“Food” and “boutique” are not generally words that we expect to find in the same sentence unless we’re thinking of artisan jams or pickled homegrown cukes. Yet, Phoenix Food Boutique in South Pasadena aims to fit the definition—”a business that serves a sophisticated or specialized clientele.”
Chrysanthemum tea, a barley and lime drink, osmanthus with aloe vera green tea, and steamed papaya white fungus are a few of the selections to be found in Phoenix’s cold storage, along with light and crisp French macarons, mochi, coconut and yellow pea custard, French roasted coffee pudding (delightful), and steamed egg white with milk.
In the “deli” case, Phoenix offers ready-to-go cassava tarts, Russian tea cookies, seasoned seaweed, anchovy peanuts, marinated pig ear and beef tenderloin in chili oil, and tea-flavored eggs.
Appropriate time must be accorded to the menu that runs ten pages long with dozens of alluring pictures. Phoenix carries many traditional items like fried rice with garlic shrimp (sometimes the garlic is more noticeable, but it’s pleasant with tender shrimp, green onions, egg, and lettuce mixed with the fluffy rice), stir fried noodles, and lo mein options. But an adventurous spirit is encouraged when ordering. How about braised sliced pork belly with preserved vegetables? Or a traditional Chinese cold cut platter, along with marinated duck tongue and feet or soft spare ribs soup? You can even leave mainland China and try Portuguese-style beef stew or Southeast Asian foods such as curried fish balls and deep fried sweet mochi.
Our morning glory with garlic could’ve used a bit more garlic and we’re leaning toward the more leafy (and less stems) marinated spinach Phoenix cooks up, but enjoyed the sautéed minced string beans with mushrooms and sausage, which though seemingly a bit thin on the fungus side, had a fresh, al dente crunch to the beans and a sweet edge and a hint of spice to the sausage.
Dessert was a mix of custards. The coconut was flavorful, not too sweet, and the yellow peas were crunchy. The cappuccino custard, as with all of Phoenix’s coffee offerings, was wonderfully strong in flavor without any bitterness. The fresh mango cream was a bit bland but not unpleasant, and the visually attractive green tea with a lavender layer of red bean was beyond tasty.
Our eyes widened upon seeing the huge serving of pork and 1000 years egg porridge, their “signature dish since 1965.” It’s milky white and tastes like the western equivalent beef barley. As we were slurping and chewing, we felt the oncoming of another winter cold screeching to a halt. Thankfully, we’ve got leftovers to last the rest of the week. Move over chicken soup; we’ve found our new seasonal panacea.
Phoenix Food Boutique, 564 Fair Oaks Ave., South Pasadena 91030. Open daily, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. $3-$10 items. Eat-in and take-out. 626.403.1828. PhoenixFoodBoutique.com.