Chawan Tea House: Experience a piece of Japan in the heart of the desert

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“Teaism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence. It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order. It is essentially a worship of the Imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life.”
Okakura Kakuzō, The Book of Tea

Avid tea drinkers know what I am talking about here. So do coffee drinkers. Drinking smalls cups of tea or coffee mugs of elixir make a bad day seem bearable and it allows you to take upon the world with more courage. Sometimes, it is hard to look upon tea and coffee as mere beverages. They take upon a larger meaning where they lend that support, balance and beauty that we truly deserve. Such was my experience at this exquisite Japanese tea house called Chawan at the Amwaj Lagoon. 

DSC_0015A concept based around «Hanami» a Japanese tradition of drinking tea under the cherry blossom tree, Chawan ( meaning Tea Bowl) surprises you with its tranquil and aptly designed interiors. The display cases were adorned with hand-made and hand-painted tea cups. Every inch of the restaurant seemed to have been thoughtfully done and embellished. 

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 The entire evening was spent listening to fascinating trivia about Japan’s esoteric culture and sipping on Cherry Blossom tea from Ms. Budoor, who is the owner cum chef cum everything of Chawan. Dressed in a flowery Kimono and looking like an absolute doll, she took me through her cultural experience of living in Japan. Having studied her masters and worked in Japan, Budoor found herself falling in love with the language, food and cultural nuances. She visited auctions and collected an enviable range of hand made tea cups, cushions and other genuine Japanese artifacts which she proudly displays in her Tea House.

image courtesy : Chawan
image courtesy : Chawan

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Ms. Budoor

Budoor makes all the snack -type food all by herself and you could have pleasure of watching her as she quickly shapes the ‘Onigiri’ – Japanese rice balls with her deft hands. Further into our conversation, I was quite surprised to find out that Budoor holds a job as an on-air graphics designer for Al Arab News channel. Running a restaurant with such finesse at such a young age with a day job – now that is really something!

My Japanese experience began with Budoor presenting the hot towel to clean my hands. Then she politely offered me the Tea House’s menu. I was a bit confused and asked her to help me out. She picked out a few very authentic Japanese snacks and asked me to try the Cherry Blossom Tea. 

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Every sip felt like a moment out of time.

Some sort of a balance was being restored.

Hot and fragrant, the tea nuzzled my throat and the cheer of the cherry blossom was doing its trick. As I was still enjoying the lingering taste of the tea from my last sip, Budoor presented the “sampler bento ” that included kani salad “crab salad with Japanese mayo and fish roe”. The crackers were dutifully served with Chawan’s signature Wasabi Hummous. There was two bites of Shrimp and crab dumpling “ebi and kani gyoza” too with a soy based sauce. The flavours were striking and tantalizing.

It felt like my taste buds were lighting up!

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Next item was Onigiri –  Japanese rice ball. A carb -fest with sticky rice moulded into a petal-shape, supported by a seaweed.  A quintessential Japanese snack served to school-going children in their bento- lunch boxes. 

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Onigiri picture courtesy – Chawan

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Dessert was a non-fussy and utterly delicious -Mochi ice cream and Matcha pudding “Japanese green tea”. 

After such a beautiful food experience, I wanted to know more about Budoor and Chawan. Budoor explained, she wanted to bring back the essence of Japan to Bahrain and share the quiet exquisiteness of the Japanese culture and heritage via her dainty tea house. She practices the famed Japanese tea ritual in Chawan and helps people like you and me experience the heart of Japan. She even allows you to borrow beautiful Kimonos to authenticate the experience.

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After my elaborate dine-in experience at Chawan, Budoor showed me gracefully to the door bowing humbly and saying – Arigato ( thank you). Well, I would say, Arigato, Budoor for this elevated experience. Find your own piece of Japan and head to Chawan and treat your senses. 

The outlet is open 6 days-a-week, except on Monday, from 5pm to 10pm on weekdays and 5pm to midnight on weekends.

For details, follow them on instagram @chawanbh

and check out this extensive menu here.

This post was a sponsored one but all the views expressed were mine.

All pictures are mine, except where stated by Chawan. 

{ Review} Pie matters : Pies & Bakes

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I remember very clearly, one of my very first bakes was an apple pie. It was quite nice, though the crust wasn’t exactly even. I couldn’t agree more with Jane Austen when she said, ” Good apple pies are a considerable part of domestic happiness”. The humble apple pie set the foundation for me in baking and gave me the confidence to carry on with my other baking trysts. 

Pies have such a rustic appeal to them that there is no way anyone can resist them. Fruit based pies are just as popular as the chocolate, custard and savory ones. When it comes to pie, I pretty much enjoy all kinds of pies. So when the opportunity came my way where I was sent some pies by the generous folks at Pies & Bakes to taste, I couldn’t be happier. 

Pies & Bakes is run by the baker extraordinaire, Mohammed. Completely self-taught and immensely talented, Mohammed started Pies & Bakes as a home baking business several years ago. He says, he began by treating his family and friends who enjoyed his creations so much that they encouraged him to share his creation with the rest of the world. 

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I was intrigued why was he is particularly interested in pies. To this, Mohammed had this to say, “With everyone baking cakes, pies set me apart from the crowd.”

Which were Mohammed’s favourite pies to bake and eat? 

“The more complicated the order the more I enjoy the task. As for eating. so far I have not tasted or made a pie savory or sweet that I have not enjoyed eating. But I tend to lean more to sour pies than sweet ones.”

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Personally, I enjoy all kinds of pies and apple pie is my absolute favourite. Mohammed and his team were kind enough to send me an apple and a cherry pie. Both these pies were more about the fruit and the crust was buttery, crumbly and just right. It takes years of experience to work a pastry like that and I have nothing but admiration for this self-taught baker.

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Check out Pies&Bakes delectable menu and the very special kind of pies they bake – sugar free, cholesterol-free, gluten-free and so on.  

The Apple pie was absolutely delicious and wasn’t overly sweet. While the Cherry pie was so much cherry that for a moment it felt like it was spring. To order, all you need to do is call and pies can either be picked up or home delivered.

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On being asked, whether he teaches pie baking professionally, Mohammed said, ”  So far the only students I have are my nieces and nephew. I spend time with them in the kitchen during weekends and I give them ingredients to create their own mixes.” Sounds like an interesting exercise many of us would like to be a part of.

To get in touch with them and to order their delectable pies and other bakes ( they special in healthy breads ) you can save their co-ordinates here

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If you are a fan of savoury pies, you can order for a custom pie ( off the menu) as well. 

Mohammed enjoys choosing one kind of pie from each country and reading its literature. He starts with trial and error adding his own touches and once  he is comfortable with the taste, it goes to the menu. So far he has several success stories in savory pies such as the chicken mushroom pie, cottage pie, Bastilla, Butter pie, Fisherman’s pie and so on. 

I know where to get my pie fix from each time I crave a seasonal pie. Thank you Mohammed, my family, friends and I loved your pies and we think they are top notch.