The Raymond, situated in a historic cottage built in 1901, is very much a part of Pasadena history. This intimate and charming restaurant has always been a Pasadena favorite for romantic dates and special occasions, but the forward looking management is aiming for a larger audience. For this reason, they invited some bloggers for a private tasting.
Even though it's right next to a major street, walking down to the restaurant transports you to old Pasadena, with a quiet and welcoming facade.
Their new Executive Chef, Tim Guiltinan, is a Cordon Bleu graduate and had worked at various restaurants in the Orange County including as chef de cuisine at Leatherby's Cafe Rouge under Mark Gold (now of Eva). Guiltinan has been heading the kitchen for 1 1/2 years.
Our multi course meal started out with three Island Creek Oysters, harvested 2 days ago.
The oysters were big and meaty. Three oysters call for three sauces. Here they serve: asian ginger szechuan peppercorn, habanero, red wine & shallot mignonette
The szechuan and habanero sauces luckily weren't too spicy although they did have a teeny kick to them. My favorite was easily the mignonette and I think many of us agreed.
Next was a simple salad of locally grown lettuce tossed in lemon vinaigrette and garnished with smoked salt.
This one paired with 2007 Alois Ladeger Pinot Grigio (vat fermented from north east Italy)
The lettuce was very fresh and definitely showed superiority of sourcing it locally, though the salad itself was perhaps too simple for a tasting menu such as this.
The third course was Heirloom beets with Cypress Grove goat cheese, paired with Arneis from Piemonte, Italy.
The wine is minerally by itself but the beet and cheese bring out the fruitiness, making this one of the more memorable pairings of the night.
Sea bream (a.k.a. tai snapper) with lime vinaigrette, diced chile, and Australian Marie river salt.
Paired with prosecco.
This was a little spicy for my weak tongue, though I can still handle it. The sea bream was fresh but perhaps could use a little more salt.
Sable fish (cod fish) from Canada (harvested yesterday), piquillo, Venus clams.
Paired with Ramey Chardonnay from the Russian River valley.
Guiltinan sources a lot of his seafood from "his guy" in Canada and manages to get very fresh seafood. The cod fish had a crispy outer layer and a nice kick from the chorizo. Paired well with the chardonnay, so far this is my favorite.
Deep water scallop from Canada with house grown basil, black trumpet mushrooms from Oregon. Paired with 2007 Porter bass Chardonnay from Sonoma coast.
The scallop had a lovely texture and a nice subtle flavor that's not overwhelmed by the sauce and accompaniments.
New Zealand John Dory with soy and sweet pea and maitake mushroom.
Paired with 2007 Sonoma Coast Flower Pinot Noir.
Another well cooked fish with a nice texture, this dish had great flavors and I particularly liked the sweet pea and the mushrooms.
American wagyu medallion from Idaho. Served with Potato emulsion with jus, soy caviar.
Paired with 2006 Napa Valley Chappellet Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon.
The wagyu was amazing and cooked perfectly. Very tender and flavorful. The dish easily became my favorite of the night and as far as my memory serves me, this was better than my experience with CUT's American wagyu.
Our dessert was layered in a martini glass: Butterscotch topped with panna cotta, popcorn tuile, blueberry compote.
I'm not sure if the layers work here. As a dessert it was overall too salty/buttery for my taste. I crave something sweeter to finish off my meals. I did like the fact that the dessert was paired with scotch however, since it is unusual and complements dessert better than sweet wines in my opinion as it cuts the sweetness (though the sweetness is lacking in this dessert).
Luckily they did serve these chocolate truffles after.
The Raymond is a special place for the Pasadena community for its history as both an architectural landmark and a long-standing (30 years) fine dining establishment. With the new management and new executive chef, they bring in high quality ingredients and infuse playful touches in their classic dishes. While some dishes still seem to be lacking, yet others I found to be great and a couple of brilliant dishes have me looking forward to what they have in store for the future.
PS. The Raymond has donated a $100 gift certificate to Bid and Eat for Haiti, so if you want to check out the place, why not bid on it? 100% proceeds go to charity!
1250 S Fair Oaks Ave
Pasadena, CA 91105