Neomeze in Pasadena (in old Sol Y Azul space)
Checked out Neomeze on Saturday night. I used to go to Sol Y Azul, back when it was good, so I was hoping to find a new favorite here. That was not the case, unfortunately.
The atmosphere is very cool - lots of browns and burnt orange and mossy greens. We sat at the bar, as the restaurant was booked (good sign). We ordered a pear martini, which was excellent. The bartender is apparently a martini expert, and they have a martini menu there that really shows off his talents.
The menu is international small plates, and we ordered a few things to share:
Kobe beef tartar: Very odd. These came in the form of tacos, only the "shell" was a parmesan crisp shaped into a taco shell. These were stuffed with the beef tartar, which was mixed with a mustard-y sauce, then came with a side of chopped eggs, parsley and onion. I love beef tartar, but I found it somewhat unappealing served this way. The flavors did not go well together at all, though I can see how a chef would think so in theory. And the presentation just looked kind of gross - raw meat tacos? No thanks.
Scallops: Simple, seared scallops - cooked just right, and very tender.
Avocado & Crab Tower: I had high hopes for this, as I love the combo of crab and avocado. But this was bland and lifeless. Too much cucumber in the mix caused the crab and avocado to be watered down in flavor.
Seafood Biryani: Saffron rice with shrimp, clams, mussels & calamari with roasted red peppers & baby peas. It looked great, but again, bland. The seafood was cooked just right, but the sauce was incredibly mild and flavorless. Kind of more like a porridge than an Indian spice dish.
The service was so-so, and the food was just okay. But if you want drinks and a fun vibe, this is your place. It just fails as a food desination.
I tried the pan seared goat cheese salad with a pomegranate dressing which I really enjoyed (but it was quite small for $9). The caramelized pears went well with the tart goat cheese and sweet-tart dressing. My friend had the gypsy soup that had a very unique flavor-- something the pumpkin was seasoned with, very subtle I couldn't figure it out, but the combo worked.
However, I would have enjoyed the tastes more if I hadn't had to enjoy them with cigarette smoke (I was seated in the lounge which I guess is technically "outdoors" because the roof is a wood awning but otherwise it's impossible to tell) I too would rather go to Vertical.
We went yesterday evening & it was practically empty except for a private party on the patio.
I personally liked the Avocado & Crab appetizer, though It certainly wasn't a "tower". It was more of a mini taco with a half-dollar sized crispy lotus root chips as the "shell". The cilantro vinaigrette gave it a nice flavor.
We also sampled:
Watermelo Neo: I don't think watermelon & feta go well together
Dipping platter (whole wheat pita chips with shot glass sized portions of roasted red pepper hummus, imli tamarind chutney, mint chutney and mango chutney): The pita chips were hard & close to being burnt + none of the sauces were stand-outs (except for the mint chutney)
Sweet Red Yam Cakes (served with green apple chutney & yogurt cream) - the yams had a shredded coconut texture which was a little disconcerting.
Chesse Boureg Cigars - which looked more like a frozen Totino's pizza bite than a cigar. Bland except for a little kick of un-identifiable spice in the cheese.
Roasted pan seared halibut topped with a lemon caper sauce, served with white bean salad & serrano ham - this was the hit of our evening.
Chicken Neocubes (grilled seasoned chicken patties on top of roasted tomato sauce served with roquefort creamed potatoes & chives): these patties were dry & overly chewy + I have no words to describe the tomato sauce (it was sickly sweet, almost on the spoiled side)
Service was friendly & attentive (eager to please & be helpful), though we agree that this is not a food destination. We felt that we were charged too much for the size of the portions & weren't into the techno-vibe. I wonder how long this place will last?!
My friend and I looked in last week after having dinner in old town and were heading back to the parking structure. REALLY cool space. I loved the outside lounge area in the alley. I would love to try the pear martini (sounds like it is right up my alley!). Like you said, looks like a great place to go hang out with some friends and have a drink (or two). Thanks for posting!