The ultimate tea house. This references my mom’s dad’s old coffeeshop and also the HK teahouses like you see in Hard Boiled and actual restaurants like Nom Wah Tea Parlor in NYC. It’s really comprised of 3 spaces, a double storey shop with a hole in the wall joining the kitchen next door. This is a money no object type blue sky thing.
The centerpiece of the restaurant is an edge to edge chamfered cool grey faux marble table top with a filligree covered heavy brown wooden base. Like a classic Chinese coffeshop/teahouse. This is an eight seater with a lazy susan or a 3 x 2 top with a vase carrying a singular fake orange sunflower. The side wall will be a full length mirror with burgundy banquette seating, preferably second hand and patched up with vinyl in a slightly different shade here and there. The back wall is painted in a faded imperial edict yellow with posters of Anita Mui, Faye Wong, Chow Yun Fatt, The Young And Dangerous, Leslie Cheung and a Yue Minjun piece, preferably off TaoBao. Distinctly 90s/00s retro.
There’s also two columns in the middle painted the same yellow, with my imaginary progeny’s 6th place award for violin decomposition as well as one of those awful inspirational slogan posters. Like THERE IS NO I IN TEAM, except it’s in Chinese, which would simply be cryptic and senseless. Or like MOTIVATION or Don’t Let Your Dreams Be Dreams. Also, we’ll have a 1990s style bad photoshop version of a crew photo with Tony Abbott and someone scrawling TONY DA PONY, KILLAH PRIEST in neon pink marker.
Most of the other seating will be simple rectangle linoleum covered tables in some awkward shade of greige with Thonet No. 18s that we will Maarten Baas the fuck out of with Bernzomatic TS-8000s. If they fall apart, we’ll sorta Macgyver them back with sticky tape and bluetack. Each and every table will get a condiment/cutlery/napkin holder with Koon Yick Wah Kee chilli sauce and some vinegar and soy and chilli oil, custom melamine chopsticks and soup spoons and discount store metal and acetate handled cutlery. Upstairs is more of the same, shitty tables, shitty chairs, banquette seating in dark emerald this time and more natty posters and awkward time capsule stuff with little meaning and the odd smattering of something absurdly trendy or funny. Same bloody mirrored wall running the same side as well but a bronzed finish so it’s more old timey Shanghai 1930s but we’ll have neon lights in pink as well on the opposite wall that spell out the restuarant’s name, which is TBD. I’m thinking Cha Lou Zha Fit. At an extensive stretch, it sounds like Chateau Lafite? Cept if you know what zha fit means in Cantonese. You know we gon have our own label of cask wine tho.
Hanging off the ceiling, we’ll have ratty chandeliers that are just not quite straight. Super inspired by Le Chateaubriand. The floor, likewise, will have existing cracked tiles because the workers were careless. The stairs will run over the bar, which will have 3 seats so if you’re by yourself, you don’t feel like a complete idiot next to a stranger because there’s a seat in between. Next to the bar, is a faded pale aqua tea shelf, full to the brim with miscellaneous tea knick knacks, some hypermodern pottery from Japan via plusminuszero and some from flea markets. We’ll stock all the different combos of tea, but we’ll specialize in Pu Erh because duh. Next to this shelf is the entrance to the kitchen, which will have like Wild West style swinging wooden doors to annoy and piss off the servers. Otherwise, this hole in the wall will be painted pitch black and feel like a portal to another realm, which it is.
Once you step through the blacked out passage, you’ll enter an ultra clean and bright kitchen with a man sized stainless steel island workbench you can jump onto with flour flying everywhere. We’ll have all mod cons. Circulators, Induction stoves, 2 wok burners, a charcoal grill, a steamer section, a deep fryer and 20 $6/hr imported slaves or 40 stagiers plus me wielding a conductor’s wand a la Harry Potter. NO ONE sees the kitchen except staff. We’ll have giant black dildos hanging conspicuously off one wall near the entrance as a deterrent.
We’ll serve some sort of pan Chinese modernist style type dim sum/small dishes crap with like cumin lamb brain skewers, Szechuan style hot oil seared aburi white fish and like an egg custard you steam in a rice bowl lined with cling. You sorta unmould the thing onto a plate and you get the tian dish look and then it gets some light soy type dressing. It’ll probably be like king crab on top hiding a emulsion of salted egg yolk and accented with lettuce. There will be no fucking steamer trolleys manned by old ladies. The staff will be old ladies who don’t speak English and trained to be rude and unhelpful. They will wear tee shirts emblazoned with prints of random gangster hiphop acts. The manager is gonna be either a)a dude dressed up like Lo Pan in Big Trouble In Little China OR b)a crossdresser pretending to be Maggie Cheung in In The Mood For Love.
The menu itself will feature a retro style 1930s font for the CHATOUZHAFIT logo and then revert to something legible and simple. All the dishes will have OTT colourful names like Crouching Dragon Sucking The Giant Marble or Invisible Plate Of Food That Burns Hole In Wallet or when we send out nonsense with liquid nitrogen or dry ice, it’ll be like Gimmicky Vapors Swell my Purse.
When we do have our big opening, we’ll blast some Mobb Deep and have a lion dance troupe sliding down the stairs with twin tec 9s and firecrackers going off on a Sonos speaker. Then they like grab the cabbage and we dole out the red packets and shit. Oh yeah and fucking fortune cookies man. Gotta have those for mignardises and with more inspirational quotes hidden within. Like “There Is No Try, Do Or Do Not” – Chinese Guy.