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Central Park Cafe, Pasadena


Restaurants & Bars 16

Central Park Cafe, Pasadena

Will Owen | Jan 31, 2007 10:24 AM

Mrs. O took me out for my b-day last night (66, yikes!), and after looking for threads about bistros and the like I stumbled over one that reminded me about this place, which we had not gotten around to trying. We corrected that oversight, and are now damned glad we did; I'd been thinking about Bizou just because of things like sand dabs, and they are in our price range, but Central Park hit all these marks and did it better.

The man on the phone had said we'd need no reservation, but for a rainy Tuesday night the place was pretty busy. We got a table in the area near the front window, menus and wine list right away, recital of specials shortly thereafter. The flatiron steak leaped right out at me, as I'd never had one. Mrs. O had meant to have sand dabs, but the special of sole with grapes sounded too good, so she asked for that. Although she does not drink wine as a rule, there was a Spanish bubbly on the list, and we were celebrating here, so she asked for that. I requested a glass of the zinfandel. There was a gap here because the waiter had to go find the Spanish stuff, but he finally located some - it came in its own itty bitty bottle, maybe 6 oz. or so, which was about what I got, too. Not the most generous pour I've ever had, but what seems to be the standard nowadays. The bread was a too-soft but tasty kind of focaccia, served with a small dish of tapenade in warm oil that was very nice.

The steak was a marvel - maybe eight slices of precisely rare meat, in a perfectly-prepared reduction of wine and butter that tasted of nothing else, but only added to the lovely beefiness. This was laid over a very good gratin of potatoes in cream and gruyere. There were some extremely crunchy little green beans and carrots alongside, underdone even for Mr. Crisp here, but the flavors were good, and heaven knows with that melting steak my teeth needed something to do! The sole (called "Piccata" on the menu, but Escoffier says with grapes it's Veronique, so there) was a nice big piece of very good fish, and though I found the sweet edge a little odd its recipient loved it. Then we had to get a dessert, which was some kind of ice cream with white chocolate chunks and raspberry syrup (I think) that was insanely rich and pretty wonderful. I had maybe four spoonfuls and gladly let Mrs. O have all the rest. She was pleased with it, and also with the tab, which with her quite generous tip came to about $62. Merci, Tania...

Oh, and I must add that if you want to go here on a week night you need to make an early night of it - the manager came to the front window and turned off the sign at 8:55! What is it with Pasadena, anyway?

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