A few days after the dinner at Blossom, I attended Zen‘s green tea dinner at Franchia, a multi-level Korean Vegan Teahouse that infuses tea into noodles and dumplings. Franchia’s interior is constructed with horizontal and vertical beams of dark wood that shine in the dim light. The overall effect is reminiscent (intentionally, I assume) of a peaceful Zen garden.
We started with the combination pancake platter that included Sweet Corn Cilantro Pancakes, Spicy Kimchi Pancakes and Crispy Scallion Pancakes. Unfortunately, I was unable to identify the kimchi pancake, the one about which I was most curious, probably because we had to divide each pancake into pieces to distribute to everyone at dinner (about 7 people) and I got confused as to what I was eating. Oh well, it means I’ll have to go again.
I had the same problem in differentiating among the various dumplings- green tea, spicy kimchi, and soy and grain meat- on our dumpling platter, again, most likely because of the large group of people and the passage of food from one end of the table to the other. We agreed that the spring rolls were the most boring item of the evening.
The entree I enjoyed most was the dish I had been thinking about in the days before the dinner: the pumpkin noodles. Unlike the other items we tried from the Korean dominated menu (crispy shrimp, soy meat Genghis Khan, curry soy chicken), the flavors of the addictive pumpkin noodles didn’t fit into a category- they weren’t exactly Italian and nor were they especially Asian. Surprisingly, they were both interesting and tasty, a hearty and herby dill-flecked tomato and coconut sauce topping the long orange strands.
We ended our dinner by sharing a green tea cake and a chocolate tofu pudding, topped, strangely enough, with pine nuts. The green tea cake was aptly described by Zen as “green tea in cake form.” Strongly scented, the cake grew on us with each bite. I confess to enjoying the tofu pudding for its fun, smooth texture, but plain chocolate pudding would not be my typical choice for ending a fancy meal.
Franchia is at 12 Park Avenue, near 35th street, New York, NY. (212) 213-1001.