The Best Restaurant in Los Angeles: Bistro K, South Pasadena
Alright alright- now before you all get into a tizzy with your own opinions on what the best restaurant in LA is, let me explain. Of course I haven’t been to EVERY restaurant in our large city. I’m sure that many of you think the tasting menu at Spago or Urasawa are generally thought of as the best cuisine LA has to offer. This may be true as I have sampled neither. However, I just have to say that Bistro K puts out amazingly creative, delicious, artfully prepared and absolutely delicious food at astoundingly reasonable prices. The fact that you must bring your own wine (they don’t have a license) and get charged nothing for corkage is an added bonus. It’s unusual to find such consistently innovative, playful and scrumptious food at a tiny, local place like Bistro K. There’s no Hollywood starlet getting drunk in the bar (there IS no bar), no agent-types ordering fat free mineral water and not a single valet in sight. It’s just a teeny, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it space attached to the South Pasadena Playhouse. Whoda thunk that this hole in the wall cranks out some of LA’s finest cuisine? Now, on to the food!
Bistro K has two seatings if you want to sit inside- the first starts at 5:30 or 6:00 pm but you must be done by 8:00 pm when the second seating starts. Outdoor seating has no restrictions but, even with heat lamps, the patio can be quite cold in the winter. J and I opted to go at 6:00 pm, with a bottle of Bollinger in hand. After we were seated, our waitress carefully explained that there was a five course tasting menu available, as well as an eight course, although there probably wouldn’t be enough time for the latter. There were so many delightful sounding things on the regular menu that we chose to order a la carte.
After we placed our order, we were given the “bread basket” of three crostini served with a creamy tarragon goat cheese spread. This hasn’t changed since we started going to Bistro K a couple of years ago and something we really enjoy. It went perfectly with the champagne as well.
J started with the Bistro K salad. Talk about simple perfection. Loads of the freshest, highest quality produced simply dressed with a very light vinaigrette. Watercress, arugula, butter lettuce and Belgium endive piled onto a plate- could anything look more appetizing? Each leaf burst with flavor and we knew that we’d never want an average salad again. Yup- a salad without whistles and bells got me THIS excited. It was as if everything was picked from the garden and plated within the last ten minutes.
After we polished off the greens, J’s appetizer of Scrambled Egg, Vodka Cream Scented with Jasmine, Topped with American Sevruga came to the table, the black caviar glittering in the soft candlelight like tiny beads of onyx. (ok, are you laughing now? I think I’ll stop trying to wax poetic from now on). Let’s just say it looked beautiful, and tasted even better. Creamy soft scrambled eggs placed back into its shell and topped with salty caviar….talk about a match made in heaven for a glass of bubbly. My Sweet Potatoes Puree Millefeuille Layered with Smoked Haddock From Scotland and a Splash of Green Tea Sabayon gave the caviar a serious run for its money in both the looks and taste department. The combo of the salty smoked fish and the smooth, sweet puree was seriously addictive. I think I have to order it again on my next visit since I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
For my main course, I couldn’t resist ordering the Braised Beef Cheeks in Beer, Pumpkin Spätzle, Oven Braised Rutabaga and Turnips. I have a rule- when beef cheeks appear on a menu, I must order it. Cheeks are some of the tastiest of animal or fish parts, and this was no different. The meat was tender and falling apart, its juices coating the toothsome spatzle……and I thought to myself, “Pinch me, I think I’m dreaming.”
J’s Slow cooked kid goat served in a crispy flour tortilla, Garlic and Shallot Confit Nage with Fresh Cilantro, Green onion Gratin with Chard and Asiago Cheese was equally delicious. Think Gourmet Burrito. The toasted flour tortillas were stuffed with only the tender and flavorful goat- no filler- and served with a braised green onion topped with a light sprinkling of cheese. All of the flavors combined so well, and was so reminiscent of the classic meat/tortilla/grilled green onion dishes you find at many Mexican restaurants, only better. Another dish we’ll have to order again before the menu changes.
Although we barely had room for dessert, J ordered the pear tartin. I have to say….this was the only disappointment as the pear was not as tender as we would have liked. The flavors were there, but it was difficult to slice through the fruit since it was undercooked in the middle.
Overall, the Bistro K dining experience is something that every food lover should experience. The quality is unbeatable and you’ll always get something that you’ve probably never had elsewhere. The service is top notch and you get the feeling that the small staff truly believe in and admire the chef- the pride in their faces is obvious. It may not be the most glamorous of spaces or in a hot, trendy neighborhood, but Bistro K, to me, is the best restaurant in Los Angeles right now.
1000 Fremont Avenue
South Pasadena, Ca 91030
626 799 5052