special occasion lunch in Pasadena
Any recommendations for a place in Pasadena to celebrate a special occasion at lunch? It's not a large group (4 people), and we'd like something quiet and somewhat elegant.
I'm considering San Marino's Julienne, and Pepper's favorable mention of it in May helps. Also suggested to me have been Maison Akira on Green Street and Derek's (a.k.a. Dickenson West). Does anyone have lunch experiences at either place?
I'm focusing on the words "special occasion." For me, that would include ambience as a significant factor, in addition to the quality of the food.
The light lunch fare at Julienne, as recommended by Pepper, is of very good quality, but the ambience is very informal and the menu is limited. As good as it is for its type, I don't think this is where I'd go for a "special occasion."
I'm not a fan of Maison Akira. Bistro 45 and Tre Venezie both serve good food, as does Xiomara (which just got a new chef, by the way, and may be in a bit of an "adjustment" period) and Yujean Kang.
My suggestion, however, would be The Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel, an old historic hotel that combines a lovely building with gorgeous grounds. I'd go to The Terrace restaurant, and pick either a table near the windows overlooking the garden, or, better yet, on a warm summer day, an outdoor table with an even better view of the gardens. The food there, self-described at California cuisine with a Mediterranean influence, is generally quite good. As I've commented in previous posts, I don't think the "high-end" food in Pasadena measures up to "high-end" food at other top restaurants in the greater Los Angeles area. So, for me, whatever differences may exist between the quality of the food at the Huntington and other good restaurants in Pasadena would be offset by the graciousness of the setting at the Huntington.
re: Tom Armitage
I wasn't suggesting Julienne for a ``special-occasion lunch,'' btw, just suggesting that it was a bit harsh to judge a restaurant for its adeptness at a kind of meal it almost never serves. Yujean Kang can be a very nice place for a long, bibulous lunch, though the spectacular list of unfindable California wines is a bigger draw than the food.
Pasadena is so loaded with great places it's hard to pick one. I will tell you that I have had dinner at Julienne's (at the time they did it once a year on Valentine's day, I think). It was amateurish. I would never consider going back for anything.
Dickenson's West was terrific. Sorry I can't tell you how it is currently. But it was wonderful in its previous incarnation.
re: Bob Brooks
Since Julienne is an informal, lunch-only, quiche-and-salad restaurant to the point that they have only been open for dinner a couple, three times in their existence, why for heaven's sake would you judge this lovely place by a Valentine's dinner? Marston's has clumsy (if well meaning) dinners a couple of times a month too, but that takes nothing away from their breakfasts, which are the best in Pasadena.