Thursday, March 02, 2006

afternoon tea: i don't recommend CHA LOUNGE

Grand Hyatt Hotel
No.2, Sung Shou Road
(02) 2720-1234

Hours: 2:00 pm - 6:00 pm (Monday - Friday)
1:00 pm - 6:00 pm (Saturday, Sunday and Holidays)
Evening dessert buffet: 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm

kid friendliness: no high chairs, but room for strollers in certain areas


visit reviewed: 2/28/2006

It was a promising idea- catching the last day of afternoon tea during a featured month of special strawberry themed desserts. Mmmm, strawberry desserts. But there were a few problems in our afternoon- (1) we got there at 5:20 or so, which left 40 minutes of time to wander and consume the items from the buffet area and (2) the strawberry desserts I had imagined were much yummier than the ones that were actually there.

The setting could actually be quite romantic or fun with a small group of friends- an open lounge on the 2nd floor of the hotel, dimly lit, with cushy couch area seating. The service is not bad- they whisk away the unwanted plates and offer the typical hotel type of emotion. The price is NT$600 plus service fee, which at US$18 is a bit pricier than I like to pay for an afternoon snack, even if it's a buffet. But we made the special trip and decided to try it out.

There were three main tables aligned in a U shape. The first one had all the desserts- cakes, cheesecakes, chocolate mousses, ice cream, even sauteed strawberries. The second table had finger sandwiches with different breads and fillings, fruit and salad bowls. There were some areas with bowls that were empty and not refilled, like one which I think used to have guacamole in it. The third table had a row of heated steamers, featuring an assortment of dim sum including gyoza and sau mai.

Because the servers repeated warned us that we only had until six o'clock for the food, I loaded up anything that looked interesting onto the plates to take back to our tables. True to their word, at six, they quickly cleared the buffet area, allowing you to lounge in the area, but if you hadn't responded to their last call, you were out of luck. At about 630, they started placing the items for their dinnertime buffet, which I will say that they recommended/offered us to wait to eat. Timing wise, it didn't work out for us. So I would recommend, if you do want to try Cha Lounge, you go early to give yourself time to lounge and enjoy browsing and tasting everything, instead of feeling so rushed as we did.

I started with the desserts, but out of all their assortment of beautiful looking slices of cakes and sweets, the best tasting was strawberry topped square cheesecake. It was creamy and sweet with the familiar texture of a good cheesecake. The two chocolate cakes were pretty good, but very rich. One was a dense chocolate cake and the other was a beautiful dome of glazed chocolate covering the mousse inside.

Chocolate mousse cake and melted ice cream

Assortment of strawberry cake, a chocolate and cheesecake

The other cakes were lackluster- with too much frosting, or tiny slices of strawberries adorning them. Even at the serving table, they looked a bit as if they had been sitting out too long, the mousse cakes falling over a bit. What happened to the promising strawberry theme? There were some mousse and tarts, but looked like any dessert buffet staple. Even the freshly sauteed strawberries disappointed- even after the chef worked his pan magic- the strawberries were unattractive plate of soggy strawberries that didn't taste sweet or have the luscious strawberry flavor. They tasted like watered down cooked berries. There were three smalled tins of ice cream over ice, vanilla, mango and strawberry? The flavors were good, but they were melting in the serving area and quickly became of an unfortunate pool of melted ice cream in my bowl. Maybe I expected too much? Like bowls of fresh sweet strawberries and a chocolate fountain? I wondered why I expected that and realized it was because of a picture that was featured in the ad I had seen and perhaps that was only for Valentine's day? I don't know. Nevertheless, the dessert table was just okay.

Gliding over the sandwiches table, none of them looked quite appetizing. I would have liked maybe a simple club or tuna sandwich to munch on, but they were all a bit more adventurous, on rolls and with interesting combinations of fillings. The bowls of fruit looked picked over- again a result of us coming so late to the buffet, but it's too bad that they did not refill the bowls that had been emptied.

The dim sum table ended up being the most tasty. The gyoza were pan fried and tasty, and I ended up eating a near plateful of them in attempt to get my money's worth. They were also a good balance to all the sugar I was sampling.

I suppose I will have to try more different afternoon teas to be a better judge of how this one compares, but in general, I would probably not come back to Cha Lounge, I'd probably make my date at JOYCE CAFE. For a better value, you could either get an assortment of tastier desserts elsewhere; for sandwiches, you could wander over to CHEERS which is also in the Grand Hyatt; for a buffet, you could fill up with three times the amount of food selections for the same price at the new SPICE MARKET in Eslite.

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