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nice dinners in Pasadena

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any recs for better restaurants in Pasadena?
No chains, steakhouses, sushi or Chinese.
Places like AOC, Cafe Pinot, Table 8, Cafe des Artistes, Asia de Cuba, Cobras & Matadors...

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  1. 2 suggestions for you:
    Cafe Bizou has great food, $1 soup or salad with entree. Corner of Raymond and (Holly?).

    If you're into Mediterrean food, Cafe Santorini is also a strong choice, with a patio that is beautiful, especially if you go on a cool evening. If you go to Cafe Santorini, be sure to save room for the yummy gelato downstairs.

    1 Reply
    1. re: kotatsu

      Bizou is solid, but Santorini has been terrible the last two times i went. first time, the chicken was as dry as cardboard. second time, they had a veal flank steak on special. it was literally one of the toughest, chewiest, least flavorful pieces of meat i've ever had. my jaws hurt just from the memory of it... not cheap, either.

    2. I no longer live a stone's throw from Pasadena so, I may not be up on the very latest restaurants but here are a few.

      Celestino or Tre Venezie are both very good Italian. I've never been but many on this board like Brigante quite a bit.

      Derek's and Bistro 45 are both places that seem to have their fans and detractors.

      Xiomara is a good choice for upscale nuevo latino.

      Bistro K is another place to think about but the ownership and/or chef has changed of late and I am unsure what its status is.

      3 Replies
      1. re: bodie

        What mc michael said in order to match the atmosphere of your preferred places list above... (and btb Xiomara has changed hands too,...someone mentioned it's now called Mojito's? dunno, but mixed reviews on this board).

        1. re: Local

          Looks like I am more than a little "out of the loop" since I left the east side of town.

        2. re: bodie

          Bistro K is pretty awful since they ownership changed. Medicore food.

        3. Think you want Red White & Bluezz or Vertical.

          4 Replies
          1. re: mc michael

            We stopped by Red White & Bluezz on Saturday, Aug 4th @ about 10pm and it was DEAD. And when I said DEAD, I mean DEAD. Not a sole in the place.

            1. re: Kevitivity

              I was there that night, too, but about 7-8pm, and dinner and jazz were going strong. I liked the food here a lot, like the watermelon salad, but the service was veeeery slooooooow. Maybe some staff called in that night. But it won't deter me from going there again.

            2. re: mc michael

              Vertical was very good. Not as good as AOC, but certainly no loser.
              Parkway seems to be good from what I've heard so far as was Santorini.
              Cafe Zona has excellent cap. Only sorry they don't open til 9:30a on sunday.

              1. re: mc michael

                just came from RW&B. It was very good and empty, which suits us fine.
                We skipped wine as tonite is a show night. But food was very good as was the service.

              2. the closest thing to AOC is VERTICAL WINE BISTRO. not quite as fine, but solid. you might also consider RED, WHITE & BLUZZ. closest thing to COBRAS is LA LUNA NEGRA or BAR CELONA neither of which comes close to the food quality of COBRAS. closest thing to CAFE PINOT is probably PARKWAY GRILL...solid. i have not been to MADRE'S in a long time, so perhaps someone else can comment on what's going on there.

                XIOMARA and BISTRO K have both turned over...we hear not such good things. we like CELESTINO and BRIGANTE, but they're both more neighborhood joints. not sure i'd cross town for it.

                1 Reply
                1. re: revets2

                  I recently went to Xiomara and was pleasantly surprised by the food based on other chowhounder's post. It's the same chef and the service was good. I posted about it here http://www.chowhound.com/topics/413074

                  I was so impressed that I am holding my rehearsal dinner there. I must warn you that they are planning some remodeling in the next week or so that may affect service and quality. The named hasn't changed yet, but it is in the works.

                2. SHIRO.
                  Yum.
                  Will be going this weekend...I miss it so much.

                  1. I'm seconding both Cafe Bizou, had an absolutely terrific dinner there recently, and Briganti which I highly recommend, some of the best food in (south) Pasadena. It's got a neat enclosed courtyard that made the meal even more enjoyable

                      1. There aren't many reasons to cross town to come to Pasadena, but Maison Akira is one of them. Compares favorably to Grace and Lucques IMHO. Not as jammed as most of the West side favorites, and the food is unapologetically as good. Bistro 45 is not bad though it has many detractors.
                        To go down your list:
                        AOC: Vertical is the same type of place if what you want is the buzz, but if it's the wines, Madelleine's is even better. Nothing matches the food, per se.
                        Cafe Pinot: Akira is better in every aspect except the patio at Pinot.
                        Table 8: not that much to match; even Parkway Grill would compare favorably. Bistro 561 doesn't hold a candle for the actual food, but if it's the foodie scene you're after, this place will let you quiz the student preparers and see some of the preparation.
                        Would also consider Cafe Beaujolais in Eagle Rock (or Bistro de la Gare as a second choice in S. Pas) and Shiro is S Pas as a match for the others.
                        IMHO, it drops off precipitously after that.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Griller141

                          I have to disagree about Maison Akira.

                          Recently, even on its best days, Akira is slightly below mediocre. Fish dishes are oversauced, all the entrees come accompanied by the same (overbuttered) vegetables, the bento box could use a refreshing and better cuts of sashimi, and the room needs either new carpeting or some updated furniture or both.

                          I like Akira, but the meal I had there a couple of months ago left me very saddened. Like seeing your favorite dog age before your eyes and knowing that it's time to take him to sleep, forever.

