Thursday, November 10, 2005
Relaxation Without Naked People: Jin Patisserie, Venice
The first time I ever went to "spa day" with my friends, I was a little taken aback by how comfortable many people are about just letting it all hang out in front of strangers. I mean, don't get me wrong, the whole day was indeed relaxing--I felt like a wet noodle after all those massages, facials and treatments--but in the ladies spa room, the ladies just showed their goods to the world. And I mean all of them. Here we were in this tranquil atmosphere--calming music playing softly in the background, a few beautiful yet simple orchids placed here and there to add an elegant touch to the otherwise zen-minimalist room--and there they were...butt-naked. No, I am not one of those women that takes her bra off under her shirt so that no one can see anything, but I am also not one of those women that likes to hang out in the jacuzzi with random women who aren't wearing anything to separate themselves from the water that's touching me! That, to me, is not relaxing...ewww!
Yes sirree, there are definitely other ways to relax here in L.A., and I discovered one of them this past weekend. Venice's Abbott Kinney Blvd. is known for having shops with the most unique and beautiful artistic finds, and though its goods are of the edible kind, Jin Patisserie is certainly no exception to this. My girlfriend and I drove up and down the street a few times trying to find it and when we finally did, we knew why. Enter Jin Patisserie and you're immediately transported to another world--one that's totally separated from the usually heavy-with-shopper-foot-traffic street outside. People sit--no wait, they lounge--in its zen tea garden, listening to the calming sounds of a trickling stone fountain complemented by downtempo grooves in the background. On a Sunday morning the place was already busy with people just like us looking to escape the reality that Monday was just around the corner. The master to all this beautiful, delicious madness herself, owner/creator Kristy Choo was even out on the patio waiting tables and serving at one point. Despite the cafe's popularity, however, tranquility reigned supreme.
Everyone's here enjoying the day
Please...fence me in!
The experience really starts with tea, all the pretty little details to be taken care of later. Jin Patisserie serves and sells green, black, scented and organic teas from Les Palais Des Thes. Imagine sitting back taking in the warmth and aroma of something as exotic sounding as The Des Concubines, a green and black tea blend with an "intoxicating bouquet" of flavors including cherry, papaya and caramel.
My friend and I were in a bit of a simpler mood, so we opted for the simple genmaicha with our "Afternoon Tea." This green tea, brought to us in adorable little white ceramic teapots, was clean and refreshing while also given a hearty aroma from grilled sweet corn and puffed rice. We sat back and took in the crisp late morning air for a few minutes as we sipped our soothing tea, hands warmed by our teacups, and waited for the rest of our Afternoon Tea offering to arrive.
It all starts with this...
A few short minutes and a plate of colorful tasty treasures arrived at our table. Everything was so dainty and bitesized but the kaleidescope assortment of sweets and savories was sensory overload. I will admit that the savories on the plate--two egg salad finger sandwiches, a quiche muffin and hell, I'll throw the scones into the savory category too--were the least impressive. The orange-scented scones, though fluffy, lacked a flaky quality that I like in my scones; my friend's cup of clotted cream looked thick enough though mine was a tad watery, but no big deal...berry jam made everything better. The spinach quiche muffin could have been heated up a little more and the egg salad finger sanwiches, though good, were a bit on the generic side.
A kaleidescope of afternoon tea goodies
Our sweets, however, were both aesthetically and edibly pleasing. Hmm, where should I start? A thimble sized lump of delicious almond-y pound cake dotted with chocolate. A cinnamony cakey cube that had the likeness of bread pudding but more substantial--perfect for an autumn day. A light-as-air mango and strawberry parfait topped with crunchy sweet wafers. Miniature versions of their cakes: a pretty-in-pink peach cake topped with a tiny purple flower petal, a marscapone and passion fruit cake that oozed with passiony passion fruit flavor and topped with a beautiful piece of white chocolate in the likeness of shell, and an absolutely delectable green tea cake composed of refreshing green tea sponge cake and mousse layered with luscious sweet red bean. To finish it all off, a piece of Jin Patisserie's famous melt-in-your-mouth chocolates.
Tasty treats close up
For those wanting something more substantial than afternoon tea (or for those unlike us who were eating actually eating a proper meal in the morning!), Jin Patisserie offers a variety of quiches and sandwiches that all come with a "cake of the day." And if that isn't enough, all of Jin Patisserie's cakes and treats can be enjoyed in their lovely tea garden.
I don't know about anyone else, but I surely couldn't get enough of Jin Patisserie's goodies, so this relaxing morning retreat would definitely not have been complete without a visit to the little blue cottage behind the tea garden to see what other treats I could get my hands on. Again, everything here is out-of-the-ordinary from the pastries which are not simply pastries but works of art, to the wall-mounted pastry cases whose wavy, frosted glass fronts with clear glass "windows" allow us to look at the tasty treats with even more awe. Peer into the counter and you'll see neat little rows of Jin Patisserie's own artistically decorated chocolates. Flavors range from Earl Grey to Lychee to Roasted Black Sesame and can be bought individually or purchased as sets in exquisite silk boxes.
Just one of the many display case goodies
Chocolates as works of art
I couldn't leave empty handed so I chose three little things to bring home with me: a Soft Sea Salt chocolate, a The Des Concubines chocolate, and a lychee macaroon. The Soft Sea Salt was an unusual but mouthwatering treat of ooey gooey caramel and sea salt, the salt bringing out the caramely goodness even more. My The Des Concubines chocolate, flavored with green and black tea, caramel, papaya and flower petals, was decorated with one of those awesome white chocolate "shell" pieces and tasted just as good as it sounded. I fell in love with my lychee macaroon, light and airy and filled with sweet lychee creme.
Good things come in small packages
Jin Patisserie is not cheap. My three tiny little "treats" cost over 5 dollars: $2 for each itty bitty square of chocolate and a buck-ten for the macaroon. Our Afternoon Tea was also on the pricier side at $17 considering that it wasn't alot of food. But for all those yummy creations and total relaxation on a Sunday...priceless. A helluva lot cheaper than a spa and no naked people either!
1202 Abbot Kinney Blvd.
Venice, CA 90201