Dorian Hargrove 11:39 a.m., May 23
When planning a recent trip to the Japanese Friendship Garden, I had my mind set on lunch at the Tea Pavilion to round out a pleasant afternoon in Balboa Park. I’d never been, but I had visions of a serene, delicious lunch in the company of waterfalls and songbirds. Unfortunately, my imagination got the best of me.
At $7.50, the Teriyaki Rice Bowl cost $2.00 more than I normally pay for this simple dish, and for that reason alone, I expected it to taste comparable, if not better. It did not. The sauce was oversweet, the carrots had no crunch, and four of the six pieces of beef on my skewers were tough.
When I asked the young guy behind the counter to give me their most popular tea, he brought out the Japanese Cherry Sakura, defined on the menu as “green tea flavored with the essence of cherries.” I liked it just fine, though it tasted less green, more fruity. I’m more of an English Breakfast girl, so I probably won’t get it again. They do have plenty of flavors to choose from.
Though I wasn’t head over heels in love with the tea, I did enjoy sipping it at an outdoor table in the sun. Serene Japanese music played overhead and made me long for what I’d hoped I’d find here but didn’t.
As much as I wanted to love my lunch experience, I didn’t. Perhaps if I’d gone prepared for an expensive-for-what-you-get, pre-made lunch, I’d have left satisfied. Even the outdoor tables and the wide selection of teas don’t take this place any more than one step above a food cart. And, honestly, I probably would have walked away much more satisfied had I, in fact, eaten from a food cart and stopped at the Tea Pavilion only for my beverage.