                        2. Cafe Santorini is one of my favorites- good food, service and atmosphere.
                          Celestino is the best in Pasadena for Italian.
                          Tre Venezie is overated and pretentious. Also, I've been to Brigante and the food was HORRIBLE.
                          Mi Piace has okay food but a great scene and drinks.
                          Cafe Bizou is very good french.
                          Yujean Kang's is very good chinese.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: minnie

                            What could you have possibly eaten at Brigante that was "horrible?" It has been spot on every single time I've been there (at least 6 times). Perfectly al dente pasta, wispy thin crust pizzas with excellent cheese, balanced flavors...what more could one possibly want?

                            My one visit to Celestino was uniformly underwhelming, and terribly overpriced. Granted, that was on Valentine's day, and perhaps it's not fair to judge a restaurant based on that. But seriously...Celestino over Brigante?

                            1. re: Jack Flash

                              Can I just make a slight correction without, hopefully, coming off as rude.

                              Briganti is spelled with an "i" at the end, not an "e".

                              Don't mean to be anal, but I've seen it misspelled several times already.

                              Just an FYI.

                              Carry on ...

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Right you are. I hadn't had my morning coffee when I posted, so I'll use that as my excuse!

                            2. re: minnie

                              I have to defend Celestino's - it is a great restaurant! Service is polite and professional, the food is well prepared and delicious (pumpkin ravioli is to die for), & parking is free & plentiful.

                              I've taken my bf there for a birthday dinner. 1 appetizer 2 entrees and wine came out to $100 and we were full & happy.

                              Jack Flash you really should try it again - on a regular casual day. Underwhelming? From the people of Drago? I know I've spent just as much money at "The Melting Pot" on Colorado and that was just atrocious and gimmicky.

                              1. re: flavasista

                                I was underwhelmed precisely partly it's part of the Drago empire. I expected a LOT better. Again, I should probably know better than to go to a restaurant on Valentine's Day, but for over $100/person, which is what it was that night (with a lower-end bottle of wine), it would be nice if at least one dish were worth remembering. It's not that it was bad, but simply unremarkable. I can't even remember a single dish we had.

                                1. re: flavasista

                                  we frequent CELESTINO regularly. we like it, but it can be inconsistent at times.

                                  1. re: revets2

                                    Agreed. We hit up Celestino a lot, but it's funny... we had an identical dish at Drago (the flagship) of the Pappardelle with Pheasant and Morels, and there was just no comparison in the quality and flavor. Not that we didn't like the Celestino version (we get it often), but the Drago one blew it out of the water for just a few dollars more.

                                    Since i'm already posting here, i'll just say that the nicer places we hit up in pasadena are:
                                    Celestino
                                    Cafe Bizou
                                    Xiomara
                                    Bistro 45.

                                    In South Pas, haven't been to Shiro in a while, but it should still be solid. Bistro K hasn't been the same since the chef left, and Bistro de la Gare was decent (though i'd avoid the steak frites, which was made with a tough, low-grade NY strip).
                                    Monrovia also has some decent nicer places in Amori and Restaurant Devon, but those are a little farther away.

                              2. thanks for all the hits. we'll get to a few I'm sure and see how we do.

                                1. while you're all at it ........
                                  cappuccino (obviously mom & pop, not Starbugs)
                                  Italian and/or French pastry.
                                  I found Tao in downtown had both great cap and almond croissants ( personal fave).
                                  Particularly near Hilton.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: Fritz

                                    is it still called TAO ORGANIC at the bottom of cal plaza 1? i thought they had re-branded at merged it with MENDOCINO FARMS. if it is, indeed their pastry is good. they get it from BREAD BAR and we, too, love the almond croissant, although other on this board beg to differ. if you love the almond croissant at Poilâne in paris, you'll love the almond croissant at TAO/MENDOCINO FARMS & BREAD BAR. good find!

                                    1. re: Fritz

                                      fritz, if you are still in town try jones coffee for a mom and pop coffee place. its on raymond, just north of california. i'm usually a peets drinker (berkeley loyalty), but i've had a pretty good espresso at jones. also, almost all of their beans come from a socially responsible farming co-op in guatemala.

                                      1. re: go_bears

                                        seen Jones but haven't hit it yet. Zona Rosa is very good on El Molino. Europane and Lovebirds are both weak for cap and croissants or bearclaws. Bread Bar stuff that Tao gets in downtown LA is much better as is the coffee. Pasadena needs some real French and/or Italian pastry.

                                        We have enjoyed meals at Cafe Santorini, Red White & Bluezz, Vertical (though as said above AOC does kick it) and Xiomara soon to be Mojitos on Raymond.
                                        Mojitos sells way to hard and in general all the restaurants are too warm.
                                        Tonite, El Cholo.
                                        The ice cream at Piccomolo was enjoyable, though I still prefer B&J.

                                    2. don't do Bistro K. We were just there a couple of weeks ago... Waited for an hour for our dinner to arrive. It was terrible!!

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: meowie

                                        Bistro K has changed ownership - it used to be run by (chef) Laurent Quenioux (ex 7th St. Bistro, downtown LA and previously in his career, Maxim's Paris.) The good news is that he is going to open a place near downtown in the fall. I'm looking forward to that.

                                      2. Bistro 45 has EXCELLENT food -- absolute perfection! The ambience is very nice, kinda like being inside someone's house -- cozy.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: chowchow12345678

                                          so, so food. so, so service. was better before they opened their calistoga restaurant, IMHO.

                                          1. re: revets2

                                            even at its best, it's good but never great.

                                            1. re: Hungry4Good

                                              Check out la maschera ristorante. Good food. I remember succulent lamb chops and the most amazing couscous. And, great wine. www.lamascheraristorante.com -- they have a wine bar next door and a cheese menu, but we did not try the cheeses.