Had a great dinner at Maison Akira in Pasadena over the weekend. At our table, two ordered the Rabelais tasting menus ($45) while the other two simply got appetizers and entrees. Started with amuse bouches of smoked salmon over soba noodles and seaweed salad--a bit fishy for my taste, but my sister (a salmon lover) enjoyed it. Appetizer of seared scallops in a mushroom broth was excellent! Scallops were very nice: crisp outside, silky inside. The other appetizers of soups (potato leak & sorrel, and sweet corn) were disappointing. The sweet corn left a somewhat sour aftertaste...weird. Entrees were good. Miso-marinated sea bass that is Akira's signature dish was devoured, though in retrospect a bit salty. Foie gras and ahi tuna tartar napoleon was mixed--excellent foie gras, but bland tuna. Short ribs was completely devoured (didn't even get a chance to try it!) Cilantro crusted halibut was perfectly cooked, and the accompanying wasabi pototoes very pungent.
Ended with two desserts (apple tart with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream, puff pastry with berries and vanilla custard in an orange sauce), sounded mundane but were both exceptional in presentation and taste.
Total for 4, without wine was $170. The tasting menu portions seemed a bit small, but nonetheless a good value. Also, during dessert, Chef Akira himself came by to make sure things were going fine. A nice touch. Would definitely return again if I'm in the mood for a nice dinner in the area. FWIW, my sister was at AOC the night before, and said she liked Maison Akira better.