April saw the opening of two must-try new restaurants — Granville and HiroNori Craft Ramen.  Both sit between Colorado and Del Mar boulevards on South Lake Avenue and could make for one great day if you spread your visits out because at both places you are going to find a multitude of options.

Granville is one of those uber-hip spots where the wait staff wears gingham dress shirts and the entire place is decorated straight out of a Pottery Barn catalog. You have seen places like Granville before — in any movie or TV show in which two beautiful actresses banter over dinner in a dark, amber lit bar with half-empty martini glasses. That is what Granville feels like. The bar area where I ate was all dark wood tables, leather seats and lit by a natural glow. If I were a single man, Granville would definitely be where I brought Tinder matches — and then when they asked me how I found such a cool place I would just casually mention that I covered it during my travels as a food writer.

Hats off to Granville, they have made themselves available for almost any type of dining experience. They offer lunch and dinner all week long, and on weekends they have brunch options available until mid-afternoon. The menu options bounce from vegan and gluten-free to comfort food, pasta and seafood.  Their menu is expansive, covering enough options to make Cheesecake Factory blush.

Comfortable in different worlds seems to be the theme of Pasadena’s Granville location. The massive three-story restaurant has divided the spaces into separate dining experiences. The downstairs bar has bar-top and large picnic style tables. There is a downstairs dining room with a tree in the center which, if my cursory interior design knowledge is accurate, is the more casual, family dining or fast-lunch space. Then there is the rooftop bar, three stories up overlooking the city and the nearby foothills. There’s lounge-style seating, greenery and bistro lights hanging above. I struggle to find another way to say it, but every bit of this place is just … cool.

The Dessert Sampler ($14) from Granville takes the cake as the most romantic menu item I have ever had. It comes with three of their desserts; the berry patch shortcake, a brulee’d banana brownie, and devil’s advocate flourless chocolate cake. Beautifully plated, and served in reasonably sized portions so that you do not get over-stuffed but large enough to share and actually experience them. I most enjoyed the flourless chocolate cake, surprising as I do not usually seek out gluten-free options, so I did not know what to expect when removing the flour from the recipe. What came was an unstructured, warm chocolate cake — more akin to a bittersweet hot fudge cake topped with a dollop of cream. For best results mix the cream with the cake as the two distinctive flavors need to intermix on your palate rather than be tasted separately. The sampler is worth being ordered in any area, but for more suave points — I would get order it at the rooftop bar with their signature Gran Fashioned ($12) made with Elijah Craig bourbon, three different types of bitters, molasses and cherry port.

Whereas Granville is a sprawling do-everything dining experience, HiroNori does fewer things — all of them well.

The core of HiroNori is the ramen. They have three different varieties: tonkotsu ($11.30), shoyu ($10.50) and vegan ($12.50). Tonkotsu broth is traditionally made from pork and has a creamy, almost milky consistency. At HiroNori their tonkotsu is boiled for 24 hours. Traditionally, shoyu broth is made from a simmering of soy sauce, bones and vegetables and has more of a salty taste.  Their vegan broth is a sesame miso base and has enough non-vegetarians recommending it that I know it must be pretty impressive.

The tonkotsu comes with pork chatsu, green onion, spinach seaweed, bean sprouts, half of a boiled egg and wood ear mushrooms. It can be ordered with traditional thin noodles or the HiroNori thick noodles at no extra charge.

The pork chatsu had enough crispness on the outside and was tender enough to break apart with chopsticks and eat comfortably. The richness of the boiled egg paired well with the broth and the noodles absorbed all of the flavors the broth had been simmering in for the last day. It was most filling and satisfying bowl of soup I have ever had.

They take their service seriously. I was accompanied by a college friend who moonlights as a ramen blogger, and the service staff took his million questions in absolute stride and, dare I say, enthusiasm while talking about the intricacies of the ramen and even the regions the chefs are from. I was prepared to leave a generous tip to apologize for my partner’s incessant questions but uniquely HoriNori bypasses tipping altogether, replacing it with a 15 percent service charge that is divided up between the wait and kitchen staff.

So next time you head down Lake Avenue, you can watch sunset over the Foothills, or eat a bowl of ramen that was clearly made with care. Get there early though, because both spots are already developing some dedicated followings.

 

HiroNori

163 S. Lake Ave.,

Pasadena

(626) 460-8594

hironoricraftramen.com

Major Cards/

No Alcohol

 

Granville

270 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena

(626) 360-7633

807 Americana Way, Glendale

(818) 550-0472

granvillecafe.com

Major Cards/

Alcohol Served