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Restaurants & Bars 3

Maison Akira (Pasadena) - So So

Suvro | Apr 24, 200501:28 PM

We had gift certifacte for this place. This was my second visit and I have to say - it falls short of expectations, though it shines through in patches.

Service was excellent throughout. The waiter was knowledgeable and water was filled at proper intervals, dishes removed w/o rushing us.

The decor is a bit strange. Brocade curtains over a floor-to-ceiling glass wall at the back gives the false impression of a much larger space than it is. The ceiling is industrial strength particle board that one expects in a jobshop, not a high end restaurant. We also noticed strangely hung chain of pendants (or something to that effect) along the edge of the ceiling.

We chose the prix fixe Menu Rabelais - one w/o wine ($48) and two with wines ($66).

The Amuse Bouche was salmon with a dill sauce (OK), and a coin of Japanese thin noodles in aspic. The coin of noodles was a novelty, but NOT much of a taste sensation.

They served a very nice French Sauvignon Blanc at the same time.

First course was Yellowfin Tuna Tataki & Fuji Apple Salad with Soy Ponzu Aspic. The tuna was great, just lightly cooked on the outside, with dabs of wasabi caviar (I asked and was told it is plain caviar marinated in a spinach wasabi marinade that gave it a green translucent appearance and a slight zing - outstanding), a ponzu sauce, a refreshing salad of micro-greens with slivers of Fuji Apple, and an aspic of Yuzu lemon (great concept). This was the standout dish of the night, and it heightened our appetites for what was to come.

Second course was a choice between green asparagus soup or Canadian Scallop Mousse in a Lobster Corn Ragout. Since the first is a common dish, at our waiter's suggestion, we all chose the scallop mouse. It was a "cupcake" of the scallop mousse, sitting in a pool of lobster sauce with bits of corn. The mousse was somewhat dry when it could have been much more custardy. It was also flavorless, meant to sop up the lobster reduction - but I feel it could have had some additional flavor that would enhance the experience. Somewhat disappointing.

The second glass of wine was presented at this point - it was a not so great California Chardonnay. The additional $ for the wines was NOT worth it.

Third course was a choice between Grilled Miso Marinated Chilean Sea Bass in a Honey Lemon Jus on Roasted Provencal Vegetables (two orders) or Grilled Angus Beef Rib Eye Steak in a Black Peppercorn Cognac Sauce. My fish was perfectly cooked - just the right amount of crunch on the exterior, flaky fish, and the rice soaked in the Honey Lemon Jus was good. The Provencal vegetables (thinly sliced eggplant and squash) was not very flavorlful, but the Jus made up for lack of flavor. Our daughter's steak was quite good, but I did not taste the rest of the dish to give a proper description.

The choice of desserts looked appealing, and we chose three different ones - I had a cheese course (three triangles of a hard cheese with a marmalade and a French dessert wine - Jurancon to cleanse the palate), my wife chose a flourless chocolate cake (delish) and our daughter chose a beautifully presented ice cream in a cookie cup with a caramel globe on the top.

While the overall experience was good, for someone classically trained by Joel Robuchon, then having worked at Maxims and learnt pastry at Ecole Lenotre, then worked at L'Orangerie, Citrus, Ritz-Carlton Pasadena, and Tower (info from the menu cover), my expectations were greater. It almost seems there is a certain degree of laziness to his cooking. I think he would have trouble surviving in a higher pressure environment such as Beverly Hills or New York.


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