After a despairing post on the paucity of good restaurants in Pasadena, we decided to try this past favorite.
Nice space, with comfortable chairs (a rarity as I get older). On weeknights there is a choice of tables - stay away from the middle of the room - lots of traffic and no privacy.
Accomodating waitstaff, well-versed in the intracacies of the menu. Head waiter was everywhere delivering drinks and advice, generally very good, on wines.
Wine list is spectacular. One of only a few places with extremely intelligently chosen wines which, though expensive in absolute terms, are only 2 times retail. Keenan Cab Franc was $78 - retail on sale is $42. Two or three pages of by the glass choices maxing out at $13. The wines alone make this a good choice.
First courses include a ravioli of the day - dear to my heart. Lobster with carrot reduction was sublime. Escargots in a red wine reduction were ok, but could have been warmer. Exquisite celery soup with truffle oil.
Mains included a special lamb shank which was a take on osso buco but with that earthy lamb background which is perfect for a complex red wine. Extremely tender and meaty - and huge. Not much got taken home, though. Pork chop had a reduction sauce with a hint of vinegar which was subdued enough to not interfere with the wines. There is a wine pairing suggestion sheet which is interesting. Pinot Noir with salmon, of course, but cabernet franc with ahi is an unexpected success.
Service is thoughtful and professional, though the busboys seemed a bit rough and rushed - minor quibble (though not, perhaps, for them).
I think this place, at least on an uncrowded night, can compete with most on the Westside for comfort, service, and nicely executed imaginative California (probably best classified as "Sonoma") cuisine. Expect about $100 apiece if you go for the premium wines. The equivalent would be 25% more west of Western.
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