Thursday, June 11, 2009

Algebra Tea House

If you're anything like me, when you hear the word "algebra," chills run down your spine. I hear "algebra" and think back to Mrs. Stein's algebra II class in high school where people threw paper balls back and forth during class. Poor Mrs.Stein solved problems on the overhead projector for 45 minutes straight, oblivious to the fact that no one in her class was paying any attention to her. Being the nerd girl that I was, I spent many hours after school with Mrs. Stein, attempting to learn math skills I should have been able to get in her class...but I digress.

Thankfully, my visit to Algebra Tea House in Little Italy didn't cause me to have any sort of teenage flashback and there was absolutely no math involved. Just some tasty couscous.

I'd heard of Algebra Tea House a few years back when one of my friends was dating a vegetarian. Her boyfriend raved about Algebra and made my friend go with him to vegetarian couscous night. (or as I like to call it, Wednesday) I remember her being underwhelmed, but I figured I should give it a try for myself.

I can't say that I make it into Little Italy all that often, and I really never make it off of the main strip, so I was happy to have to explore to find the tea house. Being far, far away from Mayfield Road definitely helped in the parking department, too.

If it wouldn't have seemed awkward to do so, I would have taken photos of Algebra. It's hard to describe it without a good visual. It's beyond quirky. It's not quite odd. But overall, it seemed like a neat little eclectic place. (Another neat looking spot across the street was Lounge Leo - I hope to check that out sometime soon) A small crowd of smokers were perched on the front patio, and when I walked into the strangely decorated dining room with two patrons, I got a little nervous. I appreciate random decor, but there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the sparse furnishings. But maybe that was because I was there around dusk and there were no lights on. I picked up a menu from the counter and browsed through, although I already knew that I just had to try the couscous.

Out of nowhere, a staff member appeared to take my order. (I think she snuck up on me in the darkness) I asked if they had couscous and she proceeded to pile a mountain of couscous and veggies from a large pan on a stove top directly behind the counter into a Styrofoam take-out container. I was half tempted to order some hummus after reading some good reviews online, but the eerie vibe made me just want to take my take-out and go.

Here's what I found in my container when I got home -

a mountain of couscous topped with squash, carrots, a huge chunk of potato, and what I came to discover was an amazingly pumpkin-pie-like-cinnamony sauce.

Was it amazing? No. But was it pretty good? Yes.

The texture of the couscous wasn't what I expected. It was finer than what I normally buy in the store. The squash and carrots were good on their own, but overall I wish I'd had some more of the delicious sauce. Then the dish might have been amazing.

If you like Mediterranean food and are so tied of supporting the chains that monopolize this region, this little place should be a must see on your list of restaurants/cafes to visit. I'd definitely go back - and not just on vegetarian night!

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