If you ever want to experience a quiet, relaxing place to shop where you can't afford anything but everything is beautiful - try Takashimaya. If you ever want to experience a quiet, relaxing place where you can afford to buy something - try Tea Box, located in the basement of Takashimaya.
Takashimaya is a luxurious Japanese department store located on 5th Avenue between 54th and 55th Street. Takashimaya consists of 5 floors, each one with their own mood depending on the merchandise. My favorites are the travel floor and the home and garden floor. On the basement level you can find Tea Box. The front section has teas, teapots, and accessories for purchase. Dried tea leaves are on display, along with cookies and candy. The back section is a cozy place for a hot pot of tea or a well executed bento box.
Tea Box is opened Monday through Saturday, and lunch is served from 11:45-2:45 p, and afternoon tea service is between 3:00-5:30 p. The atmosphere is lovely, decorated with metallic fabric covered walls and modern lighting. The servers are always sweet and accommodating, but sometimes the guests are a little obnoxious. Be prepared to be surrounded by fur coats, heavy perfume, and bags from Bergdorf Goodman and Tiffany. Aside from the lousy company, the menu is concise and appetizing - bento boxes, sandwiches, salads, and an assortment of over 30 teas.
I love to get genmaicha tea. It is a sweet, nutty green tea that has toasted rice and popcorn. To read more about genmaicha click here. All tea is served in special pots and cups, depending on the variety you ordered. Some teas are accompanied by a small rock candy to use as a sweetener. I find it very charming and clever.
I always get the vegetarian bento box (there is also a meat bento box option - see menu picture below), and I am never disappointed. The boxes come out covered with a lid and server lifts the lid off for you - giving the "ta-da" effect. The vegetarian bento box comes with the following:
-Green Tea Noodles with Seaweed
-Tempura Vegetables with Seaweed Dipping Sauce
-Grilled Seasonal Vegetables
-Seasame Crusted Tofu with Sesame Sauce
-Chestnut and Mushroom with Rice
The box almost feels like a gift, each small compartment has a small treasure for your mouth. The vegetable tempura is delicious. The tempura is light, flaky, and not greasy at all. The rice is well seasoned, I definitely could have eaten a larger portion. And the the noodles and seaweed are cold and refreshing. Overall, I feel full (not in a stuffed way) and satisfied.
If you are ever strolling along 5th Avenue, I definitely recommend stopping by Takashimaya to rest your feet and relax with a hot cup of tea.