No one can argue that these last four months have been challenging times. We stay in, we paint the walls, we do some remodeling, we try to learn French, we buy a ukulele that’s still in the case. You know the drill.
The chance to dine in a luxury restaurant may be limited these days, and the experience may be comfortably different than what we’ve all been accustomed to. But there are those spots, those hamlets, those nooks, those special spots that remain special.
The Raymond 1886 is one of those spots. Nestled off Fair Oaks at the foot of Raymond Hill where South Pasadena and Pasadena meet, the historic eatery has been a special occasion place for generations of Pasadenans. And, like so many longtime businesses, they’ve had to adjust.
The dark wood booths are even darker these days and the bar might be a lonelier place, but the restaurant’s three outdoor patios offer a terrific summer getaway, if you can drag yourself away from that ukulele.
These days, The Raymond has brought in renowned chef Michael Hung for a five-day staycation with an impressive four-course dinner drawing on his own elegant stays at various restaurants.
We took a seat in the back patio off the bar to sample that same menu. With a few patrons in the restaurant, all of whom were suitably separated from each other, the twinkling patio lights and the friendly, attentive service create a unique ambience, even masked and shielded.
We enjoyed some dishes unfamiliar to us, beginning with a gargalliou of young summer squash. Think thin, veggie-rich gazpacho with black miso instead of gazpacho, along with sweet heirloom tomatoes and a tomato dashi. Cold and refreshing and flavorful all at once.
The house-made truffled cornbread and honey served as a separate course easily begs another serving. It’s followed by a roasted Catalan prawn the size of a chicken thigh, served with tiny fingerling potatoes and chorizo. We’ve had shrimp and seafood all over the world, but the Catalan prawn is timber among matchsticks.
The star of the presentation was the grilled petite New York steak. Perfectly grilled and buttery, the steak, served rare, was astonishingly good. The mushroom jam served alongside, was woodsy and flavorful, and begs the question as to why we don’t see this served in other steakhouses. All the more reason to return.
Dessert was a large Burnt Sugar Chocolate Mousse topped with honeycomb toffee, two dollops of spearmint crema and pistachio shortbread. Share it, as it might be overwhelming for one. But that’s your call.
The pace and ambience of The Raymond only adds to what can be your special weekend getaway. It’s been a tough few months, and you just might deserve something special. The Raymond 1886 is a perfect place for that.
Make it a date night. The kids will be fine. Just keep them away from that ukulele.