Ma-cha Teahouse and Gallery
Update: Ma-cha is closed.
Update 11/08: Recovered photos have been added to this post.
Latest Ma-cha Teahouse and Gallery news and reviews
Amanda, JM, Nichole, Sabi and Emo ate pretty much the whole menu - three tea sandwiches, a PBJ, a ham and mozzarella sandwich, a grownup rice bowl, a kiddie-sized rice bowl, some complementary cardamom cookies and donut muffins, three-for-the-price of-two chocolate truffles, a masala chai and an iced tea.
The bill was about $40, or $8/person, plus tip.
Amanda gave Ma-Cha an A-; JM gave Ma-Cha a B; Nichole gave Ma-Cha an A (see our grading rubric).
Ma-Cha is one of Madison's only dedicated tea houses, the other (that we're aware of, with another arriving this fall) being the Legacy House. While Legacy House is for white-gloved ladies, Ma-Cha is more Zen. It's undergone some reincarnations from co-op art gallery to its present form, and even on our visit we learned that the menu was changing. So, though we ate just about everything they had to offer, future visits may be uncharted territory.
The atmosphere at Ma-Cha is very conducive to leisurely contemplation or conversation. Each separate room in the converted house, upstairs and down, has been outfitted with comfortable furniture or cushions and thoughtfully decorated in a different style and palette. We chose the large front room on the second floor, perfect for playing games with the kids or lounging on the floor to chat.
Generosity marks Ma-Cha's service. We were treated to cookies and muffins as we waited for our sandwiches. The house-specialty cardamom cookies were tiny, light sugar cookies with a very subtle - nearly undetectable - spice flavor. Likewise, the "donut" muffins were OK but with a plain, ephemeral taste. Both made it easy to appreciate the bold spiciness of Nichole's masala chai, which started with a punch and tapered off into mellowness. The chai was served in a cast iron teapot with a diffuser, accompanied by a jug of whole milk (skim was also available) and a tiny dish to set the diffuser on when it had finished steeping.
JM's ham and cheese sandwich was good, served on a quality bread, but wasn't anything more special than what's available elsewhere. At least there was something on the menu worth his eating, which is not always true at places like these.
The tea sandwiches were excellent. A curried chicken salad with carrots on white bread was the least adventurous but most filling. The salmon was salty, with a good wasabi bite. Finally, the Asian pear with bleu cheese and sage on caraway rye was a complex array of interesting flavors. All the sandwiches, of course, were delicately presented with the crusts cut off.
A more traditional PBJ proved its kid-friendliness, being deemed "very good" by Sabi. Neither she nor JM were particularly fond of the accompanying Terra vegetable chips, however, but that just left more for Amanda and Nichole.
We also sampled a rice bowl: warm jasmine rice topped with black sesame seeds and raw red cabbage, carrots, cukes and a few bites of salmon, with a tiny jug of strong soy sauce on the side. When our host explained what it was, it sounded somewhat unappealing (and perhaps the explanation was designed to strip customers of their expectations), but it turned out to be very good, and just what it sounds like. We also requested a "kiddie rice bowl" of plain white rice, which unfortunately did arrive topped with sesame seeds that had to be excised before Emo would join us. (He later noted that the jasmine truffle tasted like apple pie.)
After dinner, Nichole ventured back downstairs to fetch chocolate truffles. She bought two, yet our host generously threw in a third. Ma-Cha offers a green tea truffle by David Bacco and a jasmine by Gail Ambrosius. The contrast in styles was striking. David Bacco's offering was sleek, square and shiny, with a green glitter glaze. The filling was (naturally) pistachio green and packed a strong matcha green tea punch. Gail Ambrosius' jasmine truffle, conversely, was velvety, curvy and topped with a dried jasmine petal. The melt-in-your-mouth filling seemed to say, "Would you like some tea with your chocolate?" rather than shouting, "TEA! I'm chocolate but I taste like TEA!" We think it's a gender thing.
Amanda said she'd come back for the atmosphere, but the food was a bit too pricey for her to make it a regular spot. For those who'd walk a mile for a good cup of tea, the trip is well worth it, and they can bring their friends and kids as well.