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Jun 22, 2012 12:16 PM

racion, not half bad not great.

though the salt-cod fritters were pretty darn good, reminded be of a lighter than air falafel crossed with a lightly fried, wafer thin crusted crab cake.

the lamb meatballs were barely ok.

and the lozenge of chocolate mousse was rich, dark, and haunting, though the sided pedro ximenez sherry granita truly added nothing to the dish and the coffee ice cream was OK.

i didn't see the crab salad nor the duck ham, which i was really looking forward to, any longer on the menu.

has anyone tried the cinnamon-spiced duck? any good?

what else have you tried that's good? i may just skip it in the future, it's not great nor cheap.

somehow i was left decidely unsatisfied.

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  1. Aside from the cod fritters, IMHO you didn't try their best dishes.

    Best dishes I had when I visited:
    Cod (bacalao) fritters - What you had is how they make them in Spain. Glad you liked that too.
    Pulpo (octopus)
    Setas (mushrooms)
    Fideua (squid ink pasta) with uni

    Desserts were OK, nothing extraordinary.

    1. We liked the squid ink pasta with quail egg, duck sausage, pork meat with crispy skin, and the escabeche.

      1. My favorite was the squid stuffed with duck sausage but it looks like they don't have that anymore? Next was probably the cod fritters for me.

        1. We went for the first time yesterday - Mother's Day - and the experience was decidedly mixed!

          It took a long time for the host person to seat us for our 2pm reservation - there were many open tables when we got there, as well as throughout the meal. But she was SLOW in doing anything! The worst was the pacing of the meal - when the restaurant was NOT busy. Our first dish arrived at 2:30 - almost 25 minutes after we were seated.

          My wife had the sangria - and that was good - she had two! I had their Spanish Pilsner - Estella Damm. This was very light and refreshing.

          We started with squid ink pasta with mussels and quail egg - and this was the best dish - so things went slightly downhill from here. There were no mussels that I could detect. There were some grilled baby octopus instead - but the crunchiness of the squid ink pasta was superb!

          The next dish to arrive were the roasted seasonal vegetables with Romesco sauce. The single crisped carrot was delicious - but it was a baby carrot, and almost the size of a vanilla bean pod after the roasting. Roasted cauliflower florets were great too, but the Chiogga beets (or was it some type of turnip - it had the rings like Chiogga beets), onions were so so. The Romesco sauce was very good. I have to make it more often to accompany grilled vegetables at home.

          The third dish was the crispy prawns (3) on bread with tomato and garlic - only two pieces of bread. It was nothing special. The olive oil for the garlicky tomatoes was quite good, but aside from that, this is not something I would order again.

          The final dish was the flatbread with chorizo, caramelized onions, and goat cheese. The crust was too thick in parts - almost felt uncooked, the caramelized onions were dealt with a heavy hand, overwhelming the small amounts of the chorizo and goat cheese. We could not finish the pieces - so I am having the leftover for lunch - and neither was it tasty enough that we wanted to eat more of it.

          As I said, the pacing was so slow that it felt we were getting poor service, but the waitperson was solicitous about other things - changing plates and silverware as needed.

          It was decidedly a mixed experience - I am going back again mid-week with better preparation for dishes to choose, and for the evening dinner.

          24 Replies
          1. re: suvro

            Please report back as I'm trying to decide between Racion and Malbec for next Sunday.

            1. re: JAB

              I had one great dinner at Racion and one meh dinner at Racion. I do think Racion is the better bet between the two (from an ambiance, interesting menu, wine selection perspective). Although, I will say, I haven't been to Malbec in over a year, so my food comparison is not up to date.

              In general:
              Malbec is better value for the money.
              Racion is more interesting in terms of what's on the menu.

              If the service is on (and the timing), Racion will be a lovely experience. My top menu picks are the beets, short ribs, lamb meatballs. (I was not a fan of the salt cod fritters. I thought overall portion size decreased on my 2nd visit). The Squid Ink Pasta was not consistent on both visits, but worth a try, IMO.

              That said - other than the wine list, I have no real desire to go back. At the food price point, the value isn't appealing in the least. If I want to drop that kind of cash, I'll head elsewhere.

              1. re: The Oracle

                Had dinner at Racion last night. Must say the chicken croquettes were decent. The cod fritters had nearly no taste. Nor did the calamari salad.
                Had the beef tongue flatbread, enjoyed it the most, yet it was served on their good quality bread that once baked became very tough to chew.
                Crusty bread is a big item on the menu.

                The roasted vegetable dish had enough for one person for $9, aka it was the size of a fava bean in scale. Hardly splittable for 3.

