Derek's (Pasadena) revisited
Apparently a new chef arrived a few months ago (and an ownership shake-up just before that). Wandered in last night after a few years, in the mood for a quiet, nice meal in Pasadena w/o a reservation at 7 on a Saturday night. Ergo, Derek's! As with previous visits, I really want to love this place - they've been trying hard for years, are in a crazy strip-mall location, but found it sort of maddeningly uneven.
First off, the menu seems pretty much the same, a few meat items, a chicken, a fish, similar/same salads/apps (incl. seared foie gras, which I didn't try). We ordered a couple drinks from the bar (old fashioned/vodka tonic) and started with the seared scallops. This was one of several seared dishes. Someone likes to sear.
Amuse came out, a salmon mini-croquette and a single tortilla chip with bell pepper salsa and fresh guac. Chomp, Mmm. Chomp, Mmm. So far so good. I don't remember seeing croquettes too often, so maybe they'll make a much-deserved comeback? Deep-fried mix of fish and batter, basically.
Scallops were excellent. Maybe seared in butter? Plated over mint-pea sprout risotto, all perfectly prepared, well-balanced.
Wife is a sucker for burgers so she got the $18 Waygu burger with house-made chips, the thinnest potato strings on the planet, sprinkled with fresh parsley. An 18-dollar burger offends my sensibilities, and had some sort of aoli on it, so I forgot to taste, but she declared it the best burger she could remember; super juicy, flawless bun.
Halibut was a special, so after ordering the duck (which I'd had in the past), I quickly changed it, and shouldn't have. This arrived, again, on risotto (billed as "eggplant risotto" but it was basically the stuff from the scallop app, I think, with some undercooked eggplant mixed in). The fish might have been waiting for the burger to cook, as it was dry around the entire surface (yeah, I flipped it over), and whatever salt had been sprinkled on it had soaked down into the fish. It had also been frozen as far as I could tell, but I didn't confirm this, so might have just been cooked too long. I have had fresh halibut though, and find it transcendent. This wasn't. Served with an orange-y sauce, which was ok, but geez, for a really expensive cut of fish, give me a slice of lemon and we're good. A few spears of asparagus seemed unnecessary, but were unoffensive.
Finished up with a couple decafs, which were freshly made - whew!
All came to $120 plus tip (i had two drinks). So I dunno. Yeah, I'll come back, Pasadena dining being what it is. The place was nearly deserted, and it shouldn't be. The service was flawless, the folks running it are just nice and hard-working (think, the opposite of Kitchen Nightmares), but next time, I guess I'll get that duck.
I have only been once, and that was about 4 years ago. Had the foie gras and it was very good (especially the seared parts!) and the Beef Wellington. My only complaint with the BW (most BWs I have had, in fact) is that they don't season the meat. So once you eat all the delicious pastry off it, it is just a bland, plain piece of meat. The service was wonderful and we had a great time. Have been meaning to get back, but this place really is off the radar, unfortunately.
Derek Dickenson had wanted to sell the restaurant for around 5 years, and finally did sell it in March of this year to Anthony and Susan Auer, meaning that is when they took over the place. The liquor license actually transferred in July or thereabouts.
Have not eaten since the changeover, yet remember the place was quite quiet about 5-6 years ago when I did eat there. sort of out of the way, and you really have to know it is there, as Glenarm is not exactly a well-known dining street in the 'dena.