14 November 2011

Adventures in Grouponing 3: Radiance

Let me just start by saying something positive about Radiance.  Of all the tea rooms I've been to, the staff at Radiance has the best tea knowledge.  Elsewhere you'll get someone who might just know the difference between black and green tea.  I selected Pao Chong, which is an Oolong - because you can't go to an Asian tea room and have Earl Grey.

And now let me continue by being kind of negative.  For one thing, it's called a Tea House, which puts me in mind of a major fashion label, and this is fitting (get it, fitting?) because the price of an Afternoon Tea for two would actually put a dent in the price of a couture dress.  I used a Groupon, which gave us over 50% off, meaning before tax and tip we paid $25 each.  That's with the Groupon.  Yes, the discounted rate is what I'd pay for my share in the afternoon tea at Alice's Tea Cup.

"What?  Why are you comparing Radiance to Alice's Tea Cup?  They're two totally different places?"  Yes, they are.  At Alice's, you may wait forever for a table, but it's an equal opportunity wait, and when you are seated, you get served swiftly, and you walk out - no, your roll out, completely satisfied.

After a wait of nearly an hour between both courses, here is what the two of us shared:

Granted, they still had to add the dumplings to the above, but they were still small, and there were only two of them

Can you spot the tiny scones?
Dessert was better, though a bit overkill on what you can do with green tea.  Yes, I did like all the sweets.  I didn't say the food tasted bad.  It's just that it wasn't worth $25, much less $55, per person. 
Holding on for dear life to my only means of sustenance...

I'm not saying I won't go back to Radiance.  I don't get there often enough, because it's far enough from my job to not be able to make it for lunch, but close enough to my job to not really want to got there on the weekends.  It is close to Central Park, which is a good selling point (but let's not forget so is Alice's and a number of more reasonably priced places.)  I'm also not saying don't go to Radiance.  It's a lovely place, and people even have parties for children there (though I wouldn't).  I am saying I will keep searching for a more ideally priced Asian-style tea room.  I will be laying off the
Groupons, I think.  It's more often not worth it than a good thing.

10 November 2011

Just Great

You all might remember a post I did on a bakery that opened up on Steinway Street called Cream.  It wasn't bad - between decent cupcakes and chocolates, not to mention macarons, I welcomed Cream with open arms. 

Then, just like that, it closed.  I was disappointed, but not tragically so.  They'd never taken my suggestion to add a good tea menu, and I can go anywhere for your average bag-in-a-cup that was on offer.  Still, when I learned there would be a similar place opening up in its stead, it wasn't bad news.

A short time later, I saw that Great was open.  A quick peek inside didn't rev me up or anything - it looked more like your generic deli in midtown Manhattan than a cozy bakery, even if they did still have cupcakes.  That didn't exactly encourage me, and neither did the new name.  Great?  Not my favorite word - nearly as overused as its subtitled "Yummy Eats".  (Again, it's not that these words need to be retired, just used less frequently.  Thesaurus people!)

On the way home from work one day, I decided to stop in and pick up some cupcakes or pastries, whatever looked good.  I stood at the counter for some time, and the two people working there never turned around once to help me.  They weren't busy, either, just pretending I wasn't there.  I know I can be crankanoid sometimes, but it was pretty blatant.  Soon afterwards a friend of theirs came in and they both rushed to get him some cake.  Now I've said this before, but I don't need to be fussed over.  I do, however, like an acknowledgement that I'm a living, breathing, potential regular.  Well, that did it for me.  I got a pint of Haagen Dazs from the grocery instead.

I did give them one more chance.  In May, I was on Steinway with Millie and feeling slightly hungry, and in need of caffeine.  So we went in, and like the weather, the staff was a moderately warmer this time.  I got a piece of red velvet cake and a cup of coffee (I guess the tea hadn't been promising.)  There was seating, so we stayed for a while.  And here comes another overused word...Meh.  It wasn't horrible, or of Teany caliber, but it just didn't come close to blowing me away.  The coffee was good, but that's not gonna cut it when you're steps away from Starbucks.  There was pizza, too, but we don't really need anymore pizza in Astoria.  We're set.

When I saw that the storefront had a realty sign in it last week, I did not mourn or wonder why.  I only now hope that something better comes to replace it.  Heck, even another Martha's Bakery would satisfy me.  Just don't turn my head with promises of Greatness unless you plan to deliver.