Triangle Trip

Tag: Business Meals

Where to eat in Pasadena: 15 Restaurant Reviews

by on Mar.08, 2009, under Business Meals, Vacation

Big A, Captain G, and Statusmonger are frequent travelers to Pasadena, CA. Below are our candid reviews of all the places we have dined in Pasadena for the past three months — from mid-December 2008 to early March 2009. We feel that Pasadena is a bit overrated when it comes to dining and shopping. There are many restaurants in Pasadena, but none has stood out.

Captain G is quite disappointed at the choices, especially with Maison Akira which some people tout it as one of the best in the Greater LA area. Arroyo Chop House is by far our favorite. We celebrated Statusmonger’s birthday there. Big A is a nicer rater, but agrees with the rankings below.  He recommends Arroyo and Mi Piace for newcomers to Pasadena.

Below are our 15 restaurants we have dined at and their rankings (best to worst):

1.  Arroyo Chop House – The only restaurant in California that only serves USDA Prime beef and nothing more. Service was excellent. Great wide selection coupled with a wide variety of side dishes. Lobster mash potatoes side is a must!

2.  Ruth’s Chris – A consistent steakhouse, we have been here multiple times. It was the best dineLA 2009 experience we had in California.

3.  Mi Piace – An Italian restaurant and bakery. It has great seafood pasta and excellent selection of desserts to compliment your dinner. It has outside sitting and offers a wonderful experience of Old Town Pasadena.

4.  MaiKobe – A new restaurant on Fairoaks between Colorado and Green Street. It is so new that it didn’t have a review on Yelp yet. Servings were good portions. Despite having “Kobe” as its restaurant name, its Kobe beef was not good. Perhaps we should not have ordered a Kobe roll as Kobe beef should not have been rolled with rice. Dessert was excellent though. They also serve Hibachi style dinners.

5.  Bar Celona – A Spanish tapas joint on Colorado. The stuffed quail is a must. Paellas and mussels are also good options. The sangria was not too good though. Wine selection was a bit limited. Overall the restaurant had good ambiance. Music also went well with the food.

6.  Houston’s – Consistent American style restaurant with good service and atmosphere. It has the best French Dip sandwich and Ribs platter we have ever had… Houston’s even serves sushi now. Wine and beer selections are great.

7.  Roy’s – It’s a Hawaiian fusion restaurant. We were seated in an extension of the restaurant which resulted in poor service. The room was also cold. Food was so-so. We had better meat and fish at Houston’s.

8.  Louise’s – Italian restaurant right across the street from Mi Piace. Menu is a bit less expensive compared to Mi Piace but the food is not too bad. You get what you pay for. Parking is a bit hard to find though.

9.  Cheesecake Factory – Very typical and just like the other Cheesecake chains. The restaurant met expectations. However, it is always crowded so we don’t think it’s worth the wait.

10.  Sushi of Naples – Surpringly good sushi and udon place. We had fresh fish over Super Bowl weekend at Sushi Naples. It is however located a bit out of the way – away from Old Town.

11.  Saigon Noodles – Despite the fact that it looks ghetto outside but the soup was authentic. Pricing was also right. Portion was decent. Can’t complain when you want some authentic Vietnamese at a decent price.

12.  Green Street Tavern – From the outside, this restaurant looked elegant. Service was so so even though it was not crowded on a Tuesday night. We had wine and the tasting menu (tapas like dishes) that evening to try out all the entrees. The only thing worth trying was the short ribs. Wine menu was not good either.

13.  Gyu-Kaku – A Japanese BBQ joint. Service was slow. Beef and other meat were marinated with too much salt which made us drank more Sake… Sake selection was good. Don’t fall into the all you can eat trap. Overall, the price was too high compared to the quality of food we got that evening.

14.  1810 – An Argentinian restaurant located on Colorado – in the heart of Old Town, Pasadena. We thought it was a real Argentinian restaurant but it was more or less a lounge/bar food type restaurant. Food was horrible. We had chewy steak, bad wine and horrible valet service. The valet attendant wanted us to pre-pay for parking because he was leaving his shift. The only thing that kept this restaurant out of the bottom was how bad Maison Akira was back in January.

15.  Maison Akira – A French/Japanese fusion place which was neither Japanese nor French. We’d a prix fixe menu back in February 2009 and it was the worst meal in a decade for Captain G. You can find out the details on his previous post.

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Worst meal in a decade: Maison Akira in Pasadena

by on Jan.28, 2009, under Business Meals

First, we do not like to blast restaurants. We prefer to be the ones making recommendations. This post is an extreme exception.

Captain G and his colleagues just had their worst meal in a decade. This includes business and non-business related meals. We just left Maison Akira with a $250 bill for 3 people. This was not only the worst meal we had in a decade; it is also the most expensive.

When we chose to dine at Maison Akira, we thought we were having Japanese food or at least Japanese fusion or French fusion. This place was neither Japanese nor French. Maison Akira is located in Pasadena. Not only did the restaurant didn’t have valet; the parking lot charged us for outside parking. How could a restaurant not have valet in SoCal? We should have seen this as a red flag before entering the restaurant.

This week is restaurant week (dineLA) with prix fixe menus in LA. Maison Akira had a $44 prix fixe menu. Since it’s Chinese New Year, $44 meal should be another red flag as the number 4 is bad luck in Chinese. Another red flag was the chef prepared complementary salad that contained two tiny shrimp and five day old vegetables.

The setting of the restaurant was old musty. We were seated right in front of the door/entrance. That was another red flag that this restaurant doesn’t have good service or Feng Shui for that matter. How could a classy restaurant have a table right in the middle of the road facing the entrance?

Today’s prix fixe menu had the following entrees:  duck, Kobe beef and tuna. The three of us selected the Kobe as it was the best option on the menu. We all had different appetizers, which happened to be the best course on the menu.

The Kobe beef was the worst steak we have ever had in a decade. An Outback steak would have been 5x better. Given the fact that we had Ruth’s Chris the night before for the same price, I really felt we got ripped off for this meal. For $44, Ruth gave us a tender 14-ounce filet + appetizers and dessert.

There were four slices of Kobe beef with sloppy mash potatoes that tasted like chalk. The Kobe beef were chewy and had lots of tendons, and tasted more like lamb than beef. I thought I was eating rack of lamb as opposed to tender Kobe – the way it is supposed to be served. For all we know, the Kobe could have been dog meat, as we have never had anything so bad in our experiences. The sauce for the Kobe was most likely prepared by some amateur chef, as it tasted really tangy.

I had the Crème Brulee for dessert which tasted like egg tart that has been aged for two weeks. The Crème Brulee was extremely dried and the strawberry was not fresh. Finally, the wine selection was extremely poor. We selected the Hafner from Alexander Valley and paid $80. Sadly to say, the wine was the best part of the meal. We felt like we’d paid $250 for the wine since the meal itself was a horrendous dining experience.

Yelp also lost all of its credibility. We read the Yelp reviews before deciding on the restaurant and saw 4.5 stars from 107 reviews. After tonight’s meal, all the raters on Yelp are clueless. Yelp should remove all the positive entries about this restaurant removed.

In summary, the price for tonight’s meal cost us an arm and a leg, and it tasted like we were eating our arms and legs. We noticed the chef is Japanese. We recommend he stick to Sushi or pure Japanese food as oppose to French/Japanese because it’s not working…

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