Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Foodventure #30: Scarlet Tea Room (Pasadena)

Obsessions over finger sandwich fillings, comparisons of scone textures and flavors, whether the chinaware came from England or - well - China. All signs of a high tea addict, or - in my case - a regular "tea club" of friends that meets about once a month to explore various tearooms in the L.A. and O.C. areas.

Scarlet Tea Room came at the recommendations of other Chowhounders at the inquiry of tea rooms in the Pasadena area (of which there are quite a few, including Tea Rose Garden, Chado, Huntington Library's Rose Tea Room.) On Green St. near Fair Oaks, it's just a skip and a hop away from the rest of Old Town Pasadena.

Upon entering, I think "White Tea Room" would've been a more appropriate name, since the walls, the ceilings, the marbled counters, the table cloths and even the chinaware -- all completely white (ok, maybe variations of eggshell, shale and marble, if you want to go Queer Eye) with a few scarlet curtains & drapery. I almost felt obligated to check my clothes & shoes to make sure I wasn't dragging any dirt in. But (lack of) color asides, the interior is functional and decent, tables weren't too cluttered and closely spaced, French bistro music were playing at the right level, and ample natural lighting -- always a good thing for my camera.

Like most other tea rooms, it's more or less a prix-fixe here with a few options. My drink of choice - a bastardized French vanilla flavored black tea. Good tasting with a lil sugar and a spot 'o milk - and the vanilla flavor was impressive against the mild chestnutty maltiness of the black tea (both of which still packed a bit of punch after a second brew a.k.a. refilling the pot with hot water.)
The first course that came was a berry sorbet (right), not-too-sweet and very seedy but remarkably refreshing. The scone accompaniments (strawberry jam, lemon curd, devonshire cream) were also brought out around this time.
Then came the 3-tiered plates, starting with the scones . . .
. . . great presentation with the syrup drizzles! The warm, kind of fluffy and slightly-vanilla scones and their accompaniments were good, but not remarkable. (My personal favorites are at Tea Rose Garden.)
Then came the finger sandwiches, there are about ten to choose from, so I picked chicken tahini, mozzarella-sundried tomato spread, proscuitto-roasted red pepper spread, and salmon-chive spread. Each sandwich was about three bites apiece (comparable in size to the tea sandwiches I've had at other places), and the unique flavors were overall all very good - I particularly liked the creamy mozzarella and the tangy-creamy sundried tomatoes, and the slightly nutty chicken tahini. My friend had pretty much the same order and liked her sandwiches as well.
Finally, the last plate on the rack were assorted petit-fours and mini desserts. Like everything else, very visually appealing, but this plate was particularly underwhelming - just sugary with generic vanilla, chocolate & coffee flavors.

Finishing off the tea was a dish of strawberries romanoff: chopped up strawberries mixed with devonshire cream. And it tastes like -- strawberries and cream! Sarcasm aside, a nice, simple and refreshing dish to finish off the meal.

High Tea for 2: $50

Ambience - 2/5 (It's fancy, clean and functional with nice background music; some may consider the white domination refined & elegant, I think it makes the environment too sterile and Stepford Wifey.)
Value - 2.5/5 (mid-priced for high tea, portions are pretty much what I expected)
Service - 8.5/10 (fast and efficient, kind of friendly - maybe a wee bit too curt)
Food - 15.5/20 (an intra-meal hit and miss; the finger sandwiches were amazing, whereas the petit fours were a let down, everything else fell around the good range.)
Total - 28.5 (I may return but tempted order stuff a la carte next time around.)

Other notes:
- This is one of few tea rooms that also offer dinner service, no info on their Web site so call & ask.
- For those who like a little bubbly tipsiness with their tea, they also serve almond champagne ($8)
- Metered parking available on streets, and there are a few public lots nearby.

Scarlet Tea Room
18 W. Green St. (cross: Fair Oaks)
Pasadena 91105
(626) 577-0051
Scarlet Tea Room on Urbanspoon


Clare said...

It all looks so good! I've heard tea time at the Ritz Carlton is quite good, though I've never tried. Thanks for the review!

Chubbypanda said...

There seem to be a number of nice tea places in the Pasadena area. I wonder if there are any down in Orange County.

Anonymous said...

AH! Last time I had a high tea I was at the Ritz in london 20 years ago! Oh, I did do the one at the Huntington Libary a few years ago... it wasn't quite the same :/
go figure!

elmomonster said...

Great review. Never been to these, but have always been curious.

CP, there are some in OC. I believe there's one in Costa Mesa called Tea and Sympathy.

Wandering Chopsticks said...

I loved afternoon tea when I was in London and Ireland. But the prices here just aren't worth it for me. :(

H. C. said...

Clare, I liked this better than the Ritz-Carlton tea - even though that one gets high marks from me for presentation as well. Also, I heard that they no longer have an in-house pastry chef so the sweets may have taken a downturn.

Panda, I'd be surprised if there weren't other good teahouses in OC - given the demographics there. There are also a lot of wonderful beachside hotels, many of which, I'm sure - offer great afternoon teas. Something for me to investigate tho ;)

Annie: Hah! Oh geez, my lat time at Huntington Library my chair was next to the self-serve buffet, needless to say my back got jolted quite a bit during my experience.

Elmo: Tea is actually kinda fun with the right set of folks who loves chatting & drinking tea (and nowhere near the mess potential of a dim sum tea).

Chopsticks: Yea, tea prices are kinda steep so only once-every-other-month for me. But for less pricey teas I go for Tea Rose Garden ($16/person) or Jin Patisserie ($17/person), which is OK since it's filling enough to be a meal.

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