                Cloud dessert was meh.

                I really had to search the menu for things I wanted to eat.

                Service was fine, yet the wine list was not.

                While I like Malbec, the wine and the restaurant better, I would not return to either again.

                I like Spanish wines, yet the selection at Racion was so underwhelming.

                1. re: carter

                  Wow, it seems a downhill slide is in progress...

                  1. re: J.L.

                    If true, then it's truly sad.

                    Wouldn't surprise me, I suppose, given that Pasadena has never supported a truly good, cutting-edge restaurant without it resorting to burgers at some point.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      "resorting to burgers"

                      A day without burgers is no day at the resort...

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Did La Couronne ever resort to burgers? Probably not. But I take your point. It did not get the support it needed to remain open.

                    2. re: carter

                      Agree on the seasonal roasted vegetable dish - ONE lonesome baby carrot, perfectly roasted, but nonetheless all alone by itself!
                      NOT a good value, and now I have rethought our experience with slow service - I am going to give it a pass for dinner this week.

                      1. re: carter

                        Where would you go in Pasadena besides Racion and Malbec?

                          1. re: JAB

                            Roma Deli or Pie n Burger or Europane. ????

                            1. re: kevin

                              As subs for Racion or Malbec? Fuck no!

                              1. re: JAB

                                Actually, up the block from Malbec is Cafe Verde which is not bad at all.

                                1. re: mc michael

                                  Mick, have you ever had the bacon wrapped wild boar meatloaf at Green Street Tavern by any chance? I haven't had it, but sometimes I dream about it. Yelp photo here:

                                  1. re: Servorg

                                    Isn't there a rule against posting delicious food photos as dinner time is approaching? :P I've only dined there twice and I can see I missed something good.

                            2. re: JAB

                              Where would you go in Pasadena besides Racion and Malbec?

                              Vertical Wine Bistro

                                1. re: mc michael

                                  OMG, I just put myself on the wait list. Thank you!

                                    1. re: JAB

                                      Nice! I look forward to your review of your visit! :)

                                2. re: JAB

                                  Since I live in Sherman Oaks, I probably would not go to Pasadena for dinner.
                                  Arroyo Chop House has been reliable over the years, yet is way expensive.
                                  It seems like many a Pasadena visitor or resident likes slater's 50/50 on Raymond & Union, meaning burgers, etal.
                                  If I head that direction, I drive toward the chinese restaurant corridor where I have many options.
                                  Ate last Saturday night at Babita in San Gabriel.
                                  That relleno was wonderful.
                                  Very reliable, very good, good wine list, and nicest owners.

                                  1. re: carter

                                    Living in Mission Viejo, I never find myself in Pasadena either but, I'm attending an event on Sunday and had Settebello noted for lunch and Racion or Malbec for dinner but, may end up at Sotto or Bestia if LQ doesn't work out.

                                3. re: carter

                                  I guess I'm a contrarian. I have been to Racion no less than a dozen times since it opened. I have found the food consistent, energetic, well executed and most importantly delicious. Yes, some dishes are better than others. We love the cod fritters to start the meal. Perfect bites of salty, creamy cod. The squid ink pasta and smoked cauliflower are must haves for me. The ribeye is a perfectly cooked medium rare with wonderful flavor. I honestly think Teresa is making some of the best food in the area and is a true talent. With respect to the wine list, I find it very well thought out and representative of Spain. With producers like Gilabert, Laureano Seres, Benitos Santos, Urki, Muga, Lopez, Pecina, cannot go wrong. In fact, it is refreshing to see quality producers rather than the usual volume vendors. I support this restaurant and am grateful for their addition to the Pasadena scene.

                            3. re: suvro

                              Judging a restaurant on Mother's Day or any holiday is sort of like judging the desirability of that pinup model the first day of finishing a 20-year vow of celibacy.

                            4. Not a lover of Racion for QPR. AltaEats is shaping up nicely, but more of a neighborhood spot. Kimagure is our favorite restaurant in Pasadena and you could actually get out of there for about the same price as Racion and bring your wine for a small corkage fee to boot! Luggage Room Pizzeria is reliable.

                              Love the LQ Foodings. All the food has been phenom in our last two dinners there, but the last fooding, perhaps they overbooked. The kitchen was clearly in the weeds and we were waiting sometimes almost 40 min between courses. A friend looked at his watch and said, "We've been here since 6:00pm and with any luck we'll be out of here by 1am!" Laurent apologized profusely. He's a classy dude.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: revets2

                                what's "qpr"...i mean, besides queens park rangers?

                                what's a "fooding"?