Update: Marco Polo Tea Time is now closed.
Tea Time, a new restaurant and tea house, is located where Marco Polo Global used to reside on Liberty. The restaurant is owned and operated by the same couple that runs Marco Polo. It was a passion of Mrs. Cheung's to invite a fully vegetarian restaurant (with many gluten free options) into the Salem community, she told us as we left her restaurant Tuesday afternoon.
My sister and I entered the tea house looking for good tea and a bite to eat. After eating at Marco Polo previously, it was odd to be walking into the same room, but a different restaurant. The mild decor is the same, but they have only been operating for a few weeks, so this could change with time. We sat down near a young couple eating lunch and opened nice new menus. The tea menu spanned a page and 1/4th though there were more decaffeinated teas than I had hoped (there are only about 5 choices for caffeinated tea for us caffeine addicts). I ordered the African Nectar tea and my sister ordered the Dragon Jasmine tea. We also ordered a few appetizers, spring rolls and samosas.
Our tea came in little tea pots, and could be refilled with hot water after we drank a couple cups. The African Nectar was delicious. It was a red tea, decaffeinated, and had a nice sweet taste. My sister's tea was a jasmine blossom that bloomed pretty pink flowers. Hers was stronger and more bitter than mine, but still very good. The appetizers looked very cute on their square mod plates, arranged just so. They both looked like your average fried appetizers, but the insides were tasty. The samosas had curried potato inside and the spring rolls had lots of napa cabbage and other veggies. I don't like it when spring rolls have fillings chopped so small you can't tell what is inside, so these were perfect. Nice big chunks of everything. I especially loved the dipping sauce for both. Yum! The only drawback I saw was the frying. It might be nice to see a steamed spring roll on the menu with fresh veggies and a clear rice paper wrapper.
The rest of the menu looked really good. The food may all be vegetarian but the choices looked tempting for non-vegetarian folk like us. (Well, my sis and I have vegetarian tendencies, but still like meat.) When I go back for a real meal I saw some yummy looking curry dishes and a high protein salad chock full of grains, nuts and fruit I'd like to try. The waitress was very friendly and we were also checked on by the owner midway through our stay. The owner mentioned that she wanted her vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free patrons to enjoy a balance within their meal. Most restaurants only offer a few options for restricted diets, but her menu will enable all to pick and choose what is on their plate and enjoy a balanced meal to their liking.
I do not believe the hours of operation are set in stone, as Mrs. Cheung mentioned they will be trying breakfast sometime next week, to offer the only true option for vegans to dine out for breakfast in the Salem area. I think their website is under construction as there is a link to it from the Marco Polo website, but the link does not go anywhere yet. The Marco Polo site is: http://www.mpologlobal.com/ It is still under construction as well, but operable.
I will definitely go back, and am excited to try their take on vegan breakfasts. I encourage all to go and give it a try. Maybe, with effort, this good vegetarian restaurant can stick around for a while.
Edit 9/6/2008: For more information, the Statesman Journal found out a few particulars on the breakfast addition and the restaurant's hours of operation.