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AKA Bistro Pasadena

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So my wife and I were lucky enough to have dinner at AKA Bistro in old town Pasadena. Normally I am not a huge fan of old town food, but this was a hugely pleasant surprise. Before I go on, I have to mention we ate a 6 course chef's tasting menu, which may or may not be available normally. We plan to go back soon to compare and contrast with their normal fair. The chef (I apologize for forgetting his name) is a recent transplant from Napa, and the food definitely had that farm to table feel to it. I love that style, so it has a lot to do with my enjoying this meal so much.

The first course was warm wild mushrooms with a sixty degree egg yoke. We stirred the egg yoke in with the mushrooms and the creaminess of the egg-yoke played off well with the earthiness of the mushrooms. I have seen this dish served with asparagus, but not mushrooms. It was a great start to the night.

The second course was fresh pasta with a smokey tomato sauce and fresh asparagus and squash. I am not generally a huge pasta fan, but the smokey tomato sauce worked great with the dish. my only complaint was the plating was poor and my dish had no vegetables. Luckily my wife shared with me ;)

The third course was a raw tuna dish. It was served with avocado and deep fried sea-weed (I forget the name of the sushi wrapper stuff, but that was it). The crispy texture of the sea-weed played off well with some really fresh tuna and the creamy avocado. My wife normally does not like fish, but she ate most of hers.

The fourth course was a raw beef dish with mustard seed. I think this was our least favorite dish of the evening. The meet was beautiful, but I thought the mustard overwhelmed the beef. My wife really liked this dish, but she was in the minority.

The main course was a perfectly rare piece of meet (I didn't hear the cut) served with a red-wine reduction, thick bacon chunks that were cured in house, a mild chili that gave a nice texture but didn't overwhelm the flavor and some earthy baby potatoes.

Two deserts were served. One was a butterscotch pot de creme. I can't say a lot about that because my wife didn't share more than a bite with me. The other was some fabulous vanilla ice cream with something on the side (I am blanking), but the icecream was tremendously rich and had a strong vanilla flavor. It might have been too rich if served alone, but it worked.

We are SGV folks and our normal favorite place is Palate in Glendate. I think AKA Bistro holds up very well by comparison. One last caveat. We were doing a wine tasting and we had quite a bit, so the end of the meal is fuzzier than the start ;) I know we will go back, and I suggest you give this a try.

41 Hugus Alley
Pasadena, CA 91105
Neighborhood: Pasadena
(626) 564-8111


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  1. How much was it? Were you drinking the restaurant's wines? How was the selection and pricing on those?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Jack Flash

      The wines were not supplied by AKA. It was a selection of high-end Australian Shiraz and Shiraz blends that were pretty amazing. We had won the dinner at a charity auction, so I don't have a price. Looking at there menu, Entrees are 17-25$ starters 7+, so not a cheap meal, but not off the charts either. Looking at the menu, the second desert was the bread pudding, which was my recollection, but I had quite a bit to drink at that point.

      1. has anyone else been there recently? i was thinking of taking my husband there for his birthday in a few weeks but it gets awful reviews on yelp. i also don't truly trust yelp reviews so i'm just not sure what to do. please chime in if anyone else has been there...thanks!

        2 Replies
        1. re: trolley

          i was there for a quick lunch this week. service was very good. i had a pulled pork sandwich, which they told me (twice) took four days to make.(??) i found it to be mushy. okay flavor, but the texture was far too soft. pickles were quite tasty, and housemade. the menu is interesting. i'll give it another try.

          1. re: trolley

            Sorry to be replying a tad late, but I've been to AKA several times and think it's lovely. The portobello fries (like tempura-battered portobello slices) with aioli are terrific. Roasted tomato soup, likewise. Virtually everything we've had has been good. The restaurant is spacious and extremely attractive, with booths as well as tables. It's a real gem in Old Town.

