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750ml in South Pas - review w/pics

Pics here: http://rainydaysandsundays-c.blogspot...

Last night, my sister (a.k.a. Tuna Toast) and her husband (a.k.a. "J") decided to try out the brand-spankin' new 750ml restaurant in South Pasadena. We heard they just opened a few days before, so we went in assuming that there would be some imperfections - no biggie. However, what we experienced was way beyond opening-week kinks and jitters.

The first and most notable issue is that 750ml seems to be going through an identity crisis. It's being touted as a wine bar, but there are only about 5 chairs at the bar, and the rest of the seating is restaurant-style tables. Not a big issue, really, but noticeable. The menu, however, was a problem all together. French bistro fare, such as foie gras, duck confit and steak frites made up the majority of the very small (about 12 options total including appetizers and entrees) offerings. There was no cheese or charcuterie plate to be found. Is this a bistro or a wine bar? Still, we hunkered down with some glasses of wine (red for me, white for them) and tried to keep an open mind.

Other abnormalities abound: The first appetizer is an artichoke dish. Any sommelier worth his salt knows that artichokes are a wine killer. And, they put lemon in the water - another wine no-no. The wine list itself, according to my bro, was less than impressive and showcased more Spanish than French wines. On a positive note, I will say that the service was friendly and our waiter was very accommodating.

We started with the beef tartar, which, according to the menu, would come with bagel chips. It came with a toasted half of a mini-bagel. Something as sophisticated as beef tartar being served with half a bagel is just weird to me. The tartar was excellent, as was the small side salad, and the bagel was fine. At one point, we asked if they had a bread basket, and the waiter said, "No, we don't offer that." So we asked if we could buy a side of bread, and he said, "No, we don't have bread here." No bread at a wine bar? That's like Donny without Marie: confusing and irritating.

For dinner, I ordered the chantrelle ravioli, as did J, and my sister ordered the striped sea bass. To our surprise, the ravioli portion was very small - two large-but-flat ravioli in a very liquidy broth. The ravioli was bland, and filled with chopped onions and mushrooms instead of a mushroom paste, which was what I expected. There was little flavor, but, with no salt or pepper shaker on our table, we couldn't season it ourselves. I don't understand restaurants that force customers to ask for salt/pepper; it's very uncomfortable for patrons to do this as it almost always means that the food isn't seasoned well. Why put us in that predicament?

My sister's trout was also served in a broth. Why would a restaurant serve brothy food but offer no bread? The trout looked good enough, but after slicing into the meat, she noticed the inside was still raw. Not rare, but raw. At this point, we were all fed up and still hungry and decided against a replacement. We paid the check (a hefty sum for such mediocre food) and left.

Clare K.

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  1. Clare K - thanks for the great review! With all the great alternatives within a stone's throw - 750mL better find their A-game fast!

    1. Thanks for the update on 750ml. What a disappointment. I wonder if they've ever consulted w/ the owner of Mission Wines as to what to and not to serve w/ wines?

      1. hey clare...

        i, too, was at 750 ml last night with lowered expectations for a new opening. sat at one of the five bar seats. there were three of us and had to ask the only guy sitting at the bar if he would move over. i liked the fact there were hooks for my packages and purse.

        my husband had a belgian ale, my brother had press pot coffee (on call), and i had a glass of the kunin syrah (very good). we shared the duck confit (would order again), baby artichoke salad (yes, a wine killer, but the good quality reggiano made up for it), and the foie (good too). i was a given a napkin, my husband and brother were not, but they did get forks. wine glasses are riedel.

        interesting to hear about your dishes that were different than ours. although, the duck confit is a deal, the menu is pretty expensive overall. they dropped and broke three glasses/dishes in our short visit. clearly, we'll need to give these guys some time. service was earnest, though. i agree; the absence of bread with your dishes...big problem.

        most notably, the menu didn't feel like spring to us. it's as if they had anticipated a winter opening. it's already a bit warm for cassoulet, root veggies, confit and mushrooms.

        were in and out in 45 minutes. would definitely try it again. but they'll need to reposition the menu first.

        btw, i'm not sure where we all got the idea that this was suppose to be a wine bar. maybe it's the name of the restaurant, but when i go back and read the press, they do talk about it being a bistro. so there was an adjustment of expectation for us expecting small dishes to share and a long bar.

        nice to hear that you had a good meal at FIREFLY, which always falls short for us. you and your sis are my source for updates on south pas and i appreciate it.

        thanks.

