Ching Ching Cha

This serene tea house is one of the best escapes in the city.

From June 2006 Cheap Eats

The great pleasure of teahouses is the prospect of escape from the noise and bustle of life. It's a testament to the transportive power of this one that you're likely to forget you were near the corner of M and Wisconsin when you walked through the door.

Plush red pillows on the floor encourage shoeless, lotus-style sitting–there are also tables–while the tinkling music and skylight create a mood of serenity. Somehow, the place never devolves into New Age kitsch.

Lunch is the time to go, when lingering over a cup of tea seems as good an answer as any to your worldly cares. The menu provides pithy descriptions of the 48 varieties, which range in flavor from the floral to the resiny to the hauntingly smoky. It's probably best to think of the small dishes available as snacks meant to complement slow sipping. Begin with a bowl of spicy peanuts or any of three varieties of steamed dumpling, including a peppery, Mongolian-style lamb tucked within a hearty, northern-Chinese-style wrapper. Then move on to an elegant little plate of salmon–two succulent, steamed filets with a miso-mustard drizzle–and a bowl of lightly steamed kale that retains its vivid green color and its crunch. The great prices–nothing on the menu tops $11–induce a serenity all their own.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.