Pasadena is known for its architecture, but to a lesser degree for its restaurant life, which only seems to get better with age. Beginning with this review we will expose our readers to the various tastes the Pasadena area offers, some which you no doubt have already checked out. Expect to see weekly restaurant commentaries here. Remember with restaurants: food is so personal so my word is anything but final! You’ll love a place while your food companion will just say, “what’s the big deal??”
I appreciate Irina’s professionalism, and interest in her readers beyond their real estate concerns. This is just further evidence to me of how much she values doing a complete job for her clients & readers.
Now, onto our food exploration!
It feels like I’m eating out more often. You can call it a new year’s resolution, or you can call it whatever, but you don’t have to call it gluttony! I’m also blogging more often at my own Cafe Pasadena. One of my wonderful foodie girlfriends, ET, can take some credit for that.
Speaking of ET, she took me out for lunch, in our latest eating adventure, just last week to Indochine Vietnamese Restaurant in Pasadena. One reason I call her wonderful is because she reminds me so much of myself, such as her love for trying out different foods/restaurants. Another reason is I’m usually harder to impress than my food mates. Yet, with her, she also matches me in the tough to impress category! But, enuf of her…give me back the controls of this blog post – I am starving!
Indochine is the rare Vietnamese restaurant presently in Pasadena. Maybe just one or two others in this town. They’ve been in operation about 4 years. Located two blocks east of Lake Avenue, on Colorado Boulevard on the 2nd floor of a strip mall. parking on the street and in a back lot.
Each time I would walk by, they had at most one table with customers. Only once did I see them busier than that. So, I’ve never been motivated to eat here. Until now. We walk in at 1pm. Once again, just one table of customers. We’re promptly seated. Interior is nondescript, utilitarian, basic functional. Your kitchen has more character.
I place my trust & respect for ordering in ET who has been here before and has greater experience with this cuisine. We get the Table Grill as the centerpiece of our meal, surrounded by an appetizer of Goi Cuon Spring Rolls, drinks of Vietnamese Iced Coffee & Lime Water for her with a Taro Shake for me. Dessert was to be similar to what is popularly known as a Taiwanese Slush, but here is called a Tropical Mixed Fruit or something similar – my mind draws a blank!
Service seemed adequate and uneven depending on who is waiting on you. Either way, the wait staff was lacking much personality this day. Nevertheless, our drinks & food arrive promptly.
My Taro Shake is tasty to say the least. Sweet, but not too. It reminds me of cake. Run your imagination wild with this thought: like drinking a cake! I’m not leaving this planet without another. ET’s Vietnamese coffee? Well, let’s just say it’s the counterpoint to my shake. A sip tells me this tastes artificial, that one sip is enuf for me, and certainly no match to the coffee we had at Vietnam House in San Gabriel last year. ET tries to drink this coffee. Uhaaah!! She asks for a replacement drink of simple lime water.
Appetizers are next up. The Goi Cuon Spring Rolls are served with a light tasting peanut dip sauce, & the bean sprouts left out on the side for my “sprout loving” companion. Included inside the rice paper wrappers is mint, lettuce, shrimp, & pork. It all looks great, fresh, colorful…and for me, bland. Even the dipping sauce couldn’t help them. Six half rolls are served. I chow down only one, yet ET somehow is able to down most of the rest!
Now, introducing the main attraction – The Table Grill! In effect, this is the Vietnamese version of the Korean BBQ without all the kim chee related side dishes. So,the Vietnamese start from behind the Korean version from which they can never catch up. Basically you grill your meats, then place them in a rice paper wrap mixed with veggies & sauces. You end up eating a version of spring rolls or an Asian burrito! Grilling/cooking on your table is quick & easy. Butter is available to grease the grill as needed. We both liked the beef. And, I thought the grilled shrimp was sooo good. Having nothing to compare this with, we both thought the result tasted good.
Finally, a turn for dessert. We both agreed to get what is shown below in the expectation it would be like a Taiwanese Slush which some Asian cafes sell. As soon as we saw the Vietnamese version landing on our table in a glass, we knew our expectation had met a disappointed landing. It wasn’t bad, the fruit was nice, but I’ve known
a Taiwanese Slush (TS), shared many a TS with others, eaten a TS even on cold rainy nights, seen many a TS made right in front of my eyes, touched many a TS, and this was no NO Taiwanese Slush – but a dessert drink, yes.
Ok, so to the bottom line ‘cuz I gotta get to the next restaurant: overall our meal & service was average or OK. I’ll return only because the Vietnamese choices here in Pasadena are between slim and none. However, my Vietnamese preferences will remain in the neighboring cities. And You? Visit it if you’ve never tried this type of cuisine before, if you’re in the area. “Hey, what about pricing?” Oh, that’s another reason to check out other Vietnamese restaurants instead: better value. Admittedly, this place has to contend with Pasadena’s higher leases compared to neighboring cities.
Next week: Maybe Cuban?
Onward to our next food extravaganza. Gotta run, gotta eat!