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Friday, October 15, 2010

Columbia Eats: Tea

It's pretty terrific to see all the ethnic food that's been creeping into the capital city. One can easily dismiss how much ethnic food Columbia has, but it really isn't that bad all things considered. From the always growing number of restaurants littering Decker Blvd. to the new trendy locations opening around the University, the town's slowly become a hotspot for ethnic eats.

Tea is the newest contender in town with their Vietnamese Banh Mi. Those who have hovered over Immaculate Consumption's counters may have had a taste of this delicious sandwich, but for most who are unfamiliar it, banh mi is a densely packed sub consisting of several possible meats from honey grilled pork to cold cuts of the Asian variety. A fresh, warm piece of Vietnamese baguette smeared with a pate and butter spread, and garnished with pickled carrots and daikon - essentially a radish - cilantro, and a few pieces of jalepeno - banh mi is a tantalizing trip full of fresh and savory flavors from the East and West.

Getting right to the heart of things, I tried out their number one sandwich - the house adventurer - a combination of several sandwiches meats including grilled pork and cold cuts compounded one. What came to the table was a bit unexpected; the baguette was hundreds of feet bigger then a traditional Vietnamese baguette. While there was a lot going on in the sandwich, the size of the bread definitely was a bit of a letdown. The rest of the banh mi itself was a dizzying, but strangely satisfying array of flavors. The pork was not as satisfying as I've had in other banh mi sandwiches, in fact being far too thinly cut, but it still worked. The pickled vegetables were dangerously sweet, but fortunately with the fresh cilantro played its role well enough.

Along with my sandwich came a bag of shrimp chips and a bubble tea. The shrimp chips may be a bit of an acquired taste for most, but for this long time fan it was a nice trip down memory lane. Savory, and with a light shrimpy aftertaste, they made for a nice snack while waiting for the banh mi. The bubble tea, on the otherhand, was kinda terrible compared to Fruiti Cup in the Five Points area. Try your hand at their huge tea selection instead if you're looking for something nice to wash down the sandwich.

No Reservations, The Shakedown on Tea
Atmosphere: Small, kinda contemporary. Very little seating.
Cost: Kind of expensive for a banh mi.
Approx. $6-7.
Try: House Adventurer. Get the whole picture in one bite.

The Final Verdict
This is not the best banh mi sandwich in the world. Let's just throw that right out there. For a fresh and fun option outside of the burgers and other forms of carbs littered throughout Columbia though, Tea is a great option to try out.

The seating is disappointing, however, enough to accommodate only a handful of people. The service was also outrageous; our party of four - essentially the only people there at the time - somehow took nearly a whole half hour to get our orders of the 'House Adventurer'. Pretty ridiculous considering that banh mi is one of the easiest sandwiches to put together in a short amount of time. The baguette was also a bit of a crime that is dying to be solved. Perhaps the biggest appointment may have been the "cash only" sign chilling out on the frontdoor. To not take credit in 2010... blasphemy!

As disappointing as all this news may be, I still have high hopes for Tea. A few simple fixes could easily make Tea into a long time fixture of the Columbia area much like Pho Viet and others have become. The cafe has all the charm and appeal of being a great lunch fixture in the capital city, it just needs a little more love to make it all come together.

Tea on Urbanspoon


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