A friend was craving sushi prior to a months-long trip to England, and we wanted to stay within the vicinity of Pasadena, so we headed to Japon Bistro on Colorado.
The restaurant was relatively empty, save about three filled tables. There were only two servers, and two sushi chefs, but that seemed sufficient for the rest of the night.
We ordered some standard rolls – spider crab and dragon roll. The chef was really generous. Eel was thick and wide; fried crab was large. We also ordered the Pasadena roll – if memory serves, it had shrimp tempura, crab, all around tempura-fried, and then topped with salmon. It was huge.
The rolls came in between the appetizers/tapas-like/isakaya (Japanese-pub) food: drunken rock shrimp – shrimp with asparagus sautéed in sake and spices; stuffed eggplant – fried eggplant filled with salmon; Koji’s trio/tower – spicy tuna, salmon, and halibut & avocado on wonton crisps. There was uncomfortably too much avocado for the halibut mix, the salmon was a bit too stringy, and the spicy tuna was o-k. As for the stuffed eggplant, its taste and stuffing was different (and memorable) from other similarly named dishes. The drunken rock shrimp’s flavor reminded me of many Chinese dishes.
I think Japon Bistro is a suitable neighborhood restaurant for Japanese dining if you don’t want the scene of Sushi Roku, although it does seem like it tries a little too hard. Nonetheless, the people are nice and you’ll walk away stuffed, satisfied, and if you’re into drinking – sake-d out. They do have an exceptionally long sake list.
The chef also took time to toast the diners at the bar, which always ups the patronage of a place.
Other entrees that have been outstanding when I’ve eaten here before include the ocean combo of miso-marinated seabass and black cod; stuffed shishito peppers; shrimp and vegetable tempura. They also grill beef tongue. :)
PS. Does anyone know the hours for the neighboring Lovebirds Bakery? There is no sign.
PPS. The adjacent Pita! Pita! was packed to the brim (literally, sidewalks and all) that evening. Have any chowhounders been there before?