The menu at Tamra Teahouse is initially hard to pin down to any particular cuisine: Chef-owner Yunha Moh is a first-generation immigrant by way of South Korea, and inspiration from his heritage appears throughout the menu. Meanwhile, there are also nods to the Caribbean food that’s endemic to Crown Heights, Latin cooking and Pan-Asian ingredients. In the wrong hands, the fusion could get muddled, but here it is both creative and ambitious.
You might be sick of menus that feature avocado toast, but Tamra’s take ($10)—served on tostones instead of bread—reinvents the recipe with help from a sweet pineapple dressing and sesame seeds. However, you can pass on the carrot salad ($9) with chadon beni (a Trinidadian herb similar to cilantro), Thai basil and pumpkin seeds, as its resulting flavors are too similar to the superior avocado dish. Curry is common in many cultures, and the version ($11) here is a hit, with butternut squash, corn and potatoes served with jasmine rice, chadon beni and daikon pickles. We’ve come back multiple times for this plentiful helping of balanced sweetness, finished off with a zig-zag of magenta sauce. The curry with oxtails ($16) braised in coconut milk, lemongrass, ginger and shrimp paste—in the style of Filipino kare kare—is silky and tender, though it could’ve used a crunchy element. By far the best dish is the atypical pho ($13), which arrives as a glistening spicy-sour soup, a combination of chicken, lime and jalapeño that feels filling and deeply restorative. We’d like to sip it anytime we’re under the weather or, frankly, any day.
Despite Moh’s experience at hyped restaurants like Saltie, Pok Pok and Llama Inn, this order-at-the-counter teahouse—which serves Korean jujube, Caribbean sorrel and other hot, medicinal drinks—retains a feeling of humbleness. The plastic-coated tablecloths are printed with tropical flowers, and board games sit on a shelf, ready to be used. The service is inconsistent—some dishes take quite a long time to arrive—but unlike other new restaurants in the gentrifying area, this one seems to attract mostly longtime locals, an achievement that should not go unnoticed.