New York City: Cha-An


Nestled in what seemed to be a-tiny-shop-house-at-first-glance on the second floor of 230 E 9th Street is Japanese dessert house Cha-An. Unlike the charming, dainty exteriors that many cafes or restaurants attempt to put up in order to lure patrons in, Cha-An is almost unobtrusive; the only thing that indicates that you’re in the right place is a monotone black and white color signboard that writes “Cha-An”. Its Japanese name spans almost ¾ the board however, and for non-Japanese speaking, “Cha-An” is written in such a small font at the top of the board that it becomes almost unnoticeable without squinting.
Walk in however, you immediately feel as if you are transported to Kyoto – wooden chairs and tables, bamboo walls, tea cups and pots everywhere, minimal lighting, Japanese conversations, or accents at the very least. Although Cha-An serves savory food such as donburi and various kinds of Japanese appetizers (they also have one of the best value set lunches), Cha-An focuses more on tea and sweets. It’s a shame though, that I did not get to try one of their 11 different kinds of green tea as experiencing the entire tea ceremony would definitely be quintessentially Cha-An.
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While Cha-An offers the classical and the traditional with desserts such as Mochi, Hojicha Anmitsu (Green tea jelly with sweet black syrup), and definitely with its tea offerings, Cha-An also offers unique tantalizing fusion desserts that incorporate Japanese flavors with French techniques. Their signature dessert, the Black Sesame Crème Brulee, topped with black sesame ice cream and a sesame tuile ($9), is one example. Beneath the crackling of the caramelized sugar is a slightly sweet, crème anglaise that had a strong, earthy, roasted black sesame flavor. It was perfectly smooth, thick and creamy. It was not cloyingly sweet, the caramelized sugar provided just the right amount sweetness.
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We also had their Seasonal Chestnut Flan with Red Bean, Chestnut and a Momiji Leaf ($8). I’m not a huge fan of flans. To me they’re merely just a “sophisticated” name for pudding. Unquestionably though, the flan had such a smooth texture that each spoonful almost seem to melt in your mouth. The chestnut flavor was subtle, but you definitely get that nutty aftertaste. A+ for plating though, Cha-An definitely takes pride in all the minute details such that each dish eventually looks like an art piece.
Although Cha-An is situated in the perhaps the most quiet, unseen, location of the East Village, be prepared to be greeted by a crowd of people waiting in line. No reservations, just leave your name and they’ll call you back when the table is ready. But I assure you the wait will be worth it, because Cha-An serves traditional Japanese desserts with a modern twist, in the most traditional Japanese tea-houses ever in NYC, and that experience alone, I doubt you will ever find anywhere else here in the state.
230 East 9th Street
New York, NY 10003
This entry was posted in Cafe, Cake, Dessert, Japanese, Lunch, New York City, Snack, Vegetarian and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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