Claud Beltran's latest venture is a most welcome presence in our Bungalow Heaven neighborhood, occupying the space formerly home to the well-regarded but undervisited Lebanese Kitchen on Washington Blvd. in northern Pasadena, just west of Hill Avenue. We made our reservations yesterday for 8:30 tonight, worried that we might be too late – it's been very popular – but were successful.
The space is two rooms wide, a long narrow one at the entrance with the open kitchen at the back end, with four four-tops and two twos, and a wider but shorter one through two large portals to the left with perhaps eight more tables. The large porch facing the parking lot on the west side has been given a wall maybe 6' high, and is apparently being prepared to hold outdoor seating. The walls and floor are hard-surfaced, and the noise level was a bit too close to our tolerance limit, but at least nobody was screaming.
I'd already made some acquaintance with the menu, having downloaded a PDF of that and the wine list; Mrs. O was happy to see that she needn't suffer for being mostly vegetarian – her rule is Nothing With a Face – and therefore she was even happier when our very tall, very droll waiter mentioned that one of the specials was sea scallops (no faces!!) with an asparagus risotto. The other special was a flatiron steak with grilled zucchini, sweet peppers and potato. I had been delighted to see that the small by-the-glass red offerings include the first cru Beaujolais I can remember seeing on any wine list, a Fleurie, and for just $12 besides, and couldn't think of a better combo with that steak. Mrs. O got a Stephen Ross Pinot Noir from the SLO-area Edna Valley, where we'd recently done a wine tour with our car club, and she liked it a lot. That was $12 as well – both good fat up-into-the-bulge pours, too.
The food takes about fifteen minutes, or a bit less, to come forward from the kitchen; we were in the interim briefly "amused" with a couple of tiny house-made crackers, each with a smear of a creamy cheese and a piping of tapenade. Neither of us is really a tapenade person, but the little cracker and the cheese worked so well with the flavors that even the olive-hating Mrs. O was pleased with it. Or I guess I should say "amused" …
All I can add from this point is that the scallops and risotto were so good that I am in awe of my beloved's generosity in giving me a good-sized taste of both. I did not have to share similarly as she eats no beef and hates sweet peppers, both of which were the best things on my plate. Our appetites are smaller these days and thus we studied the dessert menu more from a sense of duty than from any real interest, and beside that the noise level, while diminished a bit, was wearing on both of us. Two glasses of wine at $12 each, scallops at $28 and the flatiron at $27 = $79, + tax = $86. A bit more than we spend anywhere else in our neighborhood, but we've had worse for less many times. We have so many good reasons to come back, not least among them trying to find which tables are in a quieter spot … and that cured lamb belly looks pretty damn good too.
1384 E Washington Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91104