Maybe it was because I was exhausted from a trying week at work and wanted to be at home, rather than eating out with a friend. Maybe I was just in a funk. But, after having dinner at Cayo in Pasadena the other night, I found myself assessing the restaurant scene in Pasadena, and thinking that it suffers from a serious case of the blahs.
Cayo, located on South El Molino next door (north) to the Pasadena Playhouse, is the new home for chef Claude Beltran, formerly of Dickenson West, also in Pasadena. The menu displayed all the trendy touches, but didn't strike me as especially imaginative. A cream of parsnip soup was okay, but lacked the sharp, distinctive taste of parsnip. It seemed "toned down." A smoked trout salad with saffron dressing was another pleasant but unexciting study in muted flavors. The date compote accompanying the seared foie gras was too sweet, and too solid, an accompaniment for my taste, resulting in two separate things and two separate tastes that didn't integrate. Seared turbot was overcooked, and only served to bring back wistful memories of the perfectly cooked turbot I had last fall in Barcelona. My wife's roasted duck breast with a blood orange glaze was okay, but didn't ring any bells.
So I began thinking about where I'd get excited about eating in Pasadena. Shiro (technically in South Pasadena) is too precious for me, and lacks "soul." I ran through the other possibilities, and found my excitement meter stuck on low.
Am I off base here? Help me out here, fellow Chowhounds. What restaurants in Pasadena do you regard as "exciting"?