ and it’s easy to understand why.” It is very easy to understand why and how with a place like their tea house where people, time and space come together in the same moment. Even if you know little about traditional tea services, taking the Tea Tasting offered on Tuesday evenings is a full hour of five differing teas, all steeped properly served alongside a dose of knowledge and wisdom from the incredible caring staff at Radiance. No question is left unanswered in the relaxed communal class, which allows for open dialogue and mingling. After the class or any time, Radiance serves a full menu that combines small plates, traditional Chinese dishes and delicate desserts with the essence of tea. A tea house for starters, the food might be a second thought but holds its own in terms of presentation and taste. Even in the compact kitchen space, skilled hands create dishes that deliver. Steamed dumplings are juicy and silky, handmade with care from pork or vegetables. The steamed egg is homey and sweet, nestled into a tiny cup topped with shitake mushroom and asparagus. Salads are bright and true blends of flavor and culture with classic tastes of ponzu with large shrimp to the vegetable heavy green salad tossed with a thyme vinaigrette and honey walnuts. Cold noodle bowls, such as the Sichuan Style Spicy Noodles, wakes your palate up with mouth filling spice, yet is artfully balanced with cilantro and shredded cucumber. Rice balls and rice bowls are equally enjoyable options, yet showcase more fusion using items like baked salmon, which is buttery and smooth with a sweet ever so crisp crust, sitting atop a bed of white rice and steamed bok choy. Dessert makes a case for including sweet at every meal, with specialty items like the jasmine tea scented walnut cookie, served warm with a large scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Come for the tea, enjoy the food and stay for the company. Radiance Tea House And Book Store is a treasure not to be missed in New York City.