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Té Company

Critic's Pick Critics' Pick

163 W. 10th St., New York, NY 10014 40.734586 -74.001926
nr. Seventh Ave.  See Map | Subway Directions Hopstop Popup
929-335-3168 Send to Phone

  • Cuisine: Cafes, Coffeehouse
  • Critics' Rating: ****

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Photo by Melissa Hom

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Official Website

te-nyc.com

Hours

Tue-Sun, 9am-7pm; Mon, closed

Nearby Subway Stops

1 at Christopher St.-Sheridan Sq.

Prices

$6-$14

Payment Methods

American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

Special Features

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Take-Out
  • Tea Time
  • Design Standout

Reservations

Not Accepted

Profile

Tearooms are not known for their food. You’ve had one crustless sandwich and lackluster scone, you’ve had ’em all — or so the thinking goes. Well, that thinking became obsolete when Elena Liao and her husband, Frederico Ribeiro, opened their tiny West Village tearoom, Té Company, in the fall of 2015. Rather than traffic in trendy matchas, Liao made the oolongs of her native Taiwan her mission, sourcing directly from farmers, brewing each pot with laser focus and effortless grace, and spreading the gospel of this overlooked category to anyone willing to listen.

So we hope Liao won’t take offense at what we have to say next: Té Company should be a destination for anyone who loves food, serenity, and neighborly spirit, even if a cup of tea isn’t his or her cup of tea. This superb snuggery is a haven for contemplation and delectation, and though tea is the theme, it’s far from the only draw. Liao and Ribeiro infuse their four-table room with style and true hospitality, extending from the browsing library dedicated to Bonnie Slotnick, whose cookbook shop long occupied the space, to the classic jazz, to the “Té Etiquette” posted in the bathroom (“… please take your phone calls outside. Feel free to text as much as you’d like.”).

Its owners say that Té Company is no restaurant, but that doesn’t stop Ribeiro from stalking the farmers’ market and changing his small posted menu accordingly, or garnishing each intricate plate at his minuscule station behind the counter as if he were still a ninja sous-chef at Per Se.

A Portuguese native who has cooked in Spain, he exhibits a distinct Iberian influence in most of his so-called snacks, which range from sliced chorizo iberico to the tortilla de patata that has become his signature. This is no simple wedge of potato omelette, but a custardy marvel of tortilla technique — the Greenmarket fingerlings finely cut and confited, combined with eggs, then cooked just long enough for the edge to set. It’s finished, as many of Ribeiro’s dishes are, with flaky sea salt and good Spanish olive oil, and then garnished with colatura-tossed olives and Basque peppers, say, or, on another occasion, a blanket of purple edible flowers that perfectly color-coordinate with the border of the Vista Alegre plate.

Ribeiro makes his own whole-wheat sourdough from Anson Mills flour and charges $5 for it — worth every cent, considering the crisp-chewy crust and cool, creamy crumb. For his tableside take on açorda à alentejana, the Portuguese bread soup, he pours a stream of boiling water into a bowl containing a poached egg, garlic-rubbed toast, fresh mint, and an à la minute pesto of cilantro, garlic, and bacon fat. You think, as with nearly everything Liao or Ribeiro delivers to your table, that it’s too beautiful to eat, until you venture a spoonful and discover the clear, pure flavors inhabiting the still life, the punch of garlic and the herbal aromatherapy that rises from the bowl, the surprising heft lent by the bacon fat and bread.

Although Ribeiro doesn’t shrink from rarefied ingredients (sliced lobes of poached shad roe with dandelion and horseradish; nuggets of smoked eel buried beneath a wheel of beet tartare), even the simplest preparations excel. An off-menu salad materialized as a mound of baby mustard greens camouflaged by a blizzard of shaved ricotta salata and broccoli rabe flowers, with a cache of toasted walnuts and a bit of heat from a piri-piri-laced dressing. It’s a salty, spicy, sweet showstopper, an exaltation of the tender leaves of spring.

And because this is a tea shop, there are sweets: a light, extra-tender muffin (sweet potato currently) and a pineapple-Linzer cookie enlivened with lime zest, yuzukosho, and salt.

About that tea: Even if you’re a certified cortado addict, you can’t avoid being swept up in Liao’s passion. Listening to her descriptions of buds and leaves and fermentation levels and altitudes, and sampling a soothing pot of something light and floral, or more heavily oxidized and toastier, it’s impossible not to fall under the sway of both the seductively diverse oolong and the welcoming, unfailingly delicious Té Company itself.

Ideal Meal

Tortilla de patata, trout-roe-and-kombu toast, any seasonal salad. 

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