Mike and Anne's, South Pas- review w/ photos
Photos here: http://tokyoastrogirl.blogspot.com/20...
Everyone Deserves a Third Chance: Mike and Anne's, South Pasadena
J and I get excited every time a new restaurant opens around our neighborhood. As avid dining outers (isn't that what you call them?) we do have several favorites in regular rotation like Z Sushi, Briganti and Beaujloais, but it's nice when a new candidate moves in. Nothing wrong with adding a few more good restaurants into the mix.
Unfortunately, more often than not the new restaurant doesn't really impress and we're left to make repeat visits at our favorites that always please. I know- you should give each new dining establishment at least three of even four tries before giving up, but it's difficult to plunk down the dough when the crust just doesn't cut it. Er, wait- well you know what I mean. Why go back when you can be guaranteed a good meal at one of your regular joints? Because everyone deserves a second, third or even fourth chance, don't they? Especially a restaurant, which can go through several evolutions before finally hitting a stride that will put them in the running to become Someone's Favorite Restaurant.
About a year ago, J and I were in South Pasadena (only a stone's throw away from our 'hood) getting sandwiches at Buster's when we noticed a new restaurant opening a few doors down. The next week, we made our first visit to Mike and Anne's. As you can see by this post, it didn't impress and we left, disappointed. Of course we did take into consideration that it had just opened, but the space was so open and beautifully decorated that I suppose we expected more. About a month later we returned, only to be disappointed once again. There wasn't anything "wrong" with the food; it just didn't jump out at us in any way. The menu seemed incomplete and didn't offer many choices so we pretty much gave up on it.
Fast forward to last week. We wanted to go out to eat, stay close to home and I, in particular, wanted onion rings. That craving was put aside, however, since we didn't feel like going to a fast food joint and didn't want to make a second trip to The Coffee Table that weekend (we had been for brunch earlier). I suppose I always crave onion rings but don't eat them so I was used to being without. After vetoing Firefly (never had a good evening meal there- only brunch), Bistro De La Gare (wasn't in the mood) and Beaujolais (we go too often) we decided to give Mike and Anne's another shot........if just for the simple reason that we wanted to go somewhere different!
We were surprised (the first of several surprises, my friends) upon our arrival to see the place packed - on a Sunday evening no less. We managed to get a two-top inside (the patio was crowded as well) regardless and once again remarked at how lovely the space was. It's all wood and minimal touches- very clean. Our very friendly waitress informed us of the new Spring menu, took our wine order and left us to figure out what to order.
And what to my wandering eyes did appear......a miniature sleigh and eight tiny.....wait, no......ONION RINGS! The second fabulous surprise of the night! I didn't need to review the list of tasty-sounding appetizers any longer as I knew I'd start with a side order of my favorite fried veggie! I know I may sound waaaay too excited - I mean after all, this is a common food- but in a fine dining establishment that had twice disappointed me? Hooray! I quickly forgot about the past and focused on my new future with Mike and Anne's. J decided to get the Asparagus Bisque w/ Brioche Croutons and Extra Virgin Olive Oil to start and the Jidori Organic Chicken Breast w/ Fingerling Potato, Mushrooms, Green Beans and Bacon, With Red Wine Sauce. Although I was ecstatic about my onion ring find, I was secretly hoping to try the soup so I was glad he ordered it. I opted for the Basil Risotto with Baby Spring Risotto and Parmesan after spying the gorgeous green dish being devoured by someone at a nearby table.
The appetizers came first, and they certainly didn't disappoint. Actually, they knocked our socks off. The onion rings were piping hot, and although I prefer my rings extra, EXTRA burnt/crispy, these certainly kicked the craving. The coating was substantial enough but not bready, and had a nice crunch to them. I wasn't too crazy about the accompanying Apricot Mustard but the Cranberry Ketchup was delicious. J's asparagus bisque was, well, Spring in a bowl and full of bright yet creamy flavor. The croutons and light drizzle of olive oil completed the perfect execution of this simple but refined soup.
The mains were just as delightful. J's chicken was perfectly tender and the mushrooms and potatoes were meaty and satisfying. Once again, the flavor and seasoning were spot on. If J's asparagus bisque was Spring in a bowl, then my basil risotto was Spring on a plate. Each al dente grain of rice was coated in the vibrant green of aromatic basil, and each baby carrot, turnip, summer squash zucchini and tomato were tender and succulent. J and I ate and just looked at each other like "Why didn't we return here sooner?!" The bread pudding we shared for dessert was a bit too dense for my taste but then again- it was warm, topped with cool vanilla gelato and drizzled with chocolate sauce, so who can really complain?
It's clear that the owners work extremely hard- it's obvious in the nature of their servers, the cleanliness and organization of the space and the quality of the food. We saw one of the owners (Mike?) meticulously wiping down wine glasses and checking for spots before hanging them from the rack. Watching him work in such a focused manner actually made me feel badly that I had once deemed the place unworthy of another visit, but made me happy that I did eventually find my way back. It was a good learning experience to try and try again when it comes to newer restaurants. Getting surprised by a restaurant is such a rare thing these days, but Mike and Anne's handed us many pleasant ones that night.
