Strange how a teapot can represent at the same time the comforts of solitude and the pleasures of company.
The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse is nestled against the Rocky Mountain Foothills on 13th Street in Boulder, Colorado. Sitting alongside Boulder Creek in Central Park, the Teahouse is renowned one of this charming city’s most beautiful and unique restaurants.
Far more than a Teahouse, the establishment is respected for delicious cuisine, including breakfast, lunch and dinner appetizers and entrees from India, Tajikistan, the Middle East, Italy, Japan, China, North Africa, Iran, Spain, Thailand, Mexico, Germany and the U.S.
Each dish is as unique as The Teahouse’s exotic atmosphere itself, creating an environment where all of one’s senses are immersed in a divinely exquisite experience.
The Teahouse is a Boulder institution, visited by more than 100,000 people annually, and popular with locals and tourists alike. Seasoned vegetarians find themselves frequenting the Teahouse for a variety of lunch and dinner entrees, such as the Persian Chickpea Kufteh a delicious blend of chickpea balls with herbs & spices, Persian tomato sauce, sautéed farm greens, egg, and a pomegranate reduction. Those in search of authentic Takik fare might try the Tajikistan Plov (Tajik for Pilaf), served with a scrumptious salad and house-made naan.
Wine conoisseurs also need look no farther than the Dushanbe for pairings that rival any fine dining establishment; recommendations are made in the menu (for example, try the Clean Slate Riesling with the Kufteh).
The multicultural history of the Teahouse also deserves more than a mention. Dushanbe, Tajikistan is Sister City to Boulder, Colorado; the relationship between the two cities was born during the Cold War and has survived the break-up of the Soviet Union, a civil war, and the tumultuous birth of the new country. With goals of mutual international outreach, peace, and understanding, the people of Dushanbe decided to give Boulder a magnificent Tajik Teahouse.
Completely build by hand without the use of any power tools, the Teahouse was constructed in Dushanbe. From 1987 -1990, more than 40 artisans in several cities of Tajikistan created the decorative elements the Teahouse, including its hand-carved and hand-painted ceiling, tables, stools, columns, and exterior ceramic panels.
As the fresh-faced hostess lead us to our seats, she followed our gaze to the intricate patterns and designs painted on the ceiling beams and told us that three handcoated layers of paint were used to attain the vibrancy of the color. Often these skills are handed down from generation to generation within families. Lado Shanidze served as chief architect.
The Teahouse was disassembled, crated up, and sent halfway around the world to be rebuilt in Boulder as a symbol of global unity and cultural exploration. The various parts remained in boxes for several years while the city decided on their future home and made plans for the building. The resulting, elaborate and creative teahouse sits as a reminder to the citizens of Boulder to value cultural diversity, global cooperation, and international friendship.
In Central Asia, teahouses serve as gathering places where friends meet to talk or play chess over a cup of tea; the open spaces in the center of the building, along with the handpainted painted flower motifs, are symbolic of an invitation to heaven.
Many teahouses are traditionally decorated with Persian art, characterized by the use of motifs from nature – stellar, solar, and floral, by the repetition of patterns, by form over representation and pattern over detail, and by lavish decoration and color. The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse accurately reflects this artistic tradition that dates back nearly 2,000 years.
Eight colorful ceramic panels, created by Victor Zabolotnikov, adorn the building’s exterior walls with patterns of a “Tree of Life.”
Inside the Teahouse are eight large, intricately carved white plaster panels, designed and created by Kodir Rakhimov. The ceiling of the Teahouse was carved and painted with intricate patterns traditional of Persian Art. The work was crafted by hand exactly as it was centuries ago.
There are twelve intricately carved cedar columns inside the Teahouse, which were sent from Tajikistan with the original gift. Each column is handmade and unique, with no two columns alike.
The centerpiece of the Teahouse is a pool, which features seven copper sculptures by Ivan Milashevich. The sculptures are based on a 12th century poem, “The Seven Beauties,” in which a princess from each of seven different nations narrates a fable that expresses important cultural values, such as justice, morality, and appreciation of nature.
The sculptures reflect these rich historic values, blending exquisitely within the Teahouse’s warm and inviting atmosphere.
Tea is drunk to forget the din of the world.
While lunch and dinner are experiences not to be missed, The Teahouse is also proud to serve an elegant Afternoon Tea, traditionally served from 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm, complete with a lovely table dressed with English style white linens and tea time accoutrements.
Afternoon Tea is a lovely and unique way to spend an afternoon with an old or new friend, date, or relative...or a simply wonderful way to give oneself a respite from the hectic pace of today’s busy world.
Reservations are required 24 hours in advance, so that the Dushanbe chefs may prepare the Tea. A beautiful three tiered tower of sweet and savory pastries, scones, artichoke purses, and cucumber sandwiches, sweet cakes and the chef’s daily special creation are all baked fresh for you on the day of your tea and is presented with individual pots of the Dushanbe’s premium tea.
While the Teahouse makes for a perfect, romantic evening for two, the staff also welcomes parties of all sizes, including graduation parties, engagement parties or bridal showers, baby showers, holiday events, and a premium Children’s Afternoon Tea, which is delightful treat for birthday parties or simply a cultural day out.
Indeed, another notable point in our visit to the Dushanbe is the combination of warmth and expertise on the part of its staff. During our visit, the staff was not aware that I was planning to write a review, and every one of them -- from the warm and welcoming hostess who lead us to our table, to the attentive waiter giving us his recommendations for our specific tastes, to the gracious managers who stopped by -- ensured us that our dining experience was as important to each of them as it was to us.
Lenny Martinelli is Chef-Owner of the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse and is actively involved in the daily operations. Mr. Martinelli has over 35 years’ experience in the hospitality industry from bussing tables to ownership.
Mr. Martinelli’s Three Leaf Concepts operates the Teahouse, as well as several other well-respected restaurants in Boulder, including the Naropa Cafe, Aji Latin American Restaurant, Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant, The Huckleberry, Zucca Italian Ristorante, and their newest venture, The Chautauqua Dining Hall.
In 2011, the Martinells purchased Three Leaf Farm in Lafayette Colorado in order to provide organically grown produce to their restaurants.
Information on The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse is available here; reservations are not always necessary but are encouraged; please call 303-442-4993.