I Went To The First-Ever Hello Kitty Cafe In The US For Afternoon Tea Service — Here's Everything I Ate, Ranked
'90s girlies, pastry lovers, tea party havers, and everyone in between, gather 'round as I tell the tale (and rank the food) of the cutest dining experience I've ever had in my entire life: The afternoon tea service at the Hello Kitty Grand Cafe in Irvine, California.
There are only two Hello Kitty Cafes in the United States — with the other located in Las Vegas, Nevada — but the Hello Kitty *Grand* Cafe is the only one to offer a unique dine-in experience and cocktail hour with an exclusive menu that you, more often than not, have to book weeks in advance. The cafe is located within the Irvine Spectrum Mall, and as someone who frequently shops there, I can confirm that the Hello Kitty Cafe almost always has a line out the door.
Though I've always stared in awe at the cafe in passing, I'd (surprisingly) never actually been inside until it was time for my reservation, so imagine my PURE DELIGHT when I stepped in and was greeted with everything I dreamed of when I was a girl: pink and white walls, the smell of freshly-baked goodies, and a giant Hello Kitty guarding hot donuts.
The afternoon tea service is served inside the Bow Room, which is exclusive to those with reservations. (Depending on availability, though, walk-ins may be accepted.) Painted with top-to-bottom pink walls and decorated with white tables and a massive LED outline of Hello Kitty, I simply could not hide my squeals of excitement as we were led to our table. As someone who always used to throw pretend tea parties when she was younger, my inner child was having the time of her life!
The tea service is a fixed price of $60 per person (excluding alcohol) and includes your choice of hot tea in addition to 10 savory and sweet treats to enjoy. If you don't feel like drinking hot tea, though, the cafe also offers iced tea and lemonades!
When it was time to order our beverages, I asked our lovely server what her favorite tea was, and she suggested the pomegranate green tea. My friend, Dehjiah, got a pot of wuyi oolong. Keep in mind that there are literally 15 types of hot teas to choose from, with four being caffeine-free — so there's definitely something for everyone. Our teas came in these pretty pots and even came with a HELLO KITTY SUGAR CUBE. Like, hello?! Cuteness overload!
I normally only drink black teas like Earl Grey and chai, but the pomegranate green tea was so good. It was already on the sweeter side as-is, but I foolishly put the entire sugar cube in my first cup, so it was much sweeter than I'd intended. (I'm an amateur; I'm sorry). But after I kept drinking, the taste became much more balanced.
Within the first few minutes of enjoying our teas, our server brought out a three-tiered stand filled with treats, which — depending on which side you're sitting on — is shaped like Hello Kitty or her twin, Mimmy. As per a traditional tea service layout, the bottom tier was filled with savory options, the middle tier was for the scones, quiches, and jams, and the top tier was for the sweeter options like mini cakes and tarts.
With such a selection, I decided to rank everything I ate from "meh" (not very appetizing, underwhelming, forgettable) to "please give me seconds immediately" (gobsmacking, delicious, fulfilling). Let's start!
10. Salmon Croissant — If you're wondering why this croissant looks ~extra toasty~ it's because it's a pretzel croissant! Slathered with dill cream cheese and paired with a hearty helping of smoked salmon, this savory treat was seemingly supposed to be the main character of this whole shebang, considering its size. (Spoiler alert, but not really considering the ranking: It wasn't.)
9. Hello Kitty Mini Cake — These adorable raspberry and almond mini cakes were decorated as Hello Kitty and Chococat (I'm a fake Sanrio girly because I had to look up their name). They were plated on the highest tier next to the raspberry macaron, and there was a yellow cake and a chocolate cake offered.
8. Pesto Tart — This tea-time item featured mozzarella cheese, vine tomatoes, and pesto sitting inside a little tart shell. Actually, "little" might be an understatement.
7. Apple Tart — On the subject of tarts, this apple tart is a seasonal item and features a crumb topping, apples, and cinnamon nestled in a buttery tart.
6. Cranberry Scone — Another seasonal item, these fairly-sized cranberry scones were paired with jam and butter and were topped with a hearty amount of coarse sugar. This item was placed in the middle tier and came with Hello Kitty herself imprinted in the butter.
5. Egg Salad — The second item we ate in the tea service lineup was an egg salad daintily stuffed into a mini "savory cone." Mixed with chives and paprika, this egg salad was creatively made to look like ice cream.
4. Raspberry Macaron — This dessert was placed on the top tier and was made with fresh raspberries and buttercream, and was styled with Hello Kitty's signature red bow.
3. Cucumber Sandwich — This lovely little finger sandwich was made with dill cream cheese slathered on a slice of milk bread and topped with slices of fresh cucumber. With such a formula, there was simply no room for error.
2. Strawberries + Cocoa Cream — This gorgeous concoction featured local strawberries dressed with chocolate syrup, topped with chocolate whipped cream, and a dusting of — wait for it — Hello Kitty's face using cocoa powder! *Swoons*
And now, for the grand finale, we've come to crown who we believe was the ultimate queen of our afternoon tea service! I will say that it did not take a whole lot of thinking on Dehjiah's and my end because this item blew our socks off, so let's give a warm round of applause for the winner:
1. Quiche — Yep, this spinach and mushroom quiche was everything we could have ever wanted and needed. The quiche was at the end of our savory treats conga line, and, boy, eating it was truly a call for celebration.
In honor of the winner, here's a complimentary action shot of me trying the quiche for the first time:
But wait, there's more! To my surprise, as a final send-off, we even received these lemon-flavored palate-cleansing jellies! The plating was very much giving Everything Everywhere All At Once.
Whew! I don't know about you guys, but I got full just rehashing this whole experience. Honestly, despite some of the sizing critiques I had about some of the foods, I felt pretty full and satisfied. In fact, I still had some tea left over, so we were kindly given to-go cups so that our teas didn't have to go to waste.
All in all, I had such a fun time! I'd never experienced a tea service before — better yet, one that was Hello Kitty-themed — and I left brimming with delight from how cute and nostalgic everything was. For $60 a person, I think it's worth experiencing at least once, particularly if Miss Kitty and the rest of the Sanrio gang were pillars of happiness while you were growing up. The ambiance, the service, and the beverage selection were top-tier, and though there were just a few misses food-wise for me, I think there's something for everybody! TBH, though, I wouldn't blame you if you wanted a small meal before or after the tea service.
And that's a wrap on reliving the inner joys of childhood at the Hello Kitty Grand Cafe! If you're traveling to Southern California and find yourself in and around Irvine, you might want to pay a visit! And remember, you don't have to do the full afternoon tea service — the bakery itself is open without a reservation where you can get coffee, teas, baked goods, and even buy merch. Hello Kitty, you will always be famous!
Have you ever been to the Hello Kitty Cafe? If you have, what was your favorite part of the experience? If you haven't been, is the afternoon tea service something you'd wanna experience? Most importantly, who is your favorite Sanrio character?! Let me know in the comments!
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