Pasadena - Bistro 45 Revisited
After a despairing post on the paucity of good restaurants in Pasadena, we decided to try this past favorite.
Nice space, with comfortable chairs (a rarity as I get older). On weeknights there is a choice of tables - stay away from the middle of the room - lots of traffic and no privacy.
Accomodating waitstaff, well-versed in the intracacies of the menu. Head waiter was everywhere delivering drinks and advice, generally very good, on wines.
Wine list is spectacular. One of only a few places with extremely intelligently chosen wines which, though expensive in absolute terms, are only 2 times retail. Keenan Cab Franc was $78 - retail on sale is $42. Two or three pages of by the glass choices maxing out at $13. The wines alone make this a good choice.
First courses include a ravioli of the day - dear to my heart. Lobster with carrot reduction was sublime. Escargots in a red wine reduction were ok, but could have been warmer. Exquisite celery soup with truffle oil.
Mains included a special lamb shank which was a take on osso buco but with that earthy lamb background which is perfect for a complex red wine. Extremely tender and meaty - and huge. Not much got taken home, though. Pork chop had a reduction sauce with a hint of vinegar which was subdued enough to not interfere with the wines. There is a wine pairing suggestion sheet which is interesting. Pinot Noir with salmon, of course, but cabernet franc with ahi is an unexpected success.
Service is thoughtful and professional, though the busboys seemed a bit rough and rushed - minor quibble (though not, perhaps, for them).
I think this place, at least on an uncrowded night, can compete with most on the Westside for comfort, service, and nicely executed imaginative California (probably best classified as "Sonoma") cuisine. Expect about $100 apiece if you go for the premium wines. The equivalent would be 25% more west of Western.
I actually seconded your sentiments and extended them to the whole of LA. It is good to see that occasionally there are good experiences in Pasadena. I wouldn't say they are consistent, though, as past experiences at '45 have been less than successful. I did learn to appreciate what we have, however, after the article on the paucity of places in Palmdale, with the statistic of a 2 hour wait at Olive Garden burning a hole in my LA restaurant ennui.
Haha, well I'm glad you had a good experience there, I'll have to add it to my "try" list now!
I don't know if you've been to Lucques, I was there last night for the first time and from your post it sounds as though you might enjoy the food. They have an excellent pork osso buco and an AMAZING panna cotta. I'm not terribly knowledgeable about wines but I was there with a chef friend from Seattle and he said it was a very good list.
You mention "pinot noir with salmon, of course!!!" I take it someone at your table ordered it, yet how was it prepared? I typically think salmon goes with anything but pinot noir, yet seldom a white wine, due to the accompanying saucing issue. Do expand what the saucing/accompanying saucing was with the salmon, and how might that pinot have faired. I still don't get that pairing.
But you are right about Robert's list. Very good indeed.
Although did have a less than stellar evening on their recent anniversary party, where both the food and wine were sub-par, and definitely not representative of what the 45 does best and most consistently.
Pinot Noir is the perfect match for Salmon if a red is desired. If white, a Pinot Gris from Oregon is recommended. The problem with many of the current Pinot Noirs is highly extracted fruit and alcohol levels in the high 14% and up through 16%. The heat alone from these wines will kill any food. There are some lables that keep the alc & fruit extraction within reasonable limits. Frankly, I prefer Burgundy.
What is positive about the list at Bistro 45, is it's focus on domestic wines, specifically CA. and the nice pricing. Unfortunately, they have very little interesting wines outside of the US.
My Take was about the same:
As usual my birthday celebration lasted the better part of a week, with the high light being a romantic dinner at Bistro 45 in Pasadena, with my special someone. It has one of the most extensive (California) wine lists I have seen in Southern California. It was voted “Best Restaurant for Wine Lovers by Wine Spectator 1992 – 2006”. I want to add that the wine pricing was amazing with offers in all price ranges. We selected a 2003 Duckhorn Merlot and it was exquisite!
The menu has something for everyone and of course there were several specials. The “Tomba Tuna” and signature “Composed Salad of Baby Red & Oak Leaf Lettuces French feta, strawberries & Cabernet dressing”, AKA Strawberry salad were both divine. I especially loved the tuna, prepared seared on top of marinated yellow beets. Who would have thought! This tuna was white, not like the Ahi you see at most restaurants. We enjoyed Mumm Napa Brut by the glass with these selections.
I chose the Roasted Maple Leaf Farms Duck Breast, with an amazing honey infused demi glaze. Surprisingly the duck was served medium rare and tasted perfect. The only thing missing was that layer of perfectly crusty and crunchy skin that is usually atop most duck breast dishes, but the flavors were so amazing I didn’t miss it that much! A mascarpone risotto was served with the duck, light and creamy, a perfect complement! My dinner partner had the roasted beef tenderloin, which was flavored and cooked perfectly; melted in your mouth. The wine selection paired perfectly with our entrees, and the “Black White and Orange” dark chocolate bombe tasted amazing with the merlot too!
The service was impeccable with someone stopping by the table often enough, but not so much as to be annoying, to make sure our dining experience was perfect. We sat on the covered and heated patio; I was concerned that it would be too cold as it was raining! However the temperature was cozy, and I would not worry at all about patio dining here, there wasn’t even a draft on my feet.
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