House of Steep in Arlington
By Nevin Martell
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Most eateries have a place to sit down while your takeout order is being prepared. It’s exceedingly rare that a foot bath is recommended to help pass the time. But that’s what happens at House of Steep, which opened last September in Arlington.
The narrow space offers something of a triple play: teahouse and cafe in the front, “foot sanctuary” in the back. The concept was developed by 31-year-old Arlingtonian Lyndsey DePalma, who says she was inspired by her great-grandmother. “She soaked her feet every day, lived to a ripe old age, was healthy as a horse and had a happy life,” DePalma says. “So I thought there might be something to the whole foot soaking business.”
You can choose from more than 40 teas -- including nearly a dozen house blends -- at one of the six tables, at the two-seat counter or while your feet are relaxing. I enjoyed a steaming mug of the house’s Clarity tea (cup, $4.50; pot, $6). Made with ginkgo and juniper berries, it arrived with the faint whiff of Christmas. However, it was much milder and more earthen than its aroma let on. Accompanied by a timer for personal-preference steeping and a one-bite, leaf-shaped lavender cookie, it was the perfect sip on a cold winter’s day.
The health-conscious menu was devised by self-taught culinarian DePalma and includes a modest selection of sandwiches, salads, soups and snacks. Carryout food is dispatched in sturdy cardboard boxes and bowls. (No food is allowed in the treatment area.) I liked the simple yet well-executed seaweed salad, with its sesame oil and hint of heat ($4.99). The dainty, quartered tea sandwich features smoked sockeye salmon with sliced cucumber and an avocado aioli on soft whole-wheat bread ($6.99).
Each of the five rice bowls on the menu represents a country or region: Thailand, India, Japan, China and the Mediterranean ($8.99 each). The Japanese is pumped up with a sinus-clearing amount of wasabi in the broth, as well as broccoli florets, baby corn, mushroom caps and a dash of dried seaweed on top. A choice of tofu, shrimp or strips of grilled chicken breast finishes the dish, which takes about 15 minutes for the House of Steep to prepare.
After lunch was sorted out, I headed for a Recovery Soak. “You’ll get some lemon and sandalwood scents,” the therapist noted as she mixed 105-degree water and spices in a copper basin. “There might be some thyme in there, too. It’s reminding me of roast chicken right now.”
She was right on -- and so was the soak ($22), which left my feet feeling refreshed and invigorated for the rest of the day.