I'll be returning!
Mike and Anne's
1040 mission street, suite 102
South Pasadena, CA
Check out my post on Mike and Anne's here: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/363463
My husband and I love the place. We went again a couple of weekends ago on a Sunday evening and the place was packed by 7:00 p.m. Our server even went the extra step to give us an additional sample pouring of a wine we considered, but did not get.
The service and food is wonderful.
We also noticed that the adjacent antique store was empty, and our server informed us that they're expanding into that space and will also be offering a full bar. I'm so excited. My only hope is that once they expand they don't lose their small, personal charm and wonderful service.
I love this place. Granted, I've only been here once, but from the history of these reviews, the place seems to be getting better and better. Part of the excitement is the discovery of a great place in South Pasadena. The other part is the excellent food. I had an heirloom tomato salad that I still think about. (It's the simple things with me) and having an amazing meal for two for about $125 WITH a bottle of wine.
I really do not understand why people keep giving this place fourth and fifth chances. The service is always, always horrific! In fact, I think it could be great material for a script. There can be 3 tables in the whole place and it can take 15 minutes to get a waiter to notice that you have no water, no eating utensils, etc. The bill is dropped during your entree and each time I ordered wine, the staff seemed totally uninformed about the wine list. The food is forgettable. I agree that the ambience is nice, and it may be its saving grace.
I got a little turned off to Mike and Anne's a couple weeks ago on a return visit for brunch. I thought they were very stingy on their portion sizes and things were priced slightly too high... but I do like the food and find it to have a bit of charm...
Will have to try it for dinner - as I think it's great spot in general. Thanks for the detailed review!
re: The Oracle
Made it for dinner last night.... the food was very good and well-proportioned (not like I felt after the last breakfast visit).
On the table:
*Asparagus Soup (as described in the OP)
*Mixed greens w/ balsamic vinaigrette
*Jidori Chicken (as described in the OP)
*Lamb (w/ sweet pea risotto and trumpet mushrooms)
I didn't try my dining companions soup or chicken - however, it was RAVED about throughout the entire meal.
I very much liked my mixed green salad - had a lovely vinaigrette and sprinkled with cheese. For $6, I thought it was well priced and very good.
Dinner - the lamb, suggested medium rare and it was perfect. A generous portion of lamb tenderloin? ... topped with huge, juicy and delicious trumpet mushroom slices (oh, I could eat a whole plate of just these!!!), all served on top of deliciously creamy sweet pea risotto.
We were both very satisfied.
The disappointment, IMO, was the bread pudding. The top was on the burnt side - but the inside was nice and moist. Came out piping hot. I love bread pudding, but I wouldn't get this one again... it wasn't bad -- it just wasn't worth the calories... ;)
Again, the food was outstanding, the service was very friendly and personable. It was a Tuesday night and the place was about 3/4 full - the thing that was slightly annoying (although, not so much that I wouldn't return) is that I felt they were understaffed. About 3 busboys and 2 waiters for the entire place. Our waiter was rushing around, yet was SO nice and helpful when he helped us, that I couldn't fault him for being understaffed.... when I sympathized with him for being so busy, he was very concerned that we weren't attended to properly, and I assured him that wasn't the case - and he talked about how some week nights they are overstaffed, and some they are understaffed - that it's hard to tell what kind of traffic they'll have in a night... which, I completely understand (on one hand) - on the other - it was a tad annoying to have to flag down a bus boy to get another glass of wine - or sugar for my coffee, etc.
The other thing that was slightly off-putting was there was honey spilled in the bottom of the dish that contained the sugar packets - so I had a sticky surprise when I took one of the sugar packets out to be used....
Again -- things that were mild annoyances and were easily overlooked in terms of the food and overall feel of the place. If they had additional staff, it would have been a home run, for sure.
Price: 2 apps ($6/each), 2 mains, 1 dessert, 1 coffee/1 tea ($3/each), 2 glasses of wine ($16) = $88 pre-tip. very reasonable for what you are getting...
...what I thought was also nice (esp. since my dining companion was not drinking any wine) was their entire wine list is offered by the bottle OR the glass -- I've never seen a restaurant offer this -- a very nice touch, IMO.
That's good to hear, especially as I'm contemplating a move to that neighborhood. For some reason I just can't get excited about bread pudding, and yet so many restaurants seem to feature it...oh well, I'm hard to please in the dessert department.
Can I ask how much your meal for two was? How is the wine list?
If I recall correctly, our dinner for two (two appetizers and entrees, and dessert to share) came out to about $100 (before t/t).
I think the wine list is conservative, but generally well suited for the (limited) menu.
Manager also gave us a complimentary flight of Spanish wines, which was a very nice and generous gesture.
Hope you actually move out to the 'hood ... you'll be that much closer to SGV ...
1 side dish, 1 appetizer, 2 mains, 1 dessert, 1 beer and 2 glasses of Avalon cab came to $88.00, I believe. Definitely very reasonable. Wine list is decent.
You thinking of South Pas or Highland Park? Would love to see you in the hood- we live in the Garvanza area of Highland Park..........