Except for occasional forays, Pasadena hasn't been a regular dining destination for me for awhile now, but after seeing Gourmet Pig's blog post about the June Old Town Pasadena Restaurant Week, I thought this would be a great chance to check out a couple new-to-me restaurants. With the prices running $25 to $35 for 3 course meals in selected restaurants, I would have been a fool not to. On the first day of this promotion, I took my dining group to Vertical Wine Bistro.
I really liked the ambiance of the space, but what really caught my eye was this ceiling structure that was like an art piece. It brought in natural light to the dining room, but I also enjoyed watching the colors change from white to blues and grays as the afternoon sun made way for evening.
Anyway, all poetry aside, our meal started with bread that came with this very addicting red pepper dip that was creamy and had a kick to it.
When it came to our appetizers, our table ordered all three that were available and I actually shared all my food with a friend so that we could both try twice as much. My particular appetizer was the Golden Baby Beet Salad with Laura Chenel's Chevre and a cumin vinaigrette. Since I love beets, it was a foregone conclusion that this was the appetizer that I was going to order, but what really interested me was the cumin vinaigrette dressing. That dressing was awesome. It was a bit nutty, a little peppery and just absolutely delicious. I wouldn't have minded taking a bottle home of that salad dressing.
I also enjoyed the Green Market Salad with watermelon radish, sunflower sprouts and the Meyer lemon vinaigrette. This is the first time I've ever had watermelon radish and was expecting it to have a little bite, but it was actually mild. I found out later on that it's related to the daikon radish as opposed to the red radishes. Overall, the salad was very fresh and the dressing added a nice hit of tartness.
Although I didn't try the Tomato Fennel Soup, it was apparently well liked and below you can see a photo of it.
As for the entrees, everyone in our group opted for either the cod or the short ribs. I went straight for the Black Cod which was oven roasted and served with salsify, haricot vert, corn, tomato and a lobster peppercorn jus. As soon as I saw my fish, I already saw one thing that was spot on. Simply, the skin looked crispy and it also tasted crispy. I've been to too many a restaurant where the fish skin is just wasted. The fish itself was absolutely lovely. It was moist and delicate and how can you go wrong with a lobster peppercorn jus?
I also got to sample the Braised Short Ribs with sautéed swiss chard, heirloom carrots and tatziki. Those short ribs were meltingly tender. No knife was needed or wanted. My fork did all the work and every bite was delicious.
Finally, it was dessert time and again, the table opted for 2 of the 3 available desserts. I went for the Panna Cotta with Kumquats and Kaffir and I'm glad I did. The panna cotta was rich and creamy and I really the tart flavors the kumquats added to this dessert.
The other dessert was the Decadent Cake with Hazelnut Gelato. This dessert was the only disappointing part of the meal. Maybe, my idea of decadence is on a different plane, but I didn't get what was so decadent about this cake. It actually tasted like a brownie that was a bit on the dry side, with the gelato adding the needed moisture.
Overall, this first visit to Vertical Wine Bistro was a hit. Although the service was a bit on the slow side at times and the music seemed a little too rock and roll for the ambiance, the food was very good and I look forward to a return visit to check out more of the menu.
Vertical Wine Bistro
70 N Raymond Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91103