Best Tea Room - 2006
Samovar Tea Lounge
Some tea rooms are all about the scones and crumpets; others embrace the more tranquil practices of the East. Still others go the Moorish route and serve up dolmas and dates with the brewed mint leaves. Samovar, an inclusive sort of place in a quiet corner of the Castro (and now in a second location in Yerba Buena Gardens), honors all of these traditions and more. Russian tea is the house specialty, prepared smoky and intense in a gleaming samovar, diluted to taste with hot water, milk, and sugar and accompanied by wild-salmon blini and bergamot-scented bread pudding. Or try the Japanese green tea service with Isobemaki mochi, seaweed salad, and a chocolate matcha brownie ... yum. Other specialties include soups, sandwiches, rice bowls, bento boxes, and a raw honeycomb with blue cheese and fresh fruit. Then there's always a simple unadorned cup of one of the establishment's 50 teas the 8 Treasures (with wolf berries, schizandra, and Chinese date) perhaps, or the Monkey Picked Iron Goddess of Mercy oolong.