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Barbrix, Palate, Noir or... for my birthday dinner

my birthday is coming up and i want to go out to an adult dinner. this means no screaming child next to me (don't get me wrong i love kids screaming or not) as I'm leaving mine at home with a sitter. Basically I need a break.

I'm trying to choose between Palate, Barbix or Noir in Pasadena. I've never been to any of them but feel they're good adult choices... or are they? I'm located in pasadena so my first choice is Noir but their website is scaring me. Palate sounds good but looking at the menu the mason jar dishes are sort of confusing me. is it really ok to eat out of a mason jar? and last, is barbrix. the furthest from home which isn't a selling point to me.

any suggestions on these places? any other place anyone can recommend that's sort of within the same vein as these types of places? Looking for a place close to Pasadena so anywhere near by like downtown but not west of los feliz so we can rush home just in case my child starts screaming at the sitter. THANKS!!

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  1. Noir is really very nice. But I was there when it first opened, and just for lunch. A friend has been there a lot, though, and always has good things to say.
    I like Palate, but friends tell me it's not as good as it once was.
    Barbrix, however, is lovely. Very good food. Nice people. Fun atmosphere. Sorry it isn't geographically convenient....but it's probably the best of the lot.

    1. I haven't tried Barbrix, but I'd definitely pick Noir over Palate, especially at the moment. While the dining room at Noir is TINY (maybe 5 tables), it has a much larger (and quieter) patio. My wife & I had a nice date night there last week. Definitely an "adult" dinner, and it was very pleasant sitting out there. Small plates do add up, though, so be forewarned.

      1. Barbrix, Barbrix, Barbrix!! I've been to all 3, and Barbrix is the standout by a mile.

        Out of curiosity - why is the menu at Noir scaring you? Also - where is your favorite place to dine in Pasadena? That will help me guide you.... if you want to stay in town.

        As for why I don't recommend Noir or Palate: I've been to Noir twice. The first time, I was somewhat impressed. A lovely, tucked-away, tiny patio. The food, while on the very small side (even for small plates) was decent. My second visit, however, was wretched. Service was horrible as were all dishes (and we tried many in our party of 8). On either visit - I felt the $$$ price point just didn't justify the experience. Palate was the most underwhelming experience - I found it very pretentious and the food lack-luster. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/672232

        For small plates, though, head to Barbrix. Lovely people, lovely food, outdoor vintage-chic type furniture. I'm in Pasadena as well and it's not a bad drive over (15-20 minutes tops).... but, if you want to stay in town, I'd send you to La Grande Orange - not small plates, but close, excellent food and service. But, kind of run-of-the-mill compared to Barbrix.

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        La Grande Orange Cafe
        260 S Raymond Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105

        6 Replies
        1. re: The Oracle

          thanks for writing oracle. i like reading your posts so i was excited to see that you responded.

          have you seen the Noir website? it's not so much the menu but their website is SO busy its a bit off putting. my favorite restaurant in pasadena well, is La Grande L'Orange! it's certainly not the best but we like the atmosphere and the drinks. we go to the pizza place next door with our toddler (who has multiple food allergies) and they accommodate our needs. it's a win-win for us BUT since we go there often it's not so special.

          i think one of my favorites in LA is Mozza but again, too far for us. I think i wanted to stay in pasadena so we could take a cab and drink.

          barbrix, huh? hmmm....

          1. re: trolley

            ah, thank you :)

            I haven't look at Noir's website lately (but will now!).

            And - I know what you mean about LGO and the Luggage Room - it's hard for the to be special occasion when you visit them frequently. Every time I go, though, I think - wow, that was a solid choice.

            I've been meaning to check out Cheval Blanc - but I think it would have more of a dated feel (compared to Barbrix). I've only done drinks at the bar, but I was impressed with what I saw coming out (bar food-wise). The main dining room had kind of a vegas/zebra/jungle feel to me (I didn't pay attention THAT closely - but that was my gut, 1-second impression). It's on my short list of places to take my mom for her b'day... (Roy's and Parkway Grill are the other two on my short list).

            I definitely understand wanting to stay local so you could be close if you had to rush home and/or for the cab/drinking.

