These days, it seems a lot of people are talking about The Raymond in Pasadena, but more often than not they’re praising the restaurant’s much lauded little bar, 1886 Bar—arguably the best handcrafted cocktail bar in town (Pasadena or otherwise). But years before 1886 Bar made a name for itself with daring, wholly original, not to mention delicious and forward-thinking drinks, The Raymond was a go-to place in town for a relaxed, yet sophisticated meal with fine wine and scrumptious, classic American cuisine.
Step into The Raymond’s lovely confines and it feels like home. Built on the site of the former caretaker’s cottage of the once grand Raymond Hotel where entrepreneur Walter Raymond would entertain the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Tom Mix, and Buster Keaton, the cozy and elegant Raymond is the perfect place to relax and indulge.
With beautiful outdoor patios and a rustic and refined looking interior dining room, not to mention the impressive 1886 Bar, you have your choice of where to dine and drink on first rate cuisine and libations.
The Raymond Restaurant features an innovative, contemporary menu courtesy of Chef Tim Guiltinan who creates inspired, modern, classic American fare. The Raymond wine list features a varied selection of domestic and international wines featuring premier and boutique wineries.
During our recent visit for dinner at The Raymond, we sat outside on the lovely patio and started with a nice glass of Prosecco. Really, is there a better way to start a night out?
Choosing a few items from the Vegetables menu, we started with the Sticky Potato, a pleasant mix of sesame, Korean red chili, scallion and cilantro. We also thoroughly enjoyed the Roasted Golden Beets—a fresh combination of organic tangerine, crushed pistachio, watercress, and Greek yogurt. And the House Pickles, pickled with the seasons in mind (choose between “Firecrackers” or “Oi Kimchi”) is another good starter item to share. Think more cucumber than actual pickles but the Kimchi selection offers a nice, spicy flavor.
And while 1886 Bar is known for its far out and second-to-none cocktails, The Raymond has its own drink menu for guests. We started with the Honey Nut Old Fashioned; tasty but a little too sweet for my palette, which tends to like the harder stuff, like the Medicina, which is just damn good. This will get your taste buds racing into overdrive.
While you may imagine The Raymond menu to be loaded with stogy, meat dishes, we actually feasted on some pretty fresh and phenomenal seafood selections. The Oysters, hidden gems from Maine, were incredible. By this point we let the sommelier pair our wines for us as their multi-page wine list can be intimidating but the staff is so gracious and knowledgeable that you’re in real good hands letting them pair for you.
Other terrific choices include the Fijian Albacore Tataki (Meyer lemon, marinated fennel, charred green chili, and togarashi); the Hawaiian Ahi (cucumber-pear salsa, mint, and ginger dressing); and the Alaskan King Crab, grilled with Tabasco butter, and summer corn salsa. All of these delectable dishes are fresh and light and go just seamlessly with a glass of white wine.
While you do have your choice of hearty entrée dishes, such as Roasted Bone Marrow; Roasted Jidori Chicken; Organically Raised Salmon; Roasted Hanger Steak; Short Ribs; Roasted Duck; or Dry Aged Prime Bone-in Rib Eye for two, we went with a few off the beaten path selections, especially after several small plate items each paired with wine.
The Broken Arrow Ranch Venison Carpaccio, with tomato, caper vinaigrette, arugula, and crème fraiche, especially paired with a glass of Big Table Farm Pinot Gris 2010, was amazing. An out of the ordinary selection that really delivers is the Jidori Chicken Wings, caramelized with fish sauce, mint, garlic, and marinated cucumbers. By skipping on most of the Larger Plates, you can easily afford to mix and match several dishes if you’re sharing.
The lone Larger Plate selection we chose was the Beef Cheek with pasta strappata, peas, carrots, and fried egg. This is a really flavorful plate and gets it right on so many savory levels.
While dessert was a real stretch, we couldn’t resist the deconstructed spumoni, called Inspired by Spumoni, made with cherry covered chocolate, classic chocolate cake, braised cherries, vanilla puree, and pistachio ice cream. Kudos to Pastry Chef Jeff Haines for coming up with a dessert as unique as what the 1886 bartenders have been coming up with lately.
Time spent at The Raymond is relaxing, fulfilling and thoroughly enjoyable. The setting is wonderful, the mood so chill, and your meal will satisfying to no end. And not to mention, you can always walk over to 1886 Bar for a nightcap (let’s not fool ourselves, get the one-of-a-kind Smoking Jacket to make your night just perfect). And don’t forget The Raymond’s truly satisfying weekend breakfast, it’s a winner all on its own.
“Come out and have fun, and be prepared to order things you’re not going to find anywhere else, especially in Pasadena,” says Chef Tim Guiltinan. “Come with an open mind and be ready to enjoy good food in a lively atmosphere, but most of all, come hungry.”
The Raymond is located at 1250 S. Fair Oaks Ave in Pasadena. Call (626) 441-3136.
By: Jose Martinez.
Some photography courtesy of: The Raymond