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Thaitalian in Pasadena - first visit review

Just one 'Hound responded to my query about this place, so I figured some kind of review was called for. Mrs. O and I took her young cousin there Saturday night as a birthday outing, along with another friend of ours. The place was busy enough at 8 o'clock, but not packed, and we got a good table immediately. Very attractive room, maybe a tad contrived but pleasant. Tables are quite close together in a side-by-side arrangement with a continuous settee along the wall and two chairs per table facing it. Luckily none of our adjacent diners was overly noisy or ill-behaved...

The menu is an interesting mix of Thai and Italian, as the name suggests, and some of the offerings seem to be reaching a bit for credibility, though nothing looked unappetizing. All of the drinks are grouped on a separate menu, which would work better if they'd hand out more than one per table! Service was very cordial and accommodating, but bog slow; perhaps it will become more brisk, but I'd figure on at least an hour and a half if you're going to catch a movie or something.

The two grown-up women ordered goofy cocktails - a tall blue thing and some pale greenish-white concoction in a martini glass, both apparently satisfactory. As a reviewer on another website noted, the wine list is pretty poor - I got a pinot grigio to start, and a domestic pinot noir for my meal, neither of which were in any way outstanding, but cheap enough at $7 and $6 respectively. The birthday girl stuck with water, as it was just her 18th, and none of the soft-drink offerings appealed. As for openers, we stuck with the bowlful of peppery pappadums we'd been given immediately, along with a very nice dipping dish of some kind of vegetation in oil.

Mrs. O ordered the Tom Ka spaghetti with chicken, which was simply a big bowl of pasta in a mildly spicy coconut broth with chicken breast, mushrooms and a bit of lemon grass. The cousin got the half-chicken roasted in a mild red curry, which came with a huge mound of red-sauced spaghetti and a small pile of steamed vegetables. I asked if the curry-sauced tenderloin came with any vegetables, was told "Not really," and so ordered a house salad (with peanut dressing) on the side, expecting the usual small dish
of it, and got a platter of sliced meat in sauce, a good-sized mound of rice, the same steamed veggies, AND a bowl of salad that would be almost a meal unto itself. Our friend opted for the appetizer-sized bowl of Tom Ka Gai soup, plus a dish of four cups of some interesting edible substance filled with corn, chopped peppers and other tasty things, also from the appetizer menu.

As you might gather, the portions here are more than adequate; Mrs. O was the only one who didn't need a container for leftovers. Said containers took about fifteen more minutes to be asked for and filled, and then the delivery of our bill was hastened only by the owner, a very personable youngish man who stopped by (as he had several times) to ask how things were going. Aside from that we had no complaints whatsoever: all of our food was good enough to merit repeat visits; though my tenderloin was very much overcooked, it had more flavor than that cut usually has, and the sauce was delicious, and everything else I tasted was good too. The table's pre-tip total was right at $95, including the weird drinks - not bad at all. Maybe next time I'll remember the damn camera...

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  1. Thanks for the review.

    Sounds more Thai than Italian ...

    1 Reply
    1. re: ipsedixit

      There's more blending of Thai into Italian, as you might expect (and perhaps hope)...but there are several straight Italian things on the menu, including pasta Bolognese and a pizza Margherita, which I expect to sample on future visits.

    2. My girlfriend and I went here a few months back and I really expected to hate it for some reason. I think I figured it was just more of a gimmick than a restaurant. The name of the place, along with the sign sort of gives that impression if you ask me.

      However, we were both *very* pleased with our food. I really enjoyed my Thai Pesto. The service was great. And we liked the interior/ambiance. I would say definitely try it out. I understand that the location is a historical landmark of some type too. Oh and the prices are really great.

      4 Replies
      1. re: spankbot

        Yeah, a little gimmicky, for sure.

        If for no other historical significance, this space should be remembered in Chow History as the site of a restaurant (Naya) that Scooter Kanfer opened with great food at good prices, and within a month had management telling her to go cheap on the food while they raised the prices. She walked, they went under...that's an oversimplification, of course. Anyway, I think these guys have a better chance to stay the course.

        I did forget to mention that when I tasted the Tom Ka Gai soup I actually found it both a little too sharp and too sweet, and it seemed to have been thickened as well...maybe it had simply reduced. It wasn't bad at all, just odd.

        1. re: spankbot

          seriously, the name just hurts me to look at it. it was like chiara near by, the brazil-italian restaurant (now Malagueta, straight brazilian). i love pasadena but sometimes it has its white bread moments... i guess if i try really hard i can understand the hesitation towards opening a brazilian restaurant, so tacking on "italian" just to cover the bases... but THAI?? thai is so mainstream. what do you think is the motive behind opening a thai-italian restaurant? i think it's a terrible idea....

          1. re: amandine

            My Thai BF and I (of Sicilian ancestry) often had discussions about opening a restaurant of this very fusion. ("Ithalia" was the name we had chosen.) Here's why: gra-pow sauce (thai basil + garlic + red chili) = hot italian sausage (with fennel seed). Nam prik ong = bolognese sauce. Eggplant = eggplant. Pre-colombian Roman cuisine even had fish sauce (garum).

            1. re: amandine

              LA is known for fusion cuisine. Some will last - some wont, but as a foodie, I enjoy all of the experimentation.

          2. i am still a little hesitant to try it out. i am such a foodie, and i hate being disappointed.

            4 Replies
            1. re: caitybirdie

              I'm sorry to keep barging in like this...but really, if you're "such a foodie", I'd think that running the risk of disappointment is part of the game. Especially if it's not going to cost you much money.

              The advice I got on this board before we went to Thaitalia was to go for the Thai-accented Italian food instead of the Italian-accented Thai, and I think that was excellent advice. In addition to the less than stellar soup mentioned above, my own salad (which I wound up taking home with me), while perfectly edible, had the least interesting Thai peanut dressing I've ever had (though it still made a very good lunch the next day).

              The chicken and the pasta dishes, though, were more than satisfactory. And I definitely am going to try their pizzas.

              1. re: Will Owen

                i say foodie, the thing is i love food, and i know its not that hard to make good food, and its just it makes me angry when i am disappointed in the food.

                1. re: caitybirdie

                  Okay...in this case (speaking of both the soup and the salad dressing), neither of those things was prepared badly. They were just not exactly to my taste. Our friend loved the soup, and I can see that some people would like the fact that the peanuts in the dressing were pulverized instead of being in larger bits. I'm not trying to harangue you into going there; it's just my opinion that the food and all the rest (except for the slow service) make this a much better dining option than the silly name would lead you to expect.

                  1. re: Will Owen

                    what is it about that sign that discourages so many? soo hoaky huh?