The Weekly Eater


Sunday, December 1, 2002

Step away from stress and back
in time to The Royal Tea

OK. Inhale. Just breathe. Short of sounding like an aerobics instructor, Faith Hill or Télépopmusik*, you'd do well to take a deep breath to keep your sanity in check as you continue on your merry shopping way.

If you're of unnaturally mellow temperament, you might as well stop reading now. Judging from the people around me however, a pause button would be nice. No such thing will stop the Christmas express, but the next best thing might be a trip to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, which has reintroduced its afternoon tea service, now dubbed The Royal Tea. In a comforting return to the past, tea is offered by kimono-clad servers on the Coconut Grove Lanai overlooking the hotel's back lawn, with its plantings of ti, orchids and palms.

Tea server Ai Shishida pours for Teri Saisho, left, and her sister, Patti Shannon, at Royal Hawaiian Hotel's Coconut Lanai.

It's a tradition born 75 years ago when the world moved at a more humane pace, and every effort is being made to recapture that feeling of unrushed graciousness. Guests are immediately offered hand towels and wooden, folding fans, while listening to the gentle sounds of Bamboo and Rosewood, a classical guitar and shakuhachi duo led by Winston Tan. The clientele is mostly women, but a few manage to drag their man along to carry their packages.

A wonderful selection of teas await. Unfortunately, you're limited to one choice. The house tea, "Royal Summer Palace" is a blend of black tea, cornflowers and hibiscus with hints of rose and rhubarb. You're sent home with a complimentary packet of the tea so you might try something else while at the Royal.

Ginger adds spice to an herbal tea with a touch of hibiscus that adds a festive red to your porcelain cup. If its ice tea you prefer, there is the Hawaiian Lilikoi Peach combination that also works as a hot tea.

Accompanying finger sandwiches feature salmon; a curry chicken puff; and a veggie combination of cucumber and sliced baby tomatoes, red onion hearts and pesto.

This is followed by a scone served with lemon curd and thick clotted cream, then more treats such as a blueberry and marzipan muffin, a mini fruit tart, palm and almond cookies and a bite-size piece of chocolate cake topped with gold leaf.

Shown are the various teapots bearing the fragrant brews.

It adds up to quite a regal experience with a price to match, but that's the Waikiki premium.

HERE ARE a few more options for afternoon tea:

>> The Banyan Veranda: Enjoy the signature blend Moana Royal, along with finger sandwiches of foccaccia with Wesphalian ham, mini croissants with turkey salad and open-faced smoked salmon roll, accompanied by scones with Devonshire cream and preserves, pastries and kaffir lime-lemongrass green tea sorbet, at the Sheraton Moana Surfrider, 1 to 4:30 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays and 3 to 4:30 p.m. Sundays. Cost: $21 per person. Call 922-3111 Ext. 2382.

>> Colleen Chun in the Courtyard: This mini oasis is worth finding. Tucked into the brick courtyard at 12 S. King St. (entrance next to Grilla's) is Chun's boutique of estate jewelry and vintage-style treasures. Browse while she fixes up pots of tea -- including a seasonal cranberry brew -- finger sandwiches and mini quiches. I especially liked the texture of water chestnuts and toasted pecans in a chicken salad sandwich. Desserts of cheesecake, a slice of pie and other treats equal the value of the entire experience. Tea is served from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays, with the last seating at 2 p.m.; 24-hour advance reservation is required. Cost: $13.95 per person. Call 599-5253.

>> Mariposa: Tea selections from The Tea Company are featured with finger sandwiches of Scottish cured salmon with cream cheese on rye; hothouse cucumber and shrimp; and classic egg salad on sourdough with asparagus; plus mini strawberry scones with Devonshire cream, lilikoi bars and assorted tea biscuits. Offered 3 to 5 p.m. Sundays. Cost: $16 per person. Call 951-3420.

>> Tea at 1024: Curry chicken, crab and olive, and egg salad tea sandwiches, scones and pastries, and fresh fruit (can substitute Caesar salad) are served at 1024 Nuuanu Ave. at $12.95 per person. A short menu of a la carte offerings includes a Caesar chicken salad ($6.95), clam chowder in a sourdough bowl ($5.95), and assorted pastries ($1.50 each). Open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays. Call 521-9596.

* Mitsubishi car ad song in case you wondered. By the way, find the names of car ad songs you're curious about at


Royal Hawaiian Hotel, 2259 Kalakaua Ave. / 931-7194

Food StarStarStarStar

Service StarStarStarStar

Ambience StarStarStarStar

Value StarStarStar1/2

Hours: 1 to 4:30 p.m. daily

Cost: $21.95 per person

See some past restaurant reviews in the
Columnists section.

Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews run on Thursdays. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:

very good, exceeds expectations;
below average.

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