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The Raymond, Reinvented: Creative Cocktails & Cuisine

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By Maya Meinert of ShopEatSleep/Special to LAist

It's easy to pass up while driving along Fair Oaks Avenue, but The Raymond is one Pasadena restaurant that you wouldn't want to miss. Sure, it's been around for nearly 35 years, but with a recent makeover and the new 1886 Bar, The Raymond is new again while maintaining its old-school feel.

We were recently invited to dinner at The Raymond, which was originally established as a hotel in 1886. The hotel is long gone --a victim of the Great Depression--and the current incarnation of the restaurant is located in the property's former caretaker cottage. The interior is kind of like eating in your mother's house: it's intimate and homey. But it’s also sophisticated enough to make you remember you went there to dine, not do your laundry.

We started off with a couple of cocktails from the bar, which had some consulting help from esteemed mixologists Marcos Tello and Aidan Demarest. So it's no wonder that they were pretty darn good. The Wall Paper, a mixture of Sagatiba cachaca, vanilla syrup and jalepeño, was pleasantly spicy while not being overly sweet. The Staten Island is an interesting combination of Bols Genever Dutch-style gin, Galliano herbal liqueur and Amaro Ramazzotti herbal liqueur (yes, we had to look these up). The cocktail, while strong, was well-balanced, leaving us wanting more Staten Island--definitely not something we’d say every day.

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On to the food. Chef Tim Guiltinan offers a varied menu, though the seafood at The Raymond is a solid choice. We started the meal with the daily sashimi plate, which in our case was yellowtail, and the scallops served in a lobster and sweet corn bisque and topped with a corn salsa of sorts, not the pickled chantrelles that the menu indicated. No matter; the scallops were perfectly cooked, and the corn complemented them nicely.

For the main course, we sampled the roasted chicken with bacon-roasted Brussels sprouts and roasted potatoes served in chicken jus, as well as the prime New York steak with sweet cippolini puree, roasted root vegetables and the “flavor of bacon.” Yes, the “flavor of bacon.” Not sure what that means, but the steak tasted like steak, so go figure. Both the chicken and steak were good, but neither really stood out as a must-have dish. Our leftover chicken was really good the next day, though.

Dessert is where the meal fell apart a bit. While the deconstructed presentation of the previous courses was tolerable, it was just superfluous here, especially in the tangerine curd dish. More importantly, the flavors in this dish weren’t cohesive. The tangerine “curd” was more panna cotta than curd, and the flavor was way too subtle. Then there was the parsnip pudding, smoked espresso mousse, pistachio sable and cream cheese ice cream. Scratching your head yet? We did, too. The trio of sorbets and ice creams made more sense to us - even the celery-and-apple and sweet potato flavors, which we loved.

All in all, we enjoyed our meal and would definitely go back to try more from the 1886 Bar’s menu, including its own food offerings, which include Kentucky-fried quail, crispy pork belly and grilled Japanese octopus.

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