Bistro K is one of the hidden gems of the Pasadena restaurant scene. A tiny one-room restaurant nestled next to the Fremont Centre Theater, Bistro K is a shockingly creative, shockingly affordable French restaurant. For example, the first time we went, about a year ago, specials included an escargot pizza and a fire ant tamale. I think the menu has been toned down a bit since then, but it still features all sorts of interesting ingredients, particularly unusual meats. As someone who eats chicken and seafood but no other meats, a majority of the menu is off limits to me, but I can still appreciate the creativity behind a beef bone marrow beignet or an oxtail ravioli.
Clearly Bistro K is an upscale dining experience, and yet you can walk out for approximately $50 a person including appetizer, entree, and dessert. The secret? Bistro K is a BYO and amazingly, they charge no corkage fee. So you bring whatever wine you’d like and the management graciously provides glasses, ice buckets, etc… There’s also a $75 eight-course tasting menu, a $55 five-course tasting menu, and a pre-theater dinner menu for $26.
Last night we joined our friends Caolionn and Sam for their inaugural visit. As always, the food was interesting and artfully served and the service was friendly and lacked the attitude common to restaurants of that calibre. Unexpectedly the desserts were the stand-out of the evening. From the warm molten chocolate cake with pistachio cream to the pear tart laced with black pepper, they were so good that we managed to finish not only every bite, but also every bit of garnish, despite our full bellies. The other high point of my meal was my appetizer, cassolette of artichoke confit with basil and california goat cheese, a warm, soft blend of marinated vegetables and cheese, with a Mediterranean flair. I can’t speak to the meatier choices first-hand, but the foie gras and venison both seemed to generate particular excitement at our table.
Bistro K is best for adventurous, meat-eating types, and although vegetarians and non-red meat eaters may have to peruse the menu a little harder for options, the experience is worth it. Creative, unusual food at prices you’d pay at an upscale chain restaurant make Bistro K a rare treasure in the LA area.
Bistro K: 1000 Fremont Avenue, South Pasadena, CA 91030 (626)799-5052