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Malbec in Pasadena: a short appreciation


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Malbec in Pasadena: a short appreciation

Will Owen | Dec 31, 2012 05:04 PM

One visit doesn't really lay out enough material to do a real review, especially if you didn't taste anyone else's stuff or pay for the meal. However, our experience at Malbec on Green St. last night was so seamlessly pleasant that I feel some observations are called for.

The date was made suddenly - I was in fact starting to cook dinner! - when our globe-trotting friends called and said, "How about 8:00 at Malbec?" There was plenty of time to prepare the dish and refrigerate it, so we said okay. Got there right on the button; our friends were at the bar, and of course nobody had a reservation, but the cheerfully unflappable hostess looked over her sheet and gave us the choice of two tables near the door, saying that if we waited there'd be another one farther into the room. But this was fine for us, so we sat and immediately had menus and a wine list. Our friends, one of whom is Argentinian, had been there before and made two firm recommendations for me, the flatiron or the skirt steak. The latter comes with chimichurri; I would eat tennis shoes if you put chimichurri on them, so that was that. Besides, I'd somehow missed ever having skirt steak before. E., the Argentinian guy, ordered the same. Mrs. O saw the potato gnocchi as a good veggie option, and our other friend H. spoke for salmon. Mrs. O found a semi-bubbly - petillant, as they say - that looked interesting, and I saw an attractive midpriced Malbec, labelled Tilia and described as "sustainable." Okay.

The steak and the accompanying grilled vegetables were great on their own and delightful together - asparagus, eggplant, carrots, some haricots, and the steak was buttery rich and exactly chewy enough at medium-rare. We wrapped the meal by sharing a dessert E. insisted we try: two crepes, each folded over a filling of dulce de leche, with banana slices and some berries garnishing a good dollop of very rich vanilla ice cream. As good as it sounds. We also all got seconds on wine, Mrs. O switching to a real bubbly (don't remember what) in a flute. The woman who'd been in charge of our service needed no reminder what the rest of us had had.

This brings me to what I consider the best thing about our visit: the level and the thoughtfulness of the service. Every server was efficient, polite, properly deferent without subservience; nobody forgot anything, and the woman overseeing the operation did so lightly and gracefully. Nobody touched any plate or glass, however empty, without asking first, nor did they say anything remotely like "Ya done with that?" The room itself, though it seems to be all hard surfaces, did not reverberate with noise; even though a couple of men next to us were talking more loudly than we were it was somehow not obtrusive. It was a good place to be, to sit and talk - which we did for about two hours - and although we pretty much closed the place down there was no pressure at all to get us out the door, unlike a much "fancier" place we visited whose carpet was getting vacuumed before we'd even finished dessert.

We'll be back!

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