Fish out of Water

Sometimes amazing things appear from the ether and change the experience of living in a community dramatically for the better.

A recent example of this is the Formosa Tea House, owned by Chien-Ming Yeh, that opened this spring at 73 University Avenue in Charlottetown.

Now I am almost certain that if you went to a bank and expressed your desire to borrow money to open a small tea house with room for about 6 customers, in downtown Charlottetown, where you would serve food like sushi, steamed buns and iced tea, for prices like $1.50 and $2.00, you would be sent away quickly, and much laughter about your insanity would follow in the bank office.

So I imagine that the Formosa Tea House didn’t seek bank financing for their endeavour. Thank goodness.

Located amongst a motely collection of businesses that includes Fergie, my barber, the Lebanese restaurant Cedars, a comic book shop and an antique dealer, the Tea Room is housed in a space which, if memory serves me, used be either a taxi stand, or the former location of my barber. You would never know. This small space — it can’t be more than 12 x 20 feet — has been transformed into a very pleasant wood-filled sitting room. The fixtures are well designed without being precious, the chairs are comfortable, and, somehow, you don’t feel like you’re sitting inside a closet.

The staff are attentive and good-humoured (they offered to give Oliver a strawberry cookie, but checked with us first to make sure it was okay).

The food is simply delightful. The menu, a simple 11 x 17 laminated card, has drinks on one side and snacks on the other. Every item has a colour picture, which is helpful when one is unfamiliar with things like steamed buns and sushi. The prices are crazy-low; we two ate like kings — bamboo rice, vegetable sushi, steamed buns, lemon iced tea — for $15. The food itself is unlike anything else you can get in Charlottetown, and is served in a pleasant fashion, with chopsticks or cutlery at your option.

It was such an odd experience to be sitting in this unusual oasis and looking out at the same old University Avenue traffic flowing by, know that Fergie was still cutting hair a couple of doors down, and people were still enjoying their falafels at Cedars two doors up the other way.

I sincerely hope the Formosa Tea Room attacts a sustaining audience of fans and is around for a good long while.

I heartily encourage everyone to drop in for a bite. And kudos to my wily friend Ann for sending me their way in the first place.