While counter-service convenience is an undeniable trend in Boston and beyond, dining out is not all about speed and economy. Gen Sou En, which opened in Brookline earlier this year with traditional Japanese teas and café-style breakfast, lunch, and dinner, has heard customers’ call for more upscale service. It reopens this weekend, after a short hiatus, with expanded menus and waiter service.
Gen Sou En debuted in late February as the Boston area’s first traditional tea house, and the first café concept from 100-year-old Japanese company Harada Tea. It pretty much immediately started getting requests for reservations, says vice president of business development Chelsea Brewster, who joined the team in April after more than a decade in hospitality management.
“It seemed the community has a desire and a need for more,” Brewster says—and that was before the recent closure of Coolidge Corner mainstay the Regal Beagle.
Gen Sou En certainly has the facilities to offer more. “When I first came aboard, I realized the space is so beautiful, so unique, and so large. It has so much potential,” Brewster says. “We decided to jump on that potential and expand what we’re doing.”
The tea house shuttered in mid-October to undergo a full kitchen remodel, which includes opening it up so diners can see executive chef Gerson Felix and his team in action. There are more tables in the dining area now, but Brewster says it still maintains a relaxed, “breathable” atmosphere. The space can seat about 155, and the new layout reserves about 60 seats for first-come, seat-yourself café-service. But it’s flexible to change based on community need, Brewster says.
The main tea bar has been revamped to allow for a new menu of sake-based cocktails, alongside the selection of beer, wine, and sake (and of course, tea and coffee). Local drinksmiths Joe Cammarata (Hojoko) and Sam Treadway (Backbar) helped to open the tea house, but are no longer involved; Brewster led development of drinks like a martini with Harada’s mellow, smooth, Umami Green Tea and sake; a lavender-yuzu sipper; and a sake-spiked Wasabi Mary.
Tea is still the main theme, though. It’s used in, and inspires, elevated appetizers and entrees, like filet mignon tataki with daikon slaw, yuzu vinaigrette, and matcha oil; and a whole-grilled branzino with green tea quinoa salad. More traditional plates, Japanese-style sweets and pastries, and best-sellers like donburi (rice bowls) and temaki (handrolls) are still available.
Breakfast—from 8-11 a.m. daily—remains counter-service, and there are also casual options for lunch and dinner. Full-service lunch will run daily from 11 a.m.-5 p.m., and dinner is on from 5-10 p.m. Gen Sou En reopens for walk-ins on Saturday, Nov. 3, and reservations are available starting Monday, Nov. 5.
299 Harvard St., Brookline, 617-505-6745, gensouenteahouse.com.
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