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racion, not half bad not great.

  • k

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: http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/green-...

                                  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, etc...you 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"?


                              2. Wish I had seen this thread before our dinner tonight. Nothing we ate was bad, we enjoyed it all, but we were uninspired enough that we opted to drop by Whole Foods for a pint of ice cream instead of ordering dessert. We could have easily made any or all of those things ourselves at home & saved a lot of money. Especially painful to the value-meter: $23 for 3 scallops. Oh well.

                                30 Replies
                                1. re: indigirl

                                  "but we were uninspired enough that we opted to drop by Whole Foods for a pint of ice cream instead of ordering dessert"


                                  Sorry, I lol'd. G'ol Pasadena Dining Scene.

                                  1. re: TonyC

                                    So is Pasadena really all like that?!

                                    1. re: indigirl

                                      Indeed it is.

                                      Except fr Europane and Pie n Burger and Roma Deli. And when Vulgarini was located there.

                                      1. re: kevin

                                        I find comfort at Luggage Room, Sushi Ike, Real Food Daily, Tarantino's, Tonny's, Mijare's, Green Street Tavern, Vertical, Green Street Restaurant and Thursday night food trucks by the Playhouse.

                                        1. re: mc michael

                                          There was a place I went to in Pasadena at least a decade ago if not longer where the restaurant was an old, almost colonial feeling house, like some restaurants and businesses are in New England. Anyone have any idea the place I'm talking about?

                                          Edit: I think it was facing a park. Maybe it's Marston's? But that appears to be a breakfast/brunch place and we went for dinner. Maybe it was a different restaurant in the same space...

                                          1. re: PeterCC


                                            Give me some time to think about that one.

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                My wife has a general idea of where it was, and while The Raymond fits the converted house criteria, she says it's too far south. Marston's does fit, being next to a park and in the general area that she recalls. The only thing that doesn't fit is that it doesn't serve dinner, and we definitely went for dinner...

                                        2. re: indigirl


                                          Dead, old money from San Marino feeds the restaurant scene there. Caltech kids are too smart to dine in Pasadena, Oxy kids have Echo Park, Highland Park, Silver Lake, etc.

                                          Chinese folks, well, fuck we have all of SGV.

                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                            Let's hold out some hope. Recall that Cafe Jacoulet and Shiro began in Pasadena/South Pas.

                                            1. re: mc michael

                                              I will be driving about 120-150 miles round trip this Sunday to go to Vertical Wine Bistro for the LQ pop-up. It's got at least 1 dining destination, even if it is once a month or so.



                                              1. re: Porthos

                                                Portos, you are being considerably too generous.

                                              2. re: mc michael

                                                ps - Shiro is still in So/Pas.

                                                The Jacoulet space was taken over by Cafe Bizou, a signifcant slide down the hill, but at least it is still there for the seniors in the area, as is Bistro 45, Parkway Grill, Arroyo Chop House, etc.

                                                Racion tries, but truly does not succeed beyond just being insipid. I found the menu so uninteresting that it was hard to figure out what to order on my first visit, which will be my last, and that was my birthday dinner where I was not even paying the bill.

                                                1. re: carter


                                                  So tell me how you really feel about racion.

                                                    1. re: mc michael

                                                      Wow, now that's going way back ... probably even before there were adult bookstores in Old Town Pasadena.

                                                        1. re: carter

                                                          I guess back in the day old town was a red light district.

                                                          1. re: kevin

                                                            I hear 3rd Street Promenade in SM was quite shady too before it's makeover.

                                                          2. re: carter

                                                            Before the redevelopment in the late 80s, the stretch of Colorado Blvd. from the Norton Simon to Las Robles was desolate and filled with homeless and perverts, as well as homeless perverts. Empty storefronts dotted with adult bookstores and pawn shops.

                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                              I believe that there's 1 holdout still remaining in Old Town on Colorado.

                                                              1. re: JAB

                                                                Yup, and it's actually gentrified.

                                                          3. re: ipsedixit

                                                            That's funny. Tra Fiori was after Jacoulet and before Bizou. As for the adult bookstore, that's been a fixture for years.
                                                            When I moved to Pasadena in 1980, what has become the Old Town area was pretty run down with a Salvation Army residence, the adult bookstore, some printers and, yes, lots of drunks. I believe an earlier version of the 35er was there too.
                                                            It was all vaguely reminiscent of Main Street in the Ocean Park area of Santa Monica before John Wilson and some others gentrified it. Interestingly, Mr. Wilson then came to the Old Town area and tried to get a trolley and some other action going. Not sure if Wilson made any money in Old Town or if he just sold antiques.

                                                    2. re: ipsedixit

                                                      Well, where do Chinese folks eat when we don't feel like Chinese food but still want good value for our foodie dollar?

                                                      Edited: still can't get the hang of the threading... This was in reply to ipse's comment about Chinese folks having the whole durn SGV

                                                      1. re: indigirl

                                                        You hit your intended target just like Annie Oakley. It's just that there were a lot of intervening posts made in response to that same post that got in between your reply and that post by ipse. If you click on the little "RE: ipsedixit" that appears in the upper right corner of your post you can see exactly which post you actually replied to.

                                                        1. re: indigirl

                                                          Wait, Chinese folks want to eat non-Chinese food???

                                                          (Insert sarcasm here).

                                                          But seriously, they go to Downtown LA, or generally west I'd say. I think it also depends on what kind of food they're looking for. Me, personally, if I want something like Mexican I'd just go to East LA or perhaps Huntington Park.

                                                          1. re: indigirl

                                                            Highland Park.

                                                            There are actually a lot of places in Pasadena that I would classify as "pretty good" for a local place but not really exciting or destination dining. We go to Cafe 140 South (they actually make a great burger because they use a wood fire,and I like the grilled artichoke app), Luggage Room, Settebello, El Portal, Sushi Kimagure (haven't tried Ichi), A/K/A Bistro. All places to sit down, have a glass of wine or maybe a cocktail with the meal, pleasant atmosphere, pretty good food. If I want edgier dining I go into Highland Park (We like Maximiliano's quite a bit, also Good Girl Dinette, Scoops), more high end we head into DTLA or drive over to WeHo.

                                                            I really miss Cafe Jacoulet though. I grew up eating Saturday lunch there.

                                                            I should probably add that there are a few super casual great places - Sahara or Mediterranean cafe for kebabs, Little Flower (almost Eagle Rock) for baked goods and breakfast. I like Los Tacos for the chile verde and machaca tacos, but I'm sure there are some here who will laugh me out of the house. Sometimes I'm just not willing to go on the hunt.

                                                            1. re: Savour

                                                              There's a Scoops in Highland Park ????

                                                              1. re: kevin

                                                                Yes. The East Side, we have everything now. It's on York and I think 51st? No sign, but next to Italiano's near Cafe de Leche.

                                                                And while you're at it, check out Oasis Ice Creams for their fantastic raspados.

                                                  1. I've eaten here twice after seeing rave reviews in various articles extolling Pasadena cuisine. Nothing was better than OK, and much wasn't good at all. Glad to see others agree; normally I consider myself to have a reasonably sophisticated palate, and I just didn't get it.