Tea for Two

Roughly 50 zillion locales in Paris bear signs saying salon de thé. Yet one finds serious tea — the loose-leaf kind, precision-brewed by the establishment, in a pot — at only a handful of these spots. More often than not, patrons are offered a serious-looking, snazzily decorated box displaying an assortment of tea bags they're expected to brew themselves — making these shops more like salons de boiling water.

Le Boudoir is that kind of tearoom, though the small selection of bags in the box is generally of good quality, such as my preferred choice, Numi Monkey King. One of the chief reasons loose tea produces a superior cuppa is because bags are usually filled with tea dust and fannings, which are tiny broken leaf pieces. The essential oils and other agents that make tea flavorful are largely lost in these dregs. The Numi bags contain only prime whole leaves, so my cup of jasmine-scented green tea was a nice mix of lightness and fragrance. It was also free of tannic bitterness, owing to precision three-minute steeping. The perfect brew came thanks to instructions printed on the bag, not because of any helpful hints from my pleasant but uninformed server. Tea selections aren't even listed on this salon de thé's menu.

Fortunately Le Boudoir is far more serious about other menu items, notably its sandwiches; best are the tartines, served on toasted pain Poilane — the pinnacle of Parisian baking. Also offered is a larger list of cheaper sandwiches made with lesser loaves, but the delectable slices of French baker Lionel Poilane's handmade, thick-crusted, wood-oven-baked sourdough make the stylish $10 tartines well worth the extra bucks. Especially recommended: an elegant minimalist combination of quartered tender-crisp baby artichokes (fresh, not vinegar-marinated) layered atop savory, not overly salty black olive tapénade.


Le Boudoir

169 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables; 305-442-0801

Open Monday through Saturday 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Sunday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Other sandwiches, which range from $4 to $8, come on a choice of bakery white bread, baguette, or pavé. Choose the pavé — literally meaning "paving stone" in French — a crunchy-crusted ciabattalike bread with a moist crumb. As for fillings, roast beef, which my server assured me would be rare, was so overcooked there wasn't even a hint of pink in the dry, gray shavings. Although a smoked salmon sandwich featured a generous amount of pristine fish, the odd use of mayonnaise instead of butter made the construction cloying. But a shrimp/avocado combo, with small but nicely cooked shellfish, was excellent. All sandwiches are served with green salad — just romaine, not the more enticing mesclun pictured on the eatery's Website menu, but well dressed with a slightly sweet, assertively mustard-spiked vinaigrette.

Whatever else you order, don't miss the macaroons, a specialty of Le Boudoir's master pátissier, Michel Chiche, who is a veteran of Paris's famed LeN¬tre Culinary Institute. Other Miami bakeries may carry French-style macaroons, but none compares to chef Michel's hand-baked, sophisticated, seasonally varying creations — such as cassis, caramel, chocolate, and pistachio filling bracketed by two delicate almond cookies with thin, crisp shells and melt-in-your-mouth interiors. That, in my opinion, is a perfect sandwich.


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