          2. We finally tried AKA last Friday, and we were not disappointed. The service was impeccable: polite, attentive yet unobtrusive. We thoroughly enjoyed the food, which was reasonably priced for the quality, and will return.

            We started with the charcuterie platter which included both a house-made country pate and a quenelle of liver mousse (also made in house), both of which were quite satisfying. The liver mousse in particular (called foie blond on the menu) was a nice surprise, as it's not something you see every day.

            For mains, we had the roasted Jidori chicken and the seared duck breast. The former was a mostly-deboned breast/wing, stuffed with spinach and cheese (brie, I believe), served over a bed of mashed potatoes and with some lightly cooked baby brussels sprouts

            The duck was drizzled with an orange-chipotle glaze, served with spinach and some baby potatoes, and topped with crispy fried shallots. My only complaint: I could have eaten two orders of this. Duck was still nice and pink, the way I like it.

            Service high points: at one point, we were just starting to think that it was taking a bit longer than expected for the mains, but we weren't really impatient yet. Just at that moment, the manager came over (unsolicited) and said the chicken takes a bit longer, but it would be out in three minutes. It came to the table in 4 (so it was probably 3 more minutes of finishing/plating at that point).

            Then, my wife had to take an emergency call right before the food came, and stepped outside the restaurant. After a few minutes, our server noted her absence, asked if I would like her to go alert my wife (yes, thanks; I had been texting her to no avail), and took the plate away to keep warm.

            At the beginning of the meal, we were provided a carafe of water, but never had to refill our own glasses. The empty carafe was replaced before we even noticed it was empty. It was little service touches like this that, sadly, so many places seem to lack, yet went a long way to making it a nice local date night spot.

            Total for 1 shared first course, 2 mains, 1 dessert, 3 cocktails, 1 glass of wine: $120 with tax, before tip. Considering we easily could have spent the same money, or just about, for the slop served at the Cheesecake Factory across the street, it was a great deal.

            1. Stopped by to watch the end of the Stanford-USC game after getting back from the UCLA-Cal game. We knew it was no longer Gordon Biersch, but had no idea that we'd get a real treat along with the Stanford win. We sat at the bar, good selection of wines and beers. Got the Reuben (with ourkraut!) - great fries, good flavors all around, the "hen" salad - a different take on a typical chicken salad with bulgur and avocado, and the mac & cheese side - nice light touch with the cheese sauce. We've found our new hangout on game days!

              Gordon Biersch
              145 S San Fernando Blvd, Burbank, CA 91502

              1. A friend from NYC visited me this past week in Pasadena, so after working up an appetite after a few hours of shopping we decided to have an early dinner. I took her to AKA Bistro her first night in Pasadena. I had read good reviews of AKA and had been there once previously for drinks and enjoyed the convenient location & atmosphere so I thought it would be a good place to have a post-shopping meal on the fly.

                The service was great but unfortunately I was disappointed overall in the quality of food. To start, we ordered the portobello fries which we found to be too greasy, although the delicious truffle aioli which accompanied them almost made up for it. For her entree, my friend ordered the seared yellowfin tuna salad. While the fish was cooked well enough, the piece of tuna itself was too thick making it unpleasant, she reported. I ordered the pan roasted Mary's chicken stuffed with brie and spinach. The chicken was very dry and tough. I tried a bite out of several of the pieces thinking it was just the one piece, but they all equally had that consistency. I would have returned it and ordered something else if I had more time, something I do not often find the need to do but if required, I don't hesitate.

                After, I shared this experience with another Pasadenian friend who turns out to have eaten at AKA several months prior, and she had the same experience- both with the inconsistency of the bar bites menu as well as with the dinner menu. I wish I had asked her first before taking someone to eat there when I hadn't eaten there myself.

                For drinks, I will continue to go to AKA. However for dinner either with visiting guests or just with local friends, I will stick with one of my favorite restaurants in SGV, Noir, which is not directly in the shopping district of old town but well worth the little extra drive east on Colorado.