City Paper is not for tourists
The Dish: cilantro scrambled eggs with tea-cured salmon
The Price: $9
The Skinny: Few things can handcuff a chef faster than a concept restaurant, particularly when your bag is tea. But several years ago, Teaism executive chef Arpad Lengyel developed an innovative salmon recipe, which he continues to showcase on his breakfast menu at the precious Penn Quarter tea house and cafe. Lengyel takes lapsang souchong, a black tea from Taiwan that’s been withered and dried over burning pine, and presses it into fresh salmon fillets, along with salt and sugar, and lets the fish sit in the refrigerator for a couple of days. The result is his interpretation of gravlax—his interpretation, that is, of an older Scandinavian recipe for gravlax in which pine needles were originally part of the dry rub instead of dill, the more modern flavoring agent. At first bite, Lengyel’s glistening, firm slices of salmon are bracingly salty; they gradually give way to more subtle flavors of smoke, pine, and a hint of tea-like bitterness. The dish is paired with “cilantro scrambled eggs,” which include unadvertised gratings of ginger and slices of jalapeno, neither of which registers much on the palate. With some tableside seasoning, the aromatic eggs are a decent accompaniment, but the salmon is the real piece of art.