        6 Replies
        1. re: revets2

          While it's discouraging to hear these reviews, it's true it JUST opened on Monday. I ride the fence on this: If you're going to open the door, be ready. But also, no matter what, opening and serving real customers at their pace, not yours, takes some getting used to. Given that, any restaurant should not be judged three days in, wheteher it's perfect and wonderful or horrible shaky.

          But thanks for both reviews. Sounds like some hits and misses, they definitely need to get their acts together, but last time I walked by it looked so darn cute. I hope they eventually hit the mark.

          It's also nice to hear about Firefly. Last time i was there it was just so so-so.

          1. re: revets2

            ...and it looked so good on paper...thanks both revets and clare for very helpful reviews (which will also be useful in persuading my sis-in-law that for the meantime we should head to Brignanti). Does 750ml have a dessert menu/wines?

            1. re: Local

              two desserts which sounded good, but didn't have. did you try clare? i remember one being a lemon clafoutis with some sort of berry and the other being chocolate. didn't have time to peruse the wines by the bottle, but decent "by the glass" list. the kunin was actually killer. i also remember the lang & reed cab franc being on the list. generous pour. i agree with clare. where's the cheese?

              1. re: revets2

                We left without dessert, but you are right - it was a lemon clafouris and I believe a pot de creme of chocolate. I had a nice glass of malbec-merlot, and my sister liked her savignon blanc. Bro did not enjoy his white (can't remember which one he ordered).

                Diningdiva: I agree, it's only been three days. But I guess what we expected was spotty service since I realize it takes a while to get used to serving/running a new place. We didn't expect the menu and cooking/flavor issues - at least not as bad as it was. I would have been rather happy to wait a long time for decent food, vs. getting bad food quickly like we did. And the owner already has two restos as far as I know, so I expected a little more than I would have from a first-timer.

                Revets - I remember hearing the glasses breaking - we must have been there at the same time. Too bad they're Reidels!!

                  1. re: diningdivala

                    Not really, but as we were leaving there was a large group (8 people or so) at one table, plus 2 couples at other tables. The place is very small. When we were eating there was only three people at the bar, and the rest of the tables were empty.

          2. I also had a bad experience at 750 ml last week. The food was passable (overcooked pork chops, good lamb, okay beef tartar), the wine list for a "wine bar" was limited and short. The service was dreadful. We waited and waited for our waiter, then waited longer for wine, and then were forgotten about throughout dinner even though we wanted to order more wine. The waiter with zee little French accent was rude, unhelpful when it came to questions about meal portion sizes or wine selection, and unapologetic when my husband complained about the taste of the water--flavored with cucumber apparently. We also received no bread, although I saw what looked like breadsticks at other tables. I also saw another waiter wearing a tee-shirt that read "F**king New York City." Although perfectly fine on a college campus or a city street, I found somehow disconcerting on a waiter in a bistro-type restaurant that purports to be a neighborhood spot. There were several children dining that evening. A thoroughly unenjoyable evening. The place looked great and the location is ideal. It's such a shame that the food and the servers really blew it for me. I shan't be back.

            1 Reply
            1. re: KimcheeBreath

              Think about Cobras & Matadors - ever think the service there was wonderful - service is an issue that Arroyo must not care as much about as do some of his customers!

            2. I was laughing a couple of days ago because I live right up the street from 750 ml, but have not been yet since I have a 3-year-old. I remember several people commenting on how the chef/kitchen staff takes smoking breaks right out front in full view of all the diners...and when I walked by the other day, what were they doing?...walking outside to take a smoke break...ha, ha!