At the century-old Raffles Hotel in Singapore, high tea is so popular that a line forms outside the Tiffin Room at tea time.
Now Angelenos can enjoy some of the same confections served at Raffles at a small pastry shop called Jin Patisserie in Venice. There, Singaporean Kristy Choo, a hard-working young pastry chef who formerly worked at Raffles, is bringing her own creative twist to the British colonial tradition.
Choo serves afternoon tea all day, from well before noon till early evening, in the shop’s garden courtyard. Among the sweet and savory delicacies are several of the pastries she used to make at Raffles, including fluffy scones, a luscious chocolate marquise cake and delicious peanut butter-sesame cookies.
Jin Patisserie (Jin is a simplified version of Choo’s Chinese name) is quiet and uncrowded, particularly on weekdays. It’s a place of meditative music, rustling leaves and the soft trickle of a stone fountain. Umbrellas shade the silvery metal furniture. The garden is planted with banana trees, bushy-headed papyrus reeds and a cherry tree. The only reminder that I was just off Abbott Kinney Boulevard was a surfer, board in hand, walking past the open gate.
Afternoon tea is a set meal of tea, savories and sweets. There’s a selection of more than 35 teas, including interesting blends and scented teas such as a green tea with damask rose and summer fruits, and a green-black blend flavored with cherries, papaya and caramel. They’re all brewed from loose leaves and served in bone china cups.
An assortment of dainty tidbits arrives, arranged on a green, black or silver lacquerware tray. Each morsel is so tempting you hardly know where to begin. Those Raffles scones are warm, accompanied by little pots of clotted cream and tangerine marmalade. The cream is flown in from England. Choo makes the marmalade.
Small tea sandwiches are filled with the richest, creamiest egg salad I’ve ever tasted. Each tray includes a tiny savory, too, such as a tuna vol-au-vent (tuna in puff pastry), and there’s always a shot-glass-size mousse, such as pear William (Bartlett pear). The savories may be small, but they’re delicious.
Then there are the sweet pastries: tangerine butter cake, maybe a miniature tart of passion-fruit curd topped with fresh mango or raspberries. Sometimes there’s a meringue cookie.
Tea service also includes a selection of petits fours, many of which have a distinct Asian flair. Less sweet than American cakes, they incorporate tropical and Asian flavors such as passion fruit, ginger and chrysanthemum. Among the standouts are a white chocolate mousse cake filled with chrysanthemum jelly, an inch-square tiramisu cake and a tall, but tiny, opera cake of coffee-liqueur-soaked sponge alternating with ganache and chocolate butter cream. Perhaps the most unusual is the bite-sized green tea cake: green tea sponge layered with green tea mousse and red bean paste.
There are occasional minor changes in the offerings. Chocolate mousse with berries replaces the pear mousse one time; a cupcake-size mushroom quiche comes instead of the tuna vol-au-vent; the meringue cookie is caramel one week, bright green pistachio another.
One day a dome-shaped Manjari chocolate mousse stood among the cakes. Manjari is a fruity dark chocolate that contains 64% cocoa solids. The cake was so flavorful and aromatic that I thought some other ingredient had been added to the mousse. But it was only the natural perfume of the chocolate.
The lunch choices -- a slice of regular-sized quiche or a sandwich plate -- come with a whole cake for dessert, small but very rich and elaborate. One day it was a pyramid-shaped cake dubbed “Louvre,” sprayed with cocoa butter and melted dark chocolate. Inside were ginger custard and bits of candied ginger, and it was topped with a chocolate lattice and a flake of gold.
In addition to the cakes, pastries, scones and quiches at Jin, Choo also makes cakes, cookies and chocolate candies, which are sold at a retail counter inside the small structure housing Choo’s baking areas and the cool room where she works with chocolate.
This sales area looks like an art gallery, with niches holding beautiful little cakes. The chocolate candies, exquisite as rare gems, come in intriguing flavors: caramel-sea salt, black sesame, rosemary, lavender, jasmine, passion fruit, ginger, litchi and mango-basil among them. The pretty designs on top are painted by Choo in tinted cocoa butter over a white chocolate base.
These enchanting candies are impossible to resist, even if you’ve just finished afternoon tea and had your fill of sweets. Besides, they’re tiny, less than an inch across, and surely you could manage one or two.
Or you can take them home, in a gold-lined box from Japan or Choo’s latest import, a slim, Thai silk box that is properly elegant for these confections.
Location: 1202 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice; (310) 399-8801
Price: Afternoon tea, $17; quiche or sandwich lunch, $12.
Best dishes: Afternoon tea, small cakes, chocolates
Details: Open 10:30 a.m. to
7 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. Street parking. All major credit cards.