Herbal Refreshment, Japanese-Style
I can't think of a single downside to the Manhattan debut of the fab Japanese superstore Muji—except that the three upcoming local branches (the first is slated to open at 455 Broadway in Soho in mid-November, and the second in the New York Times building in early 2008) won't include the big café that makes the flagship in Tokyo's Marunouchi neighborhood so much fun to visit. Yes, the stateside stores will be stocked with plenty of Muji's seductive, stripped-down housewares, stationery and knicknacks—just not the store's fat, fluffy (and plausibly healthy) matcha-green-tea scones.
So I'm happy to find that the brand-new Amai Tea and Bake House has rows of fetchingly green—and green-tea-spiked—baked goods that are just as irresistible as Muji's. So far I'm loving Amai's moist but non-greasy green-tea muffins and the small, shamelessly dainty but addictive green-tea and white-tea cookies (my favorite: the sesame-genmaicha ones). And since Amai is so close to Union Square, the staff sometimes raids the Greenmarket for ingredients to use in confections like today's flaky, crisp, sweet-potato filled pastries. As for the sweets I'm betting will sell the fastest: the extremely chocolatey, gooey-centered Botanical Brownies (not that kind), filled with fruit like quince or lychee or cherries, and way too rich for Muji's austere taste.