A time to eat

A time to eat

Nearly three-dozen local restaurants join in dineLA’s Restaurant Week

By Erica Wayne 01/23/2014

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We just got through with Cheeseburger Week and now, with only a weekend to spend at the gym, in the pool, on the diet, and to get over the guilt of gorging on huge patties of juicy beef dripping with melting cheddar or gorgonzola held in place by enormous toasted artisan buns, we’re in the midst of dineLA’s winter Restaurant Week, running through Jan. 31. 

What is a foodie trying desperately to keep her waistline from major expansion — having sworn to family and friends to abstain from excess indulgence — to do?
In this case, I turned to the good book, specifically Isaiah 22:13: “Let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we shall die.” 

And there is Ecclesiastes 8:15: “A man hath no better thing under the sun than to eat, to drink and to be merry.” Excellent advice! 

So too is Ecclesiastes 3:1 “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” 

I don’t remember anything specific in this verse about eating, but I do recall “a time to get and a time to lose.” Obviously, Restaurant Week is a time to get while dieting and exercise (the time to lose) needs to be relegated to a post-Restaurant Week season, say, perhaps, the first two weeks of February, ending with Valentine’s Day.

At any rate, having okayed it with God, I’m trying to “get” as many bargain lunches and dinners as possible consumed at the local participants (there are 26 in Pasadena, one in South Pasadena, six in Glendale and two in Arcadia) during this short window of opportunity; not an easy task, but one which I feel is a true obligation to my faith. Thank goodness, although most of the restaurants are offering special lunch and dinner menus, eleven have restricted themselves to evening dining. Some rudimentary calculation (35-11 x 2 + 11 = 59) brings the choices to a mere 59 over a 12-day period. Luckily, Cheeseburger Week was really good training.

Actually, those of you who are Restaurant Week aficionados have probably taken advantage of the meals offered by several of the participating establishments during prior years. 

Among the repeat entrants are Pasadena’s Arroyo Chop House, Café Bizou, Celestino, Cheval Bistro, Green Street Tavern, Gyu-Kaku, Il Fornaio, Japon Bistro, La Grande Orange, Maison Akira, Parkway Grill, POP Champagne and Dessert Bar, redwhite+bluezz, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Smitty’s Grill, Sorriso and Bar Celona (now combined), Sushi Roku, The Melting Pot, The Raymond, The Royce and The Terrace at the Langham Hotel, Trattoria Neapolis and Vertical Wine Bar; Bashan and Far Niente in Glendale; and Sesame Grill and The Derby in Arcadia.

As a matter of fact, only a few of the 35 are newcomers. I believe of the Pasadena 26, only Osawa, 168 Restaurant and Seco New American are appearing for the first time, all for good reason. The first two are newish (mid-2013) and have gotten mostly glowing reviews from the public. 168, which features Asian-fusion cuisine, is sister to Jack Huang’s other Pasadena restaurants Sorriso-Bar Celona and Ix-tapa. They haven’t published their Restaurant Week menu as of my writing this, but I’ve slated it for a visit, with lunch only $15!).

Osawa serves top-notch Japanese dishes, specializing in sushi and shabu-shabu with lots of organic ingredients. Right now, I’m focused on trying the yellowtail zuke (miso-marinated) bowl with wakame seaweed udon they’re serving for their $20 lunch with mochi daifuku (stuffed with a sweet filling) for dessert.

Seco just opened, a re-do of the Smith Brothers’ (Parkway Grill, Cheval Bistro, Smitty’s, Arroyo Chop House) most casual restaurant — 140 South (Lake Avenue), originally the Crocodile Café. The menu, part 140 South, part Smitty’s, part Parkway and part new, looks wonderful — the roasted tomato and rye bread soup is a must-have this week. Paired with a Kobe burger (described as containing gruyere, caramelized shallots, tomato confit and porcini mayo), it’ll set you back only $20. Ditto a combo of herbed burrata with grilled baguette and a hot cedar-smoked salmon salad.

Crossings in South Pasadena is another new addition to Restaurant Week. Located just east of the Gold Line tracks (hence the name) on Mission Street, its dinner ($45) could be just what the gourmet beef lover craves, with an appetizer list that includes braised short rib with bacon and polenta and a featured entrée of filet mignon with thyme reduction. But fish and chicken are also available. And the chocolate crunch cake with toasted meringue sounds yummy.

A tiny bit further afield in Glendale, a newcomer to the list (if my memory serves me) is Granville, which has a Brentwood sibling. For only $15, you can lunch on an incredibly varied two-course menu including (but not limited to) starters of uptown mac and cheese and Thai ginger salad with main dishes of pan-seared rainbow trout and chicken and blue pizza (with blue cheese, fig, prosciutto, pine nuts and red onion). This restaurant, too, is on my “Must Not Miss” list.

Whatever your choices for next week’s dining, old or new, I’d advise doing some pre-visit homework. It takes a bit of time, but looking at all the dineLA menus and comparing them with the restaurants’ regular bills of fare will tell you which dishes are the true money-savers and which you can save for a second visit. Once you’ve made your choices, put your trust in the Lord, forgo your Lean Cuisine/Pilates routine and do as the Web site discoverlosangeles.com/dineLA encourages: Eat your heart out! 

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