Siena (Pasadena) - Review
Thanks to previous postings on the board - ended up at Siena for dinner last night and had a wonderful experience! It would make for a great date spot as well. I definitely recommend it.
Siena has been open for 6 months and is in Old Town, on Union between Raymond and Fair Oaks. There are probably about 20-ish tables in the whole space... and only 5 or so were occupied. The space is pleasant and warmly decorated for the holidays. Overall lovely ambiance, with notably enjoyable dinner music (I was told it was the chef's iPod!)
We were greeted at the door and told to pick whatever seat we wished. There are 3 tables toward the rear of the restaurant (2 4-tops and 1 2-top - one side is chair seating and the other side of the table is a bench). GET ONE OF THESE TABLES and sit on the bench side!! It's BEYOND comfortable.
Service was very pleasant, friendly - food came out faster than expected (ie: would have liked to have enjoyed my wine prior to the appetizer) - but I blame our quick ordering of one of the apps. While service was very capable and our waiter made for a very pleasant evening - it could use a little polishing. It was a tad awkward at parts (ie: we were told the dinner specials as we sat down - before we cracked the menu, it took a while to get in our wine order... and later, we were asked about dessert/coffee followed by a hard close immediately as our dinner plates were being removed and had a decent portion of wine to finish) - obviously, I'm being hyper-critical here and it wasn't a deal breaker to say the least... just would have preferred a more relaxed pace... overall our server was charming and attentive and I would be more than happy with him again.
On to the chow...
To start - warm house bread with a nice olive oil dip... they add scoops of parmesan to it at the table. It was at that moment I knew we were in for a treat....
They had a lobster ravioli special, with an option for an appetizer portion. We ordered this (this is the app that came out fast). Two ravoili, beautifully plated with red and green sauces and a streak of brown. They were bursting with filling and begged to be eaten. At first bite, I was a bit disappointed as they were colder than I would have preferred The flavor was lovely - everything synergized well together with nothing overpowering, but the lukewarm temp was a downer for me.
We decided to order another appetizer - the mushroom brushetta. This was a definite winner. Two cross sections of bread, layered with this amazing garlic marscapone mixture and covered with sauteed mushrooms. The bread was the most perfect consistency of crunchiness yet pliable (usually I find most brushetta bread WAY too hard) and the flavors melded together producing a party for my taste buds. Fantastic starter!
Mains: I ordered the Lamb Osso Buco with saffron rice. I'm a big osso buco fan, and this did not disappoint, but it did not necessarily wow me either. The meat was nice and tender, although, some parts struck me as a bit bland and I ended up needing to mix it up with the rice and accompanying sauce. The saffron rice was ok, but not an out of this world type experience (like the one I had at Spago - now that was amazing). The dish was completed with 2 baby carrots and some other type of 'salsa' type side that I did not care for. I liked this dish, and wouldn't recommend against it, but personally, wouldn't order it again - as it was good & enjoyable - but not amazing.
My dining companion ordered the Parapdelle with Wild Boar... I was debating between this dish, and figured I had the best of both world's since I'd get a taste of it. But it was NOT the best of both world's, as one bite was NOT enough. This was BY FAR the superior of the two dishes. The pasta was incredible and definitely homemade. The presentation and mix of flavors was to die for. I was jealous the entire evening and will be ordering this on my next visit.
Dessert offered three choices: a trio of creme brule (banana, nutella and some other flavor), a Baily's tirimisu, and another apple or pineapple pastry type thing (I think). We ordered the tirimisu and it was INCREDIBLE. Amazing, amazing flavors. Not too sweet, not too soaked... perfectly light, moist and the most delightful end to a wonderful meal.
I'd definitely say that pasta dishes are the way to go here... they really seem to shine with them... AND they are very well priced - all under $20. Entrees were in the mid 20's. I thought the appetizers were a little expensive for the size ($10)... but overall - a incredibly well-priced dinner option for the quality and creativity of food received. It's like a sophisticated cousin to Briganti in terms of food... and I'd definitely give the edge to Siena - as I found the menu to be more inspired than Briganti and the service/ambiance wins at Siena for me as well.
The damage: 2 apps, 2 mains, 1 dessert, 1 bottle of wine ($33) (it's a small, but very affordable wine list with about half of the list consisting of Italian wines), pre-tip: $112
I will DEFINITELY be back and think it's the best restaurant pick in Old Town by far.
UPDATE: Be forewarned - Siena has service issues. Went for a second visit for my b'day and found the service to damper the experience. That, combined with portion sizes that don't match up with price point - I don't plan to be back.