            I walked by Quadrupel (in Old Town) the other day and I've always liked that space. It seems like it has a curse on all restaurants that set up there, as the turn over is super high (On the north side of Union, by the alley, in between Raymond and Fair Oaks). It was closed at the time, but the menu was posted... seemed a tad high, price wise, for being the new kid on the block.... I haven't paid attention to any reviews, so some chow-worthy research would need to be done. :)

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            Parkway Grill
            510 South Arroyo Parkway, Pasadena, CA 91105

            Cheval Blanc
            41 S De Lacey Ave, Pasadena, CA 91105

            1. re: The Oracle

              funny you mention Quadruprel b/c that's where we went after walking out of Vertical. the price was a tad high for the food but the service was nice and attentive. when the server brought out my glass of wine and i wasn't too keen on it she brought out another wine for me to try. they got our order a bit wrong (mussels came out with the wrong broth but we took it anyway and it was great) but it was ernest service and she tried. i'm not sure if i'd rush back there but we didn't have a rotten time either.

              roy's...I gave up on parkway grill a few years ago after a raw chicken incident!

              1. re: trolley

                RAW chicken?! Oh my! How long ago was that?

                ...what about Element's Kitchen? Have you been there yet? The space is lovely, it's local (by the Playhouse)... but, I can't attest to dinner (only brunch once). Brunch was tasty, a bit on the small side (portion-wise). If the portions were a bit bigger, I think it would justify the price point and warrant a return visit.

                1. re: The Oracle

                  My wine group had dinner last Sunday at Elements. My second visit for dinner. I have to say the food was fantastic. Very creative and well executed. I would recommend it.

                  1. re: The Oracle

                    it was back in 2007. we were looking for restaurants to host our rehearsal dinner so we went out to dinner at some places that we thought would work. my husband got the chicken entree and a few bites into it he realized there was something very wrong. we carefully looked (it was pretty dark in there) and the entire bone in breast was raw. they took care of it and our server took it away in a huf but we think it was more directed at the kitchen versus us. they knew were looking to host a party there for about 30 people...maybe that why they made it raw :D

                    i think elements might work...the menu seems sort of ordinary. sounds sort of like fancy versions of food i make at home...hmmmm...Bashan is looking nice as well...

          2. I haven't been to Barbrix or Palate, so I can't comment on those two. I've been to Noir with a party of 6, so we were able to try a lot of dishes, but frankly we weren't that impressed. Nothing stood out, and there were quite a few dishes that really didn't do it for us.

            But if it were my birthday and I wanted to stay in Pasadena, I would go to vertical. It's an adult atmosphere. They have a lot of wine flights, and it's small dishes. The executive chef is now Laurent Quenioux who is great. He was at Bistro K and then at Bistro LQ, which were both great and interesting. I haven't been there since he's started there, but I've been wanting to go. We have the same problem - child care.

            2 Replies
            1. re: norton44

              hi norton44, i'm thinking about vertical but we had kind of a crappy experience the last time we went. we had reservations for 6pm and we were there right on time. the place was half full but we were seated all the way in the back at a two top next to the busboy terminal or whatever it was. one of the seats was next to the curtain so anytime they walked in or out the curtain would brush that person. so we sat and sat with no water or anything for a really long time next to a really busy spot getting brushed by the curtain. the only workers we saw the whole 10 minutes (i'm crazy but i looked at the watch) were two bus boys that were working hard but not for us. apparently we were invisible so we walked out and no one asked why or anything. oh, when we got there there was no one at the host stand and when we left there was no one at the host stand either ( a very big NO at a restaurant for me since i used to be a host at a very busy place in SF in the 90's and that's the first rule you learn).

              so that's left a bitter taste in my mouth if you can understand...

              1. re: trolley

                I've had borderline service in the bar area at Vertical... it always gives me the: you should be pleased to be here vs. expect good service, type of feeling.

                What about Red, White & Bluezz? I've never been for dinner, but I had a nice brunch there (this was a couple years ago). A friend of mine had a horrid experience planning a company holiday function, which is why I've stayed away in recent years, but with the options seriously lacking in the area, I've been meaning to give them a chance.

            2. In Pasadena, instead of Noir, I would consider Vertical Wine Bistro.

              If you are willing to go or travel to Palate, I would instead opt for Bashan in Glendale, which is in the same 'hood.

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              Vertical Wine Bistro
              70 N. Raymond Ave, Pasadena, CA 91103

              Bashan
              3459 N Verdugo Rd, Glendale, CA 91208