As I sat at my computer writing this review last week, I couldn’t get the lyrics of James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” out of my head. First it was Hurricane Harvey, no benign giant rabbit this; now it’s Irma — definitely not My Friend! And, of course, we just had the La Tuna fire and some 20 others blazing their way through the forests of California. In the past month we’ve certainly seen fire and we’ve seen rain. We’ve seen sunny days (with temperatures 25 percent higher than what used to pass for normal) that we thought would never end.
Luckily, however, I haven’t seen lonely days when I could not find a friend. And not being in the direct path of any of these disasters except the heat, I’ve sought solace from all of them at 10-month old Colette, a pleasant and not overly crowded daytime restaurant whose sleek, snow-white interior and charming patio appeal to those of us seeking brief respite from increasingly terrifying, ever-overlapping events.
Colette opened up last November, immediately following the election and the end of Daylight Saving time — a period in which many of my fellow Pasadenans and I needed all the solace we could find. It was a time when I, for one, said goodbye to my leisurely coffee in bed watching the morning news routine to rendezvous with equally despondent friends for periodic comfort breakfasts during which we soothed ourselves with rich food, strong coffee and reassurances that whatever occurred in the near future wouldn’t spell the end of the world.
We went to Marston’s, Russell’s, Pie‘n Burger, Yahaira’s. We headed north to Dish, south to Mike & Anne’s. Hell, we even went to IHOP and Coco’s. But there were problems: lines, noise, parking, crowds. And that’s when I discovered Colette, perched off the west side of North Michillinda Avenue, just north of Sierra Madre Boulevard in the mostly abandoned shopping center that once held an Albertson’s Market. The only other inhabitant is Raffi’s, a Middle Eastern restaurant, banquet hall and catering establishment.
And, let me tell you, for the first five months of the year, it was frequent infusions of Colette’s creamy, fluffy, sugar and cinnamon-bathed, brioche-based “churro” French toast ($10) that helped me overcome my angst. After that, a heads-up from my doctor about dangerously rising blood sugar readings (probably due more to the huge number of Snickers I self-medicated with than Colette’s heavenly French toast) sent me scurrying to find other less carb-loaded menu items at one of my new favorite restaurants. Not to worry, there are plenty to choose from.
Lately, I’ve been making do with the scary-huge carnitas breakfast burrito, stuffed with tender pork, soft scrambled egg, cilantro, onion, avocado and a side of tangy salsa ($11). I can also rationalize the hubcap-size breakfast quesadilla with scrambled eggs, bacon, melted sharp cheddar, pico de gallo and sour cream ($11) although it’s almost impossible not to devour the sweet potato hash that comes with it. (Does taking it home to share with hubby for an otherwise carb-free steak and salad dinner count?)
Colette’s 10 breakfast entrées are served from opening time at 8 (every morning except Monday) till they close at 3 p.m. Ditto for their lunch menu sandwiches and salads. I’ve tried the excellent classic pork torta (herb-crusted roasted pork on a soft telera roll with roasted yellow pepper aioli – $12) and an even better caprese sandwich, fresh warm mozzarella and tomato with guajilla spread and purple basil ($10). Sandwiches come with fries, potato salad or a house salad. Of course, following doctor’s orders, I pick greens.
Looking on Colette’s website as I wrote, I noticed a recent change to the menu that necessitates another almost immediate visit — a new fried chicken benedict served on a homemade buttermilk biscuit with two poached eggs and chipotle hollandaise ($12 with a side of that heavenly sweet potato hash). There is absolutely no more perfect comfort food than fried chicken in almost any guise. But paired with biscuits, soft-cooked eggs and buttery sauce, it’s a guaranteed sure cure for the blues.
A new Little Gem caesar ($11) has joined three other salads (chicken yuzu with artisanal lettuce, snap peas, radicchio and grilled chicken with yuzu dressing and toasted sesame seeds – $12; spinach with strawberries, feta and walnuts with poppy seed dressing – $11; and the must-try Farmers’ Market vegetable bowl, with sautéed seasonal market veggies served over parmesan cauliflower purée and topped with warm radicchio salad – $13).
Coffee at Colette’s is strong and there are ready refills. (Beer and wine, too!) So my friends and I have spent leisurely lunchtimes this year enjoying the restaurant’s hospitality while commiserating over national, international and planetary conditions. Should things improve, however, we’re not likely to abandon Colette just because we’re feeling more cheerful. The food and service are way too good to forgo.
And the restaurant’s website has a tantalizing dinner section, with a mouth-watering photo of sautéed scallops topped with micro-greens and surrounded by swirls of some lovely sauce — or could it be the same parmesan cauliflower purée found in the Farmers’ Market bowl? The only caption in this section is the siren song “Coming Soon” — which is exactly what we’ll be doing once Colette starts serving evening meals.
975 N. Michillinda Ave., Pasadena | (626) 836-0111 | Beer and Wine/Major Cards