Get ready for your idea of a tea house to turn on its ear. Verdant Tea is launching a whole new menu of food and drinks that will surprise you.
Owners Lily and David Duckler launched Verdant just a year ago and immediately set the bar high for their teas imported from family farms in China, their educational tea service, and house-brewed kombucha. Recently they collaborated with Birchwood on a breakfast menu pop-up, and this is just the natural next evolution.
The food menu is in place right now as a preview/trial run for the rest of the month before the official launch in August. They're also working on the service model, which will include full-service and counter-service at breakfast. If you're expecting traditional Chinese tea snacks, you might be one of those people who ask David to dress up in costume for tea tastings, and you'd be wrong. It's definitely based on food that David and Lily enjoyed eating while they lived in China, but they know they're on hometown turf, and really they'd rather just riff and play with flavor.
I tried some "Ga La" clams which were in a spicy Lucid Air broth with a smack of ginger and orange zest that came with a rightly crusty baguette. There was also a lovely and balanced chilled asparagus and kale soup. Those two items, along with some rice balls jammed with gin-cured gravlax, make up the Laoshan House Special for $16. You'll also find some Chinese hash, with those fried potato strings the debuted at the Birchwood pop-up, a Bao Bao sandwich and some sesame noodles. The kombucha pub nosh special includes a house kombucha tasting flight, Chinese pot stickers with aged black vinegar, kimchi potato salad, and whiskey fried rice with hoison bacon and sweet corn for $12. That bacon is a miracle.
The craft cocktails, which won't launch until August, have been a work in progress in conjunction with Simeon Rossi, a childhood pal of David's and co-founder of Loon Liquors. But a sneak peek tasting of some of the cockatils revealed a lot of very interesting and complex flavors. When you consider that these guys source some 23 spices for their chai alone, you have to know you're going to find some intensity. They've been messing with steeping spirits with their teas, obviously, but there's also some work with the creation of bitters from tea leaves and tinctures from aloeswood, which is usually burned for incense.
Signature cocktails are categorized by Tigers/Labyrinths/Mirrors/Knife Fights (in a nod to Borges) and are meant to evoke different emotions. They will be arranged in threes, proceeding from lighter to stronger, in a natural flight. Some are twists on the classics, like the Narcissus, which took a gin and tonic to a new place with tea infused Solveig gin, house tonic made with palo santo wood, and muddled passionfruit. Then there are wholly inspired creations such as the Aureliano Buendia with rum, tea infused bourbon, marigold and Ames honey syrup, and grilled orange. There was a tester cocktail that was a take on the Rusty Nail made with Loonshine that evoked the same earthy and smokey nuances, but with no Scotch, just herbs and tea.
With all these spices and infusions and things just sitting around brewing, you can imagine what the future of this drink menu holds. Stay tuned to cocktial blog Joy On The Rocks for good pics and more drink descriptions.