Austin’s The Steeping Room operates in the most manufactured, globalized area of a city that prides itself on being “weird.” To its left – a Starbucks. To the right – the Apple store. In between is a closet-sized nook hoping to bring exotic teas and delectable cuisine from the Eastern hemisphere to customers more concerned with the logo on the bag than the items inside of it. However, in the outdoor mall “The Domain,” where vegan menu choices are limited to overpriced sushi and selections from the California Pizza Kitchen, it is a refreshing hideaway.
After a disappointing experience with a lukewarm ginger tofu sandwich, I took the recommendation of my company and enjoyed The Steeping Room’s piping hot Grilled Vegetable. Roasted butternut squash mixes with eggplant, caramelized onions, arugula, walnuts and hummus standing in for goat cheese. The most shocking revelation the sandwich offers is the thought that hummus can be enjoyed hot. It loses the signature identifiers of classic Lebanese hummus and becomes adhered to the ciabatta bread, not only serving as a replacement for the cheese, but acting to fill the expected highs and lows of milk fat and proteins. As always, field greens drizzled with balsamic vinegar provide the perfect accompaniment. All in all it is a fantastic first bite that leaves you with an unusually warm aftertaste.
This sandwich enthusiast recommends ordering your Steeping Room selections to go, to avoid the lethargic cooks and hit-or-miss service. Nothing destroys the ambiance of a classy tea room faster than an uninformed Austinite who can’t remember what you ordered, when you ordered it, or if you have ever spoken before. I apologize for the facetious tone.