THE RAYMOND 1886
AN OLD FRIEND WELCOMES A NEW FACE
I must admit that I’ve experienced numerous good times at The Raymond 1886, a lovely restaurant and bar tucked neatly along Fair Oaks Avenue in Pasadena. If you’re not careful, you might just miss the place, which means missing the opportunity to indulge in a fine meal or brilliant cocktail session.
Recently, new faces were introduced to the tried and true Pasadena favorite as Cameron Masden became new head barman with the launching of the ‘Wealth & Hellness’ summer cocktail menu, and in the kitchen, new Executive Chef Jon Hung and Pastry Chef Alexa Clark looked to add their flare to the fare.
While we’re not talking about the reinvention of the wheel here, especially in the kitchen, there are noticeable changes for those familiar with The Raymond 1886. But time do change and I was anxious to try Chef’s new menu.
During our recent visit for dinner, we started with some shaky sub-par starters in the bland Cedar Planked Broccolini, and the less that impressive Grilled Caesar Salad—I must confess I compare all Caesar salads to Dan Tana’s so I am often disappointed.
But the meal really picked up with the King Trumpet and Truffle Polenta comprised of roasted shimeji, mushroom broth, and carrot top chimichurri, which should be considered a must-have as the broth is just ridiculously rich and delicious.
Not to be outdone, Chef Hung’s Steak Tartare with blood orange soy dressing, sesame seeds, and wasabi powder, served with brioche, is very good, albeit the meat is cut too fine making it feel like you don’t have enough steak, which really isn’t the case.
The Grilled Octo was good but it was too light on the octopus and served with too many beans. It almost felt like a bean dish with pieces of octopus.
But Chef Hung’s new menu really shined with the entrees.
The Pan Seared Pork Chop with wheat berries, baby fennel, house-pickled fennel, fermented apples, and sage jus is so tasty. This one is a winner. As is the New York Steak, which features roasted kombu scalloped potatoes, which Chef Hung describes as “intense flavor that elevates the umami” and pairs beautifully with the accompanying sautéed mushrooms and shitake jus. And while the steak was delicious, believe it or not, but the potatoes stole the show. They were that damn good.
Dessert, like dinner, was good but not stellar. Think homerun, not grand slam. The star dish was the Peanut Butter Mousse with Nutella cremeux, honeycomb, cinnamon condensed milk, and lime gel as it just delivered with killer peanut butter taste. The Hazelnut Linzer Tart with black currant cranberry preserves, citrus caramel crème, and sugared pepitas was good but lost points for not being a la mode. This dish really screamed for ice cream. And the Chocolate Bavarois with Tahitian vanilla ice cream, pink peppercorn graham crumble, and caramel fell flat for us as the peppercorn taste was a bit of a fail. But the ice cream was bomb with that Peanut Butter Mousse.
Needless to say, our drinks at dinner were top notch as you’ll be hard pressed to find better cocktails. And when we made the switch to wine at dinner, the recommendations for wine pairing by the glass were spot on. The casual, comfy feel of dining inside at The Raymond 1886 with a terrific drink in hand really elevated a fun, festive night out at one of my favorite haunts.
Welcome aboard Chef Hung!
The Raymond 1886 is located at 1250 S. Fair Oaks in Pasadena. Call 626-441-3136.
Story By: Jose Martinez
Photography By: Acuna Hansen