Sunday, January 01, 2006

Twee New York City Entry #51

Some restaurants can be captured in a single word. Such is Alice's Tea Cup (with two locations in Manhattan and a bakery on City Island in the Bronx). With its bright maroon and cream walls with yellow accents (at least in its East Side outpost, "Chapter Two"), mismatched chairs and flowered teacups, and wonderland images, ATC does dainty to a tea.

ATC appears poised to attract tween girls, winding down from a shopping spree at Dylan's Candy Bar. This is the only restaurant of which I am aware that has a menu section for "after school snacks." (Milk and cookies is $6.00; grilled American cheese will set nymphets back a cool $7.00, but this is the Upper East Side). Yes, you can get anything you want.

Perhaps a name-change to "Lo-Lee-Tea Cup" might not pass muster with restaurant consultants, though it surely would find a clientele, including, possibly, Charles Dodgson himself. And Nabokovian butterflies would fit the decor. At a Sunday brunch it captured more twenty-somethings than kids, but the couples, no matter age or gender, were fitting representatives of tweedom, as was the chirpy and accommodating staff. Twidledee.

The restaurant specializes in teas, often candied. I ordered Rooibos Phoenix, enhanced with honey, caramel and vanilla. Sweet. The dinner menu seemed too sophisticated for a nymph niche: lapsang souchong chicken breast on mixed greens with sliced tea-infused eggs, granny smith apples, crispy carrots, and a sweet ginger dressing might be much for an eleven year old, but of course we're not in Kansas anymore.

At brunch, young diners can order cornmeal pancakes, steel-cut oatmeal, and crepes (choose your filling). We selected Alice's Curious French Toast (oh, what a title that): "French toast bites with apple-cinnamon tea, baked bread pudding style, attacked with fruit coulis, vanilla cream anglais and syrupy sweet stuff." I can not possibly capture the essence of this establishment with more precision than does the title of this dish. This description is from the webpage, the menu claims that it contains "apple-brandy tea," an image that provoked a few moments of wry amusement before I came to wonder about the fruit coulis attacking defenseless French toast. That bites. As served, the dish was a glorious, if discordant, symphony of the candied and the sticky.

Our second choice was poached eggs and sliced smoked salmon atop a savory scone with rosemary hollandaise sauce and a side of roasted asparagus and pears. Cafeteria grub at the Alfred Portole Middle School. While I prefer a Holland Rusk under my Eggs Benedict, finding a scone too cakey for its assignment, the eggs were properly runny, and the other ingredient combined for a satisfying brunch.

Forgive my funning. If Alice's is not quite the restaurant on which chattering hordes of tweens will likely descend, mothers and grandmothers might select this cutie-pie restaurant as the perfect place for a late morning repast with their cherished Paris, Lindsay, Britney, or even Dolores.

Alice's Tea Cup, Chapter Two
156 East 64th Street (at Lexington Avenue)
Manhattan (Upper East Side)

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