Putting the pho in phun!
Pasadena Noodle & Grill opens for business
By Erica Wayne 11/07/2012
It’s been a long time coming. It seems as if I’ve been watching the ongoing construction of Pasadena Noodle & Grill in the Sierra Madre-Colorado Vons shopping center for months and months. Every time I went there, I noted the “Coming Soon” sign and wondered when. Finally, last week, the sign was replaced with a new one that read “Now Open,” so I ran in and grabbed a take-out menu.
The menu is a thing of beauty, with a bright blue, green, yellow and orange rainbow background and full-color pictures of many of the dishes they offer. But it pales beside the interior of the restaurant itself, which has so many vivid luminescent hues that I feel almost as if I’ve been absorbed into a stained glass hologram whenever I’m there.
Yes, I meant whenever; I have to confess that I have been to Pasadena Noodle & Grill three times during its first week of operation. The first was simply to grab that menu. The second was to pick up a take-out meal for hubby and me after a busy day on the Westside. And the third was an eat-in lunch with one of my friends just before finishing this review.
I was a little hesitant to make our first meal an outie rather than an innie. After all, presentation is important, and things packed into Styrofoam boxes rarely have the pizzazz of food presented on china at a table. Also, I’d noticed the condiment containers (mainly stuff to add heat) on each table – so essential to great southeast Asian dining. But we were hungry and my mate was immovable (busy at his computer), so I took a chance.
We ordered appetizers of crispy tamarin (sic) chicken wings with garlic and onion ($7.55) and spring rolls with shrimp and pork ($6.55) and entrees of charbroiled pork chop with egg roll and rice ($7.55) and charbroiled beef with shrimp paste, egg roll and vermicelli ($8.55). When I arrived 15 minutes after I placed the order, it was piping hot and ready to go.
When I got home and opened the boxes, I was surprised at how good the food looked. The portion of wings was huge; they were covered in a rich sauce of sautéed garlic and onions, flavored with tamarind (the fruit, not the monkey!), a Vietnamese variant on southern smothered fried chicken, paired with a side of cucumber, beansprouts, tomato and lettuce. The three spring rolls were as pretty as their menu picture: plump (easily 1½ inch in diameter, stuffed with pork, greens and three enormous shrimp each). A tangy peanut-based dipping sauce was included.
The chop (don’t expect center-cut; this one was thin with a number of bones) was nicely laid out on a huge portion of rice, sided with two extra-crispy egg rolls and salad. The beef was frizzled, atop a hillock of noodles sprinkled with a smattering of chopped peanuts, with a single egg roll, salad and three things I thought were large-wedge french fries until I looked closer and identified them as formed shrimp paste (without the usual core of sugar cane). Both entrees included a light sweet and sour sauce that we poured over everything.
Alas, the order didn’t include any chili paste, but it’s a staple in our household, so we just raided the fridge. The order (approximately $32 for everything) lasted us for two and a half meals (the last augmented by hamburgers and green beans) and saved me a hell of a lot of food prep. But we hadn’t tried any of the many soups offered by Pasadena Noodle & Grill (beef-based and chicken noodle soups), nor had I sampled the durian milk shake ($3.75), the mango boba smoothie ($3.70) or the cooked mung and red beans with Jell-o in coconut milk ($2.95) they offer for dessert. Obviously, another visit was called for.
So, last Friday, it was dining-in with friend Pam, to enjoy Pasadena Noodle & Grill’s dazzling room, with its mirrored, wood and marble walls, coffered ceiling, ceramic tiled floor, lacquered wood furniture and marvelous multi-hued lighting. We shared a big bowl of rich noodle soup ($6.55) with thick sliced white-meat chicken, cilantro and chives (plus jalapeno slices, lime wedges, bean sprouts and fresh basil on the side to flavor it further) and a dish of marinated, charbroiled chicken with egg rolls and vermicelli atop a bed of greens ($7.55). Again, a huge amount of excellent food, much of which went home with Pam.
Then it was time for dessert. I mentioned my intent to try the durian shake, but Pam refused to participate. “They won’t let you take durian on planes,” she asserted with worldly wisdom, “but orangutans love it.” And added, “It’s the only thing in my adult life that I ever spat out in public.” In light of these comments, we instead ordered the mango boba smoothie and the bean, (green) Jell-o and coconut milk concoction. Both were refreshing and basically liquid, the second similar to a melting shave-ice. Served with straws in large take-out cups, they were perfect for slurping on our journey home. (P.S., I’ll be back for the shake this week!)
Noodle & Grill
2334 E. Colorado Blvd.,