With last weekend’s glorious weather, I felt the itch to explore but felt a bit lazy and didn’t want to venture too far. As I live in DTLA (Downtown), I try to take advantage of the frequently changing landscape of restaurants, stores, bars, museums, etc. before they close down and god knows what will open up in its place. (Case in point: an often frequented casual but mediocre pasta eatery Pastagino turned into a never frequented and even more mediocre Robeks Juice, now sitting vacant with a prominent JUST LEASED sign promising something great in the coming months). Touting real estate roulette as an excuse, I decided to spend a few hours at Chado Tea Room and the Grammy Museum — places I don’t think are on the endangered list, but nonetheless two stops I’ve been curious about for some time now.
I had been to Chado Tea in West Hollywood a few years back, as well as having grabbed lunch once at the café adjacent to the Japanese American National Museum before Chado bought the café space last year. I can’t seem to recall anything about either experience which I thought could perhaps be a bad sign.
I was pleasantly surprised however to see that Chado had upgraded the previous space and utilized the outdoor patio –of which the West Hollywood branch if I remember correctly was in much need. With the gleaming sunshine and aesthetically pleasing waterfalls, I could have been sipping Lipton for all I knew and still had been content.
I must interject at this point and give massive kudos to the very nice waiters here for moving an entire table outside so we could have our afternoon tea in the warm afternoon sun. What service! I swear I am not high maintenance (in public anyway). They had merely asked, “Outside or in?” and I had told them my preference. If only everywhere I went did this! Can you even imagine the furniture shuffling that would follow my path?
Afternoon tea consisted of an arrangement of four sandwiches (chicken, cucumber, egg salad and smoked salmon), strawberries and fresh cream, warm blueberry scones, an iced cookie and a slice of lemon bundt cake. My enthusiastic high tea partner (the Husband) and I happily nibbled on our sandwiches (no crusts allowed!) while we ingested the literature on the history of different types of loose leaf tea that came in the form of a 15 page menu. We learned fascinating new terminology, like first flush and second flush (which in my house means different things) but I guess for the more genteel crowed, refer to the season of precipitation in which a particular tea grows.
Another interesting fact I learned is that rooibos is not in fact a true tea, but instead a herb much like chamomile and chrysanthemum. All are often called herbal teas, despite their lack of true tea leaves. I would venture to say that anyone, from true tea aficionados to the most casual of tea drinkers, would have an enjoyable time here.
Hopped up on caffeine and sugary baked goods, next it was off to the Grammy Museum to meet a friend. Situated in LA Live among the hustle and bustle of chain restaurants in an atmosphere dangerously close to mimicking the Citywalk was the Grammy Museum. Don’t get me wrong, LA Live is a perfectly acceptable place for a museum, it’s just a bit unexpected. It’s a locale I associate with professional sporting events, the Emmys, Pee Wee Herman and Elmo (Club Nokia performances and not together unfortunately, which in retrospect would have been quite brilliant).
Despite an awkward layout, the Grammy Museum was very impressive. This was perhaps the most interactive and modern museum I have been to, short of the Exploratorium in San Francisco and what I imagine the Discovery Science Center in Orange County to be like (if I ever go). Everywhere you turned, it was press this, touchscreen that, sit in here, listen to this, step on that. I pictured my text-message challenged parents stepping inside the museum, taking one look at the touchscreen gadgetry and fleeing. The caffeine from earlier that day seemed to kick in and put my mind in overdrive as we navigated through four floors of music history, finishing off the adventure with a short anecdotal film about Beyoncé and Tina Turner’s performance of Proud Mary at the 50th anniversary of the Grammy’s.
The museum had a lot going for it but could have used some better signage as it lacked an intuitive flow to the exhibits’ organization and layout. Also, it appeared the exhibits revolve periodically during the year (it was Andrea Bocelli and George Harrison during this visit) but I did feel that hip-hop and rap artists were under-represented to some degree, as icons such as Snoop and Dr. Dre were never mentioned anywhere, while LeAnn Rimes seemed to be all up in the bizz. In all fairness I know the museum had a pretty thorough and long running hip-hop exhibit last year, and I must remember that this is the Grammy Museum and not a music museum generally.
Still, some Ice-T after a high tea would have been nice. I’m just sayin’.