First time ever at Shiro's in South Pasadena -- menu suggestions from Chowhound were very worthwhile. We had an early reservation, but by the time we left, a bit after 8 PM, the place was essentially full, so I'm not sure why the restaurant is moving to West LA after all these years, but it was sadly confirmed by the hostess.
Anyway, on to the food -- the two of us decided to split four appetizers and the catfish: we started with two cold dishes, the beet and sheep's milk cheese salad, and a special, tuna tartare. The beet salad was the epitome of what simple, fresh and sublime ingredients can do. This was "merely" very thinly sliced red beets with very thinly sliced sheep's milk cheese on top, with just a tiny sprig of dill and a drop of balsamic vinegar. There was "something" about that cheese -- robustly mild, perhaps, but the dish was absolutely perfect, and a good sized portion as well. We tend to order a lot of beet salads at fine restaurants and this one was top o' the list. The tuna tartare actually paled in comparison, though there were no complaints. It was very fresh, diced tuna served hockey puck shape, topped with a quail egg and chives, fried won tons and a small salad on the side. The flavors could have used a bit of a jolt, but everything was very fresh tasting.
For our next "course" we split two warm appetizers, the much heralded Chinese ravioli, and the roasted quail salad. Both of these dishes were wonderful, with the ravioli being just pure heaven. Is it always stuffed with a rich shrimp mousse and served in a shitake mushroom cream sauce? It is utterly fantastic, and the bowl was wiped clean with (I forgot to mention) pieces of crispy warm baguette. The quail salad (another special) made excellent use of this almost steak-like fowl: the meat was substantial and flavorful, and paired very well with the spinach leaves and vinagrette (the details of which escape me). Interestingly enough, the two winners for those courses were the dishes from the menu -- the beet salad, and the ravioli.
Then we split the large catfish, and while we were well nigh full when it came, we ate the whole thing and loved it. I also have to put in a good word for the vegetables that were served with the catfish -- perfectly sauteed zucchini, and carrots, and the richest scalloped potatoes ever, wherein the potato was reduced to a mere vehicle for shoveling the cream and butter into your mouth as fast as you can. The entree specials of the evening were John Dory (which ran out as we left) and Chilean sea bass steamed in foil, and both sounded very tempting, but as it was our first time there, we thought we'd stick with the catfish.
We split a pineapple, banana and pecan crepe served with banana ice cream. This was a perfect ending to a wonderful dinner. The food, one glass of wine, one espresso, and one bottle of Pellegrino brought the bill to slightly over $90.00
Service throughout was excellent and friendly, and the place was very accomodating to families with children, though it serves really quite sophisticated food.
Since we live on the westside, we'll have more opportunities to sample their offerings, but I'm sorry for South Pasadena's loss. A very unique and special place.
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