Thursday, June 23, 2011

Schokolade Cafe - Afternoon Tea


I visited Schokolade Cafe today for their classic chocolate high tea. Priced at $26.25 per adult, the tea set includes a 3-tiered food tower and a choice of tea, coffee or hot chocolate. There's also a regular high tea menu available for $15.95 per adult; I suppose it's a mini version with less food items. The interesting thing about the high tea menus is that they require a minimum of 2 orders. That means if you decide to pop into the store one day by yourself and ask for a high tea, they'll respond with, "Nope sorry, you have to come with a friend to try our high tea menu." Either that or you'll have to pay for 2 orders I guess. It's generally not a big deal, but it could be inconvenient for people who eat alone and for odd-numbered groups where one person wants a high tea menu different from the rest of the group. Anyway back to the experience. The cafe is not in a particularly nice neighborhood, but the decor is bright and cozy. The artisan chocolates are famous here, and they are displayed in a glass counter along with various pastries.


Our table was right beside the window with a view of the street. It was a rather private area since there were no other tables nearby, so it was great for conversation.


Since I had called ahead to make a reservation, the chocolate high tea menu was already sitting on the table awaiting our perusal.


First we were given a sample of their artisan chocolates along with a sheet of paper with pictures of different flavours available so that we could match up our chocolates and find out the flavours.


I was particularly amused by the mahjong tile chocolate with the Chinese character 發 on it :D
The texture of the chocolate was quite soft, and each piece had its own unique filling.


I originally wanted to get tea since I felt both coffee and chocolate would be too filling with all the food. But then I thought, "Schokolade is famous for chocolate, so of course I have to try their hot chocolate!" Then I had to choose between the Squirrel special (milk chocolate with hazelnut flavour and whipped cream) and the spicy ancient Aztec (70% dark chocolate with chili powder). It was an easy choice since I dislike whipped cream and have a weakness for spicy chocolate flavours. The spicy ancient Aztec came with a few different powdered spices sprinkled on top and the taste was just phenomenal. It was piping hot with the perfect blend of richness, sweetness and spiciness. I would come back just for this drink!


Mom doesn't like sweet drinks and opted for guanyin tea, a Chinese green tea also known as iron goddess. The owner told us they use high quality whole leaf tea and showed us the whole leaves in the teapot. The tea was decent but not comparable to the tea at Hotel Vancouver, so I'm glad I went for the hot chocolate.


The food tower came shortly after the drinks. It was quite a bit of food!


We started with the bottom tier, a plate of 2 different sandwiches served with rusty apple. The cucumber and mint cream cheese sandwich had bits of basil leaves inside, giving it a fragrant and refreshing flavour. The shrimp and dill sandwich was not as enjoyable since I found the shrimp too mushy and bland. We each got 4 sandwiches with 2 of each flavour, so the portion was big but I would have liked more variety. And it would have been nice if the apple were fresh and not rusty. I was craving fresh fruit after eating the sandwiches, but was not tempted by the brown apple that looked as if it had been sitting around for a couple hours.


The middle tier of savoury pastries was very heavy and filling. The chicken pot pie was especially so because of its size and thick buttery crust. The chicken bits inside were soft and tender with lots of juices and the crust was puffy and flakey. The flavour was not very strong though, and the crust was a bit too thick, so I didn't like it too much. The vegetarian quiche had a tasty cheese filling, but the crust was overly crispy. The best items on this tier were probably the mini scones. We each got 2, one with herbs and one with dried fruits. I personally enjoyed the one with dried fruits a lot more.


Now for the most appealing tier! I was looking forward to the desserts, since this is a chocolate store after all. I started with the classic tuxedo chocolate dipped strawberry. The strawberry was large and juicy with a layer of white chocolate covered by another layer of milk chocolate. The result was a super thick coat of milk and white chocolate that was unbearably sweet. Luckily the tartness of the strawberry managed to balance it out a little, but I still found it too sweet. Then I tried the chocolate glazed petit four, and thankfully it was not very sweet at all. Because of the experience with the strawberry, I was prepared for another sweetness attack, so what a relief it was that the chocolate cake was only slightly sweet with a soft and moist texture. Finally I moved on to the lemon boat. The crust was a bit crispier than usual for a lemon tart, but I enjoyed the taste and texture regardless. The filling also differed slightly from the norm, with a runny consistency that was closer to liquid than gel. I would've preferred a thicker filling, but I still thought it was a pretty good lemon tart.


Compared to other afternoon tea venues at a similar price range like Adonia and The Secret Garden, I would place Schokolade at the top of the list for a number of reasons. First of all, Schokolade offers a choice of beverage aside from regular tea including specialty coffee and hot chocolate. The quality and presentation of the food is great, and the high tea menu includes a sampling of their famous artisan chocolates. The only downside is that a minimum of 2 orders is required, but it shouldn't be too difficult to convince a friend to try it with you.

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