Newest ZenCha designed as downtown 'oasis'
I-Cheng Huang is opening a new ZenCha Tea Salon at 19 E. Gay St. There will be a soft opening on August 20 and a grand opening on August 27. This is Huang's third ZenCha Tea Salon location. Huang is seen here with a selection of some of his teas. Buy This Photo
I-Cheng Huang knew his third ZenCha Tea Salon had to be different and, yet, the same.
Indeed, he had to maintain the serene, almost meditative quality for which ZenCha has been known. But he also knew he had to accommodate the quick pace of downtown Columbus diners, struggling with deadlines and limited time for food and a hot beverage.
"I think it transcends the other two locations in that it offers an oasis from the hustle and bustle of everyday life," he said. "It has a metropolitan feel to it."
The latest ZenCha will open Aug. 27 in 2,000 square feet of space at 19 E. Gay St. downtown. The latest store has a high ceiling, light woods and towering picture windows along the destination corridor.
"We've been trying to figure out: What is the look of a tea room?" he said.
Unlike the other two ZenChas, the downtown location has a grab-and-go element to it, offering up to seven different brewed-tea choices and some casual food options for the busy urban crowd.
Outfitted with a peaceful color scheme and comfortable seating, the restaurant also has an appeasing atmosphere for those looking to chat over cups of loose-leaf tea ($4 to $5 a pot), Huang said.
Part of the space will be reserved for an adopt-a-teacup program for regular customers.
The interior seats 66, with additional seating on the patio, which should open next year.
In a downtown besieged with sandwich shops, ZenCha offers a healthful alternative, he said.
"I used to work downtown and there's a limited amount of fresh food here," he said.
The menu offers a number of dumplings and noodle dishes, such as the duck-broth soba. There's also an emphasis on vegetarian and vegan fare. Grilled pizzas come in a variety of options, such as ginger grilled beef and kimchi. It is also one of the rare places in town to get okonomiyaki, a Japanese savory pancake served with vegetables or with shrimp. Most items are in the $5 to $12 range.
Sushi is in the offing, Huang said. Breakfast fare includes scones, waffles, omelets and such.
The first ZenCha opened 10 years ago in the Short North, followed by another location in Bexley, which opened last year. ZenCha is known for its hundreds of teas, hand-selected by Huang, and an emerging, sophisticated dining scene. Huang said staff has recommendations for tea-and-food pairings.
Coffee has never been part of the lineup, although it's not meant to be a slight to java, he said.
"We're not against coffee," he said. "We never looked at it that way."
Still, there are indications that tea is growing in popularity, Huang said. Starbucks has announced it will open its first tea store by the end of the year.
"If Starbucks is moving to tea, I guess it tells you where the trend is going," he said.
ZenCha is open for breakfast through early-evening hours weekdays, brunch only on Saturday and closed Sunday. For more information, call 614-223-9530.
Main Moon has replaced Bamboo Village at 2173 W. Dublin-Granville Road. The Chinese restaurant, which seats 42, is owned by Evan Dong, who's also the chef. The menu is composed of classic Chinese-American fare. Lunches are priced between $5.25 and $7.50 and dinners are between $6 and $14. It is open lunch and dinner hours daily. For more information, call 614-847-8168.