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Restaurants & Bars 11

Pas/SoPas report: Abricott and Firefly Bistro

Will Owen | May 27, 201212:34 AM

Mr. and Mrs. O had a lovely time this Saturday afternoon and evening, conducting a further exploration of the interesting menu at Abricott on South Lake in Pasadena, and then, after a movie, checking into South Pas's Firefly Bistro for the first time, though certainly not the last.

She hadn't been back to Abricott since our first trip there several months ago, when they'd just opened. She wanted to explore their newer veggie options, so she asked for the meatless version of their pho; "The one with tofu?" asked the server. "Yes," she said. "The To-Pho!" So now it has a new name … I had decided it was past time for that burger, medium-rare, please, with fries.

The typically giant bowl of broth and noodles arrived sans garnish of any sort, which we found odd, especially as it really needed more bumping than most versions do. There was however the usual trio of sauce containers in a wire carrier, and a good ladling of hoisin sauce and the red chile paste helped a lot. I tasted one of the tofu cubes and found myself wishing once again that vegetable-broth makers could come up with some dominant flavor other than celery. But she found the soup satisfying and quite filling, and had to leave about half a cup of it behind.

The burger had no problems of any kind. This was a big fat meat puck, I'm sure at least half a pound, on a good substantial roll that held up nicely without being tough about it. The lettuce, the red onion and the tomato were all of as good a quality as can be had this time of year, and the meat was properly seasoned, juicy and beefy. I hereby wish to inform Plate 38 they can take that damn banner down now: Mr. Owen has found a better burger and it ain't theirs. Not only that, Abricott has figured out how to make their shoestring fries not only crisper but much more tender, a quality which they retain even when cold … and this is an $8 burger, kids! You can get salad instead of fries at the same price, but I figured there was salad enough in the sandwich. A slice of cheese, Gouda I think, is offered for $1 extra; it's not needed.

After our movie we headed down Fair Oaks, intending to revisit Bistro de la Gare for dinner just because we hadn't gone there in years. But then we looked over the menu posted at the door, and discovered there are no vegetarian entrée options at all, rather astonishing in this day and age and disappointing under the circumstances, so we agreed it was time we checked out Firefly. My, what a delightful place, just a big L-shaped tent over a steel frame, wrapped around a more permanent building that contains the kitchen. Most of the other part of the L was occupied by a large and frankly raucous party, but owing to the nature of the enclosure - no echoes! - the noise was more of a presence than a bother. We were welcomed graciously and warmly, had water right away and wine soon after - Prosecco for her, a Poppy Pinot Noir for me - and soon had decided on some very inviting chow. Mrs. O was most intrigued by the "Not-Quite-African" peanut stew, and I'll have to add a fuller description later because I'm up late and she isn't. There were lots of tempting choices for the carnivore, but deepfried duck confit with mac'n'cheese and a cabbage/asparagus slaw was just too obviously up my alley. After some very good bread with a harissa-spiked hummus, just adorable, we got our nice-looking plates and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. My confit looked like a slightly shortened and flattened chicken leg, except for the slender bones, which came right out with a good tug. The knife was needed only to hold the meat while the fork pulled it apart. It was - well, almost wretched excess in the tenderness department, rich and a bit spicy with a nicely seasoned breading. The mac was very small short-cut penne in a good but not outstanding cheese sauce, and the slaw was sweet, tangy, and exactly the right foil for both the other items. I got just a small bite of the peanut stew, but its owner said it was really, really good and she'd have it again.

Dessert was going to be some gelato back in Old Town, but the dessert menu was even more tempting than the other had been, so Mrs. O asked for the grilled plum-walnut tart with a dried-plum compote, and I asked for the sweet-biscuit strawberry shortcake with a lemon-curd and blueberry compote. This came with a good glob of very stiff whipped cream between the biscuit halves. I think I'd have preferred for it to be served in a shallow bowl with unsweetened heavy cream, as my family did it, just to mitigate the sweetness and moisten it some more, but I am not complaining at all; this was a great end to an excellent meal. The plum-walnut tart also disappeared completely, before (I might add) I got to taste any …

With tax and before tip we were just under $70. Our entrée choices were at the lower end of the menu, at $18 and $22, but a big barbecued lamb shank that I'd also considered was just $5.50 more. Our wines were $10 each, on the lower end of a range that doesn't go a lot higher.

Delightful place in every respect. We will be back, for sure.

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