The Eatery in Pasadena is undoubtedly one of the city’s hidden gems. It’s off the beaten path and in a building that seems much more likely to house a Mexican grocery store than a fancy restaurant (in fact it does share the building with such a store). But once inside the candles, dim lighting and intimate ambiance scream non-pretentious fanciness. Of course, none of this would matter to me if the food didn’t satisfy my unvegan desires.
Fortunately, it started out well with an amuse bouche that was essentially a miniaturized version of a stuffed baked potato, using fingerling potatoes, shredded cheese, cream and bacon. This was the start of something good.
Throughout the meal we got to know the head chef of the place and he dropped a few insights for us. Probably the craziest insight of all is that the menu literally changes every month. No, not everything, but almost all of it. I can’t even imagine how hard that must be, because I’ve been making the same stir fry for the past 12 years.
Nonetheless, we moved onto a cheese and charcuterie plate which, at the time, included coppa, capicola, speck, cheddar, buffalo gorgonzola and goat cheese. Each bite was awesome, and I feel like a lot of the credit for how good the meat was goes to how thinly it was sliced. There is a time and place for thick-cut cured meats, but this was not it and we were all the better for it.
Midway through the meal, the chef brought out a concept he had been working on for us. It was essentially a “deconstructed” French onion soup, where the broth is poured into a bowl containing all of the random ingredients right at the table while you watch. Conceptually, it was awesome and of course I loved the cheese, but it was overly salty for my taste and I was glad to be a part of the test. Hopefully it will be on the menu soon (if it hasn’t been slotted already), but with a little less salt.
Finally, for my main course I went with the Braised Short Ribs. I liked the idea of the whipped horseradish potatoes and charred parsnip puree, but they also came with braised red cabbage. I didn’t have the heart to order without because the chef had been so damn nice, but as soon as the dish came out I scraped those suckers off. Regardless of the cabbage, this was one heck of a short rib dish. The meat was incredibly tender, moist and flavorful. The potatoes and puree played a nice second fiddle and were welcome in every bite. I could have stopped there, but of course we had to try dessert.
Against my better judgment, we got the Squash-Bread French Toast. Obviously I don’t like squash, but my wife wanted it, the chef said it was good, and frankly I was too full of food to disagree. So we got it. And it didn’t taste like squash, so that was a win. In fact, it tasted pretty good, but I would have traded it in for more thin-sliced speck with that mascarpone any day.
As far as the Winter Wonderland menu of December 2016 (I know, I’m stupidly behind on these posts) goes, I was a big fan of The Eatery. And from what I could tell, I would be a fan of pretty much any other monthly menu that